It may not have been a traditional MMORPG, but it’s safe to say that Marvel Heroes was a pet favorite here among the Massively OP staff and readers; we even handed it awards and gave it a dedicated column. And today would’ve been its seventh birthday – if it weren’t dead.
Gazillion’s Marvel game launched in 2013 as what we came to call an MMOARPG – an ARPG akin to Diablo, but with an always-online, mostly open world that put you in large and small maps with other random players on the regular. It was initially helmed by veteran ARPG developer David Brevik, and of course, it was rolling out as part of the increasingly popular Marvel cinematic franchise. It was fast, it was punchy, it was stuffed with your favorite superhero characters and villains, and by rights it should’ve stayed on top of the world.
But it didn’t. Brevik left in 2016, and by 2017, the game edged off the tracks thanks to a console launch and a poorly received PC update that turned the game on its head. By November, we were covering two convergent stories: Gazillion had gone bizarrely silent, with a missed update and several weeks of no communication with players or press; and the new CEO had been publicly accused by former colleagues of inappropriate conduct toward female employees.
After a month of that studio silence, Disney itself announced it had ended its contract with Gazillion and would be shutting down Marvel Heroes. The pain of losing the game was then compounded by the absolute clusterfuck of a sunset dealt by Gazillion, Marvel, and Disney, as the trio bungled announcements, refunds, and even the date of the sunset itself. As we noted at the time, the only people who lifted a finger for the community were laid-off rank-and-file devs who felt a duty to warn the public about what was going on.
Marvel Heroes won another award from us that year: the award for biggest MMO industry disappointment. We called it the “worst-managed MMORPG sunset of all time,” and our readers voted it as the community pick for the biggest MMO industry blunder of 2017 as well.
And yet the game itself was beloved as a superhero MMO-lite. We miss the hell out of it. Happy birthday, Marvel Heroes. You deserved so much better than you got.