Into the Super-verse: Will we ever get a Marvel MMORPG?

    
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While DC Universe Online is coasting high on its success in Year Ten, it feels a shame that there’s no Marvel MMORPG to match it. Marvel is still a blazing hot IP as it moves into Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it’s sad that MMO players who love that universe don’t have a massively persistent virtual world to enjoy their fandom.

At the very least, there’s a huge opportunity here that I’m surprised hasn’t been taken yet. Even with the slate of current and upcoming superhero MMOs providing a hearty buffet for gamers, a Marvel title by its very namesake easily could muscle into the field and stake a large claim.

But will it? And if so, what would that look like?

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What we’ve had so far

I certainly do not want to overlook the fact that Marvel fans have had a few significant options over the past decade. Gazillion’s Marvel Heroes was a tremendously fun and popular online OARPG that let us play our favorite heroes (and villains!) over a wide variety of settings. To date, it’s been the closest thing we can claim to a Marvel MMO, simply by virtue of its popularity and design.

Gazillion also ran Marvel Super Hero Squad Online, that kiddie collectable MMO that ran from 2011 to 2017 and was pretty forgettable even when it was operating.

Finally, we can cast our net wider to snare last year’s Marvel’s Avengers, an online brawler that utilized many of the same characters from the popular films (although with different looks and voice acting, which put people off). Initially popular, this game fell off the map pretty quickly. In his initial impressions, MOP’s Eliot compared it to Marvel Heroes, saying, “If that sounds kind of familiar – putting heroes together in a team and then collecting loot in a smashy frenzy – it’s because we MMO players kind of had that at one point.”

So it’s not as if we haven’t had — or have — any Marvel games. It’s just that none of them have really provided the full-fledged experience that a Marvel MMO should bring to the table.

Daybreak’s mystery Marvel MMO

What’s really intriguing to me is that such an MMORPG might have been in development in recent years. A couple of years ago, we got word that Daybreak had been working on a Marvel MMO – or at least a multiplayer title – for the better part of 2018 before the project suddenly got put on hold (or scrapped).

This completely lines up with what we now know about Daybreak following last December’s corporate sale to EG7. When the treasure trove of Daybreak information was spread out on the table, one of the items that was included with the sale included a “license agreement with Marvel” that Daybreak had. And perhaps still has. We have no further information about that license, what Daybreak tried to do with it in the past, and what it hopes to do — if anything — with it in the future.

Sure, it would be a little more than strange to have the same studio that operates and develops a DC online roleplaying game to do the same with DC’s direct competitor, but it’s not out of the bounds of possibility. At the very least, Daybreak already knows how to make and run a superhero MMO, and it appreciates the financial windfall that such a title has brought to the studio. Why not another?

What could a Marvel MMO offer?

While I can’t say if we will ever be assured a future Marvel MMO, I am confident in asserting that it’s a good idea. Again, it’s a blazingly hot franchise that’s been tearing up comic books, movies, and TV for a long time now — and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

So what could a hypothetical Marvel MMORPG offer? First and foremost, it would want to capitalize on all of the supergroups and characters that Marvel has in its stable, from the X-Men to the Avengers, from that one Spider-Man to that other Spider-Man. Whether players would get to be these characters or simply quest alongside of them, it would be essential to establishing a large playerbase to have those recognizable names right out front as ambassadors of this title.

Second, I’d love to see the cross-platform structure of DCUO coupled with the costumes and roleplay of City of Heroes. Personally, I wouldn’t want an MMO dumbed down to fit console controllers and an action combat mindset, but I suppose there would need to be some compromise there to keep this as broadly appealing as possible. As long as I was able to make the character and costume that I wanted, I would be happy.

Third, it’d be pretty amazing if a Marvel MMO dipped into the IP’s wealth of stories to give players a chance to interact with them in a way that they never have before. Forget mopping up a thousand piddly sidequests and sieze the idea of adventuring through the Infinity Gauntlet storyline, the Dark Phoenix saga, or Civil War.

Finally, a Marvel MMO would have all of the cross-promotional opportunities that Marvel Heroes had and DC Universe Online currently does. Being able to plug into the TV series and movies would be a win-win scenario for all parties involved, including players who would look to an online game to continue the experience that they saw on the screen.

