Marvel Heroes — How Licensing Hinders Potential

What a mess!

There was this game that I liked that died five years ago, give or take. It was a character-based game, like the things I talked about in previous articles. It wasn’t a standout game, but it was a good game nonetheless, and the developers tried to make it shine. Unfortunately, lately, the fact that it was a licensed game meant that the developers didn’t have too much creative leniency and that they were always subject to the decisions of the IP holder. For anyone who remembers it, I’m talking about Marvel Heroes.

As a kid, I enjoyed watching the animated shows of Spider-Man, Batman, and every other comic book superhero out there. But I didn’t realise back then (which is not something to expect from a kid) that the animated shows of all the popular superheroes in the 90s were censored interpretations of comic books that only got darker with time. I slowly lost interest in the superhero subculture when I realised that Spider-Man, Batman, and all the others weren’t as I thought they were. But this game, Marvel Heroes, was exciting because it was based on collecting characters. However, it couldn’t have ever worked because of its messy management.

Marvel Heroes was controversial for roughly its whole existence. It received mediocre grades when it came out but managed to get better over the years, but then it suffered so many controversies that the developers couldn’t handle it. The crunch time and the failed promises, all culminated when allegations of sexual misconduct against the CEO surfaced during the MeToo craze from five years ago, give or take.

Eventually, everything collapsed and the game got cancelled. The developers accumulated so much debt because of the game that they filed for bankruptcy as soon as the game disappeared from digital shelves. I believe that if the game wasn’t licensed, then at the very least it would solve half the problems… or so I think.

Moral of the story: don’t work on licensed games

Marvel Heroes had interesting gameplay mechanics, mainly in how it made every character feel distinct in their own way (and there were a lot of characters) … well… almost since the developers tried too hard at times. But as I said in previous articles, there aren’t a lot of character-based online games (or CBOGs for short) out there, and Marvel Heroes was one of them. Of course, the masses consider the game too mediocre to pay attention to — that feature which I am always quick to notice. However, Marvel Heroes never could’ve gotten too far because it was a licensed game. But let’s say that it’s the same gameplay but without the licence…

In this scenario, you have a game that’s not only built around collecting characters but also a game that’s not hindered by any licensing bullshit. And if it weren’t apparent, in this scenario, the game is original… which is good! This way, developers can freely create a game whose focus is the gameplay, not the licensing. I suppose that there could be the risk of the game not being popular enough since Marvel Heroes only lasted so long because it was made popular with its IP branding. But that’s not relevant.

With an original setting, nothing gets in the way of creativity to create a game that works like Marvel Heroes on the gameplay level but is otherwise an original story of its own, and it doesn’t matter what kind of story (fantasy, sci-fi, you name it). So, if someone took the gameplay Marvel Heroes but created an original setting, hopefully, you’ll get a game that won’t die in five years because of “licensing”. If anything, Marvel Heroes should teach everyone never to expect too much from a licensed game. Simply put, stay away from them.

There would have to be a collective theme

So, if there’s no licence, what kind of game should it be? Well, I once had a few ideas that described an alternative to Marvel Heroes, but I never wrote them down, not that it matters much since nobody really cares (everyone settles for Fortnite anyway).

But if I had to describe a game that tries to look like it without licensing, I would say it would need a collective theme so players can recognise it. I would describe what kind of themes, but there are too many.

If you have anything you’d like to suggest, then go ahead. I decided to merge the two sections of the article for the first time to save myself space because I’m lazy and stingy like that. If this format works well, then tell me what you feel about it. ‘Kay?

On second thought, just go play Warframe. It’s not the best, but it’s getting there.

In Conclusion…

Marvel Heroes was a fun game while it lasted and there were a ton of characters to collect and discover. It died young but I guess that’s how it is with licensing matters.

I have no idea if any game developer would be willing to pick up from where Marvel Heroes left off. As far as I know, nobody cares enough to do anything about it. Most people will just settle for whatever’s hot right now, like Fall Guys or Fortnite or whatever.

Right now, Warframe is the closest to PvE CBOG, and although it’s not perfect, it’s the closest to character-based online games. But I wish there were more games like these, and it just doesn’t seem like it will happen anytime soon in the future. That’s kind of… sad when you think about it.



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