I’ll start this off by saying that I am excited for the full release of Marvel’s Avengers. I had a blast playing the Beta for three weekends. Sunk about 20+ hours into this version alone. This is more than I have put into other games and still waiting for the actual release. There still was something about this game I just wanted to explore. To some degree, it’s been talked about since the initial announcement. I am not here to discuss people’s preferences. Everyone has their own opinion This article is also not to bash the game itself. What I want to talk about what I believe was Avengers’ biggest misstep. The game mismanaged its marketing that it created an A-Day problem.
When the game was initially revealed, I became cautiously optimistic. The way they tried to sell this game was that it would continuously expand. You buy the game once and every expansion is for free. I have experience with Destiny that tried something similar. Just lost interest as I had to pay extra for each additional season. The fact that this isn’t the case here had my attention. It makes its profit off of additional costumes or trinkets that you can buy through a market place. So, it is up to you to spend money on the game if you really want a specific look.
That did make some people quite nervous. The timing was terrible for this announcement. Anthem and Fallout 76 had performed terribly in their release with the same promise. It took them years to get to that point they promised but lost many players along the way. Its main focus on multiplayer made the actual content feel rushed even when it worked. Now, everyone feared the same for Avengers.
Our first experience with the game was a story trailer. Taskmaster attacks the Avengers on A-Day. We get a glimpse of gameplay as they fight on the Golden Gate bridge. At the time, we had no idea about Kamala Khan being playable as she narrates the trailer. There were small glimpses of other story missions but it primarily focused on the opening act. This was our inciting incident for the story that kickstarts a global adventure. Still, these glimpses didn’t tell us much about what kind of game or story we can expect.
To be fair, neither did the original 2016 reveal trailer for Spider-Man. That just teased some confrontations but purely focused on the titular character in costume. What Insomniac did nail was the true turning point of hype for the game. At E3 2017, they didn’t just give us another trailer but a total of 8-minutes of gameplay. It was a mission set during the game rather than just the opening. Plus, we only see one singular character’s face model, which was Martin Li. After recently playing both games back-to-back, I noticed similarities between their models. Most notably, how the hair is designed. It wouldn’t be surprising that they are working from the same engine.
Either way, back to Avengers. Crystal Dynamics ended their E3 panel with the announcement that there will be more content post-launch. The thought of additional heroes and maps for free is a great selling point. The only issues are that players were jaded by past experiences with such promises. Worst of all, they didn’t say what these expansions meant for the game. Is it an unfinished story that keeps expanding? Would each expansion add a new main threat? There was no transparency about what additional content would mean. Especially as they barely showed the base game. What could’ve been a selling point became a promise for more. It was that fact that got people nervous and it made people question the game from the start.
Okay, that isn’t quite fair. We did get a massive 19-minute demo of A-Day. This gave us a look at how the core Avengers played. It was rough around the edges but it looked promising. My only gripe was that the HUD seemed to lack personality. At the time, a lot of people were asking for more characters. They never revealed anything as people shouted for Hawkeye but demand was there. What was important was to build on this momentum towards the April release. Well, that’s how it should’ve been.
The original release date of May got delayed until September. More time meant they could polish the game. The only thing they really revealed was that Ms. Marvel was a playable character. Each trailer continued to just tease brief glimpses of actual gameplay. It only showed you in missions running around and beating up minions. In a way, it was the marketing that started the feeling of “repetitive” long before we got to play it. What was revealed about the story? A-Day of course, repeating mostly what we’ve already seen with some snippets of the aftermath. Whoever was already skeptical just felt justified based on the lack of content presented.
What’s worse, it created a feeling that they weren’t at a point to show much more. Most notably, nothing was revealed for how multiplayer worked. The question would arise about how would it balance a single-player? They made promises of years worth of content. Yet, it seems that they are embarrassed to show more of the base game. It felt like the only true story mission is A-Day with maybe some scenarios here and there. Most of the game would be multiplayer which added to the fear of repetition. The game barely showed anything and that first impression has cemented. Some believed it just focused on single-player it would’ve been better. Just like I did, comparisons to Spider-Man are inevitable.