What would you want in a Marvel MMO if it ever got made? Sound off in the comments!

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Eliot Lefebvre and Justin Olivetti covering superhero MMORPGs, past, present, and future! Come along on patrol as Into the Super-verse avenges the night and saves the world… one column at a time.
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Aquarion

It’s worth remembering that before Champions Online took the IP of an fairly obscure tabletop RPG, it was being developed as Marvel Online. I’m not sure the story of how that collapsed ever made it out, but given how litigious Marvel tend to be about their signature heroes having bad words out in their mouth, I’d guess it was due to fear of Shatin America, Iron Ma’am, Scarlet Window & The Incredible Bulk not being easy enough to prevent.

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Tee Parsley

Marvel wanted the focus to be on their Supers, while the CO development team bosses prefered the idea that players create their own.

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Scarlet_Shocker

Can’t see it happening for a number of reasons – aside from the licensing issues.

For a start, in a proper MMO you wouldn’t (shouldn’t) be able to play a signature character, so you’re always going to be assisting them or fighting them. If it’s the latter, you’re never going to win against the A List characters. Can you imagine “Joe Bloggs Man” beating Captain America or Spider-Man in Marvel’s own game? Ain’t gonna happen. So your character will be reduced to side-kick/lackey; a Poor Man’s Rick Jones.

At low level you won’t be able to even do anything interesting. Can you imagine a low level character “rescuing” Reed or Sue Richards? If they need rescuing by the likes of you, the Marvel Universe is truly screwed.

I can see an epic “MU + PCs team up to save the planet from Galactus” or something, but the path to get there might be really difficult to achieve and as others have pointed out, might damage the Marvel brand in the process.

Which is a shame because there could be some potentially great scenes. Imagine spawning in a training room in Project Pegasus or the Danger Room in the Westchester mansion as you start your career?

Potential – but don’t hold your breath.

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Life_Isnt_Just_Dank_Memes

I miss Marvel Heroes so much.

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Sargonnax

I miss Marvel Heroes, especially after playing the new Avengers game and watching that slowly fail.

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SmiteDoctor

Start the base game out with Civil War and The 50 State Initiative for Base Game, that gives players a lore opportunity to create original no name heroes and villains.

The follow it up with every DLC/Expansion being Cross Over events in History Invasion/WW Hulk/Fear It Self/Etc.

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Scorp Gang

I have no hope. Not as long as they can keep making “$50,000 holes” on Mobile. I really wish they had made the Avengers game better. I know people don’t like the “It’s just Cosmetics” spin but if nothing else the game is not monetized to hell.

I have also giving up hope on a proper Naruto MMORPG(Disney lol): It has healers/Supporters, tanks and DPS. Different Lands that have different Villages that have Different Skills(I don’t even like PVP but has there ever been a better built in setup in a IP?). Lore. Cool Villains. All this is being wasted in autoplay Browser nonsense.

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Attorneyatlawl_MMO

A pipe dream would be a PvP based marvel mmo… That’ll never happen but I can dream. Would be a fun IP to play in.

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Tee Parsley

In Aaron Allston’s Strike Force campaign, the main Super teams franchised, to cover and focus on different areas of expertise and defense. It’d be a viable way to introduce folks to Marvel World, and allow the occasional Big Name showing up for you to work with. ‘Hiya Thor! I’m from The Avengers: Houston!’

Also, the Strike Force team/world should actually be available from Allston’s estate, as he got the rights back to it.

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Utakata

If they could just make a game built on the framework of City of Heroes introduced, but only improved upon…

…but Marvel appears to want strict controls to what players can do in their game world intellectual property wise, so I don’t think this will ever come to be. /sigh

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LeiHngWei

You pretty much described Cryptic Studios’ attempt with Marvel Universe Online.

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angrakhan

I don’t know why Marvel would bother with an MMO. The % chance it would be a colossal failure is too high and damage the brand. Instead they can take the same amount of money, much less time, and make a new movie which will pretty much guarantee profit. They’ve had that money printing machine cranking for years now. I don’t expect they will mess with success.