It turned out that the biggest villain that the Square Enix Avengers would face is time itself.
The idea of “Games as a Service” isn’t really a new concept. When we talk about the idea of “GaaS” or “Live services”, that could be as little as a microtransaction in a game all the way up to being a product that has constantly produced content in your face with changing maps and monthly upgrades.
I think it’s the catch-all wording that makes things messy. Nowadays, if a game announces that it will be a live service, it brings out a visceral groan from the depth of my soul. I just know that it’ll eventually end.
This doesn’t happen if a game just says “You can buy extra cosmetics” or “We have a season pass”, even though those are all part of the same concept. But, the idea of Games as a Service means that it could be either a Fortnite or an Anthem, in my brain.
Marvel and Square Enix had high hopes for Marvel's Avengers.
Earlier this year, Crystal Dynamics announced that their big Marvel game about the Avengers, aptly named Marvel’s Avengers, would have the plug pulled this month. Marvel’s Avengers spent its entire three-year run in an uphill battle for its life.
When it was announced during E3 2019, the idea was, as Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury in the original The Avengers movie would put it, to “bring together a group of remarkable people to see if they could become something more”. Sure, you could play the new game single-player, but playing with other people is what Marvel’s Avengers wanted to focus on.
Live service meant that you could expect a churning out of new heroes to join the roster. This game had the potential to be the true Marvel Ultimate Alliance of the 2020s and bring together every major hero you could name to face off against AIM and other forces of evil.
If you were playing Marvel games before the big superhero craze in Hollywood, you likely remember Marvel Ultimate Alliance. It was a game with an original story, a huge list of heroes to play as, and incredibly fun, addictive gameplay that became my personal comparison tool when anything superhero came out going forward.
I feel like I've read this story before.
And, as you can assume from my tone here, it wasn’t. The pandemic hit right smack dab between the original announcement of the game and its release.
As with a lot of games during that era, it was affected. While the game definitely suffered from that, it seems that the game was just (Doctor) doomed to fail.
The game came out with a small bit of fanfare and felt like it leaned too heavily on its “live service” foundation. The game’s story was pretty good and some of the DLC really understood the assignment. But, as a game designed to be a live service, it felt lacking and became part of meme culture.
Aside from that, the reception has been mixed since day one. Design flaws mean that it had a difficult user interface to navigate and the game didn’t feel polished enough to merit such a high hype.
The redeeming factor is that the story was pretty good, as long as you looked past the issues with bugs and repetitive gameplay. It became a “buy it when it’s on sale” game.
They offered an exclusivity for Spider-Man on PlayStation, which to this day is locked only to that console. The game was just never given time to shine. But, it also leaned too heavily on being a GaaS.
Square Enix, the publisher of the game, even called the outcome “disappointing” in 2021. This was meant to be the beginning of a big franchise and it sputtered out.
Live services can make or break a game.
Back in January 2023, Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix officially made the call and announced that the game’s official servers would be shut down this year. No one was surprised. Disappointed, sure. But, not surprised.
Come September 30th, 2023, Marvel’s Avengers will be shut down. You’ll still be able to play the single-player campaign. But, without the extra heroes, DLC, or ability to team up with other players, you’re playing a desolate solo story with no special perks.
Digital storefronts like Steam have dropped the pricing of the game super low. You can find the “Definitive Edition” on Steam right now for $3.99. The story alone makes that worth it if nothing else.
They removed the microtransactions for this version as well. So, you can play the game as-is going forward, even if the online modes will be disabled.
If you want to play the single-player option, you need to navigate through some required co-op, which will also be disabled. So, there’s no telling how that’ll affect the game going forward.
As with many live service and online games before it, it could potentially become lost media, if it requires the servers to be properly playable. But, considering many games of this nature have come back via private fan servers, this may not be the end of the game.
However, unlike the comic book heroes that are presented in the game, Marvel’s Avengers, with its lackluster gameplay and unsolved issues, may not come back from the dead at all. Only time will tell.