There was a turning point though. The first marketing push that went beyond A-Day was the first War Table in June. That means since it’s announcement back in September 2019, it took them around 10 months before we got anything substantial about what exactly Avengers is. One could point out that the pandemic didn’t help matters. Still, there were only. a few months left until launch day. Personally, the June War Table was what sold me initially on the game. It was my jumping on point so I believe it was a great direction. Especially with the promise of consistent updates through this format.
It finally revealed how the game plays. We got a feeling for the customization options and what mission types will be included. Crystal Dynamics also used comic panels as a reference to show their research. This was a great touch to show they paid attention. I loved that the gear has different effects from comic history, like Pym Particles to shrink enemies. Yes, it would’ve been nice if there were actual visual changes. Still, it also goes against the whole unique costume approach. It wasn’t until this moment that the game finally felt like it was coming together. The only thing is, it did so two months before release. For most, this was already too late to change that first impression that dominated since the announcement. I will point out though, that I have actively seen much more enthusiasm and enjoyment since the Beta launched.
So, the game was finally picking up steam. Then, Sony announces that Spider-Man was exclusive to PlayStation. For some, this was a boiling point that just enhanced the already negative first impression. Square-Enix slowly started rolling out movie-level tie-in products. These created this feeling of disconnect or “anti-consumerism” as some called it. Keep in mind though, this is not a new practice. PlayStation has used the exclusivity model even back in 2009 with Batman: Arkham Asylum. PS owners were the only ones able to play as Joker at the time.
The reality is, it is a selling point. Also, Sony wants to remain consistent with its brand. Spider-Man is an exclusive franchise on their console. They probably went into heavy negotiations to ensure it remains that way. Actually, Sony generally has an obsession with exclusivity deals. Destiny 2: Forsaken and Fortnite have an extreme amount of exclusive skins or weapons. The spotlight on a major brand like Marvel just made Sony’s model stand out more. If it weren’t for Spider-Man, the other promotional items would’ve been ignored. Yet, no matter how the Internet reacts, the pre-orders for the game skyrocketed because a character as iconic as Spider-Man will draw in attention. It’s not a good practice but it sadly just works.
Everything calmed down a bit as the Beta was finally made available. Reactions seemed more positive with the usual outliers just reiterating their existing concerns. Naturally, the Beta is a very chopped up version of the game. People that are concerned about a lack of story will get that same feeling here. The Beta rushes through A-Day without warning the player. It once created the image of this is how the game works. Besides, one concern was the mission diversity. Naturally, by the time the third week rolled around, people were still playing it. At that point, it could only be repetitive. Let’s be honest, the bugs and re-used assets didn’t help. Nothing was added throughout the week that just limited the experience. It probably would’ve been better off with just two weeks. This most likely was extended to three because Sony had to have an extra weekend exclusive to them.
I am not here to discuss what the Beta is or isn’t. Mainly wanted to point out how this early access also paints the picture from a marketing point-of-view. Especially with how they are heavily advertising that people can access it. Also, this gave us an important opportunity to get a vision for how involved Crystal Dynamics will be. How would they handle critique from the player base to ensure longevity? The inclusion of a Discord network and open communication via Social Media took away some of my concerns. They were actively communicating and adapting according to feedback. Hell, they even updated the Beta regularly throughout all three weeks. This gave some a sense of security that was sorely lacking before.
The game has flaws and it is uncertain if they will be able to fix everything by the time it is released. We don’t know how frequently we can expect new updates. Luckily, a leak did show that there are quite a few heroic additions planned. Everyone has their preference. I believe that marketing did create a lot of bias that is hard to overcome. The models were rough. We barely knew anything about it. All we knew, was 5Gum gets you a free Emote. Their promotion team just took the wrong angle. They believed A-Day alone could sell the game until shortly before launch. Its focus on exclusivity deals and brandings watered down the work Crystal Dynamics put in for some.
Yet, saying it would’ve been better as a single-player game does the same thing. I believe it when they said this game ambitious. They approached it from the beginning as an expanding adventure. If done right, this could be an amazing experience. Sadly, they just didn’t really sell it for a long time. Avengers had a chance to grow out of the shadows of those that came before. I believe that if they stick to the War Table updates, continue to communicate with their active players, and clean up the bugs, this game could be a long-term experience many will not want to miss out on. Here’s hoping we get one more War Table before launch that just maybe teases that ambition a bit more.