The Sad(?) Death of Marvel’s Avengers

Image Credit: Lucie Liz on Pexels

Liam Ferguson looks into one of gaming’s most high profile recent failures

It’s 2017, Square Enix has just announced a “multi-year, multi-game” deal with Marvel, revealing The Avengers Project in a small tease of visuals. An Avengers game from Crystal Dynamics, the studio behind the highly successful Tomb Raider reboot series seemed like a match made in heaven. Then, the red flags started to show themselves, with the 2019 gameplay reveal trailer that made the title look like a destiny-style games-as-a-service cash grab. That’s exactly what the game was when it was released in August 2020, and by 2023 it was dead in the water. 

Upon launch, Marvel’s Avengers was met with a slate of mediocre reviews, with most pointing out its hollow gameplay, lack of content and middling story. The game was filled with bugs, each hero played like any generic action-game character albeit with slight twists to make them somewhat feel like Avengers. Shortly after launch, the game’s initial roadmap, which touted a new hero every month, was scrapped, leaving the title doomed to failure. 

The lack of content was a focal point in Avengers’ failure. The single player campaign was too short and the multiplayer missions were the same repetitive cycles over and over again. For a game where you play as Earth’s mightiest heroes, you’d more often than not be fighting generic robots instead of the wide rogues gallery Marvel is known for. What was especially strange was the fact that content was ready to be published. In September of 2020, Twitch streamer Fran Mirabella III accidentally gained access to a raid-style dungeon that was then not released to the public until 2022. Character models, dialogue and voice-lines were leaked for characters such as She-Hulk and Captain Marvel yet they never saw the light of day. 

Only five new characters were added to Marvel’s Avengers between its launch and the blog post announcing the cessation of any future updates. Of these, only Kate Bishop and Hawkeye (who played as clones of each other) and Black Panther arrived alongside new story content. The other two were unceremoniously plopped into the world to try and give lapsed players a reason to come back. Keeping Spider-Man as a character exclusive to one console would make sense and drive competition in a successful game, but for one that was haemorrhaging players it only left a sour taste in the mouths of fans.

Marvel’s Avengers was an utter embarrassment for a studio as revered as Crystal Dynamics to release. It served as a shock to nobody when the halting of development was announced. A game based on the most popular IP on the planet from a well regarded studio should have been a runaway success, but as is common in the games industry, greed got in the way.