13 Comments

Summary:

The last time we saw Marvel Comics and game developer Cryptic Studios in the same sentence, the former was suing the latter, on the fairly dubious grounds that Cryptic’s popular, caped crimefighter-themed City of Heroes MMO supposedly encouraged copyright infringement. (Since its subscribers could create characters […]

The last time we saw Marvel Comics and game developer Cryptic Studios in the same sentence, the former was suing the latter, on the fairly dubious grounds that Cryptic’s popular, caped crimefighter-themed City of Heroes MMO supposedly encouraged copyright infringement. (Since its subscribers could create characters similar to Captain America, the Hulk, and other titans in the Marvel pantheon.)

But IP lawsuits are so 2004, and after an undisclosed settlement agreement last year, the latest news is win-win for both companies, announced just last week: Cryptic will be the developer for Marvel Universe Online, an upcoming MMO for Vista and Xbox 360 that’ll incorporate characters, settings, and storylines from their vast comic library.

At first glance, the project’s success seems like a sure bet. With a huge, generation-spanning readership, and several blockbuster movie spinoffs, including Spider-Man and X-Men, how could an online game version fail?

Trouble is, it can. In fact, I’d be very skeptical, because the track record for MMOs based on non-game IP is pretty dicey. Star Wars Galaxies performed moderately well at first, with a few hundred thousand subscribers at peak– but before its 2003 launch, experts predicted it could be the first US-based MMO to break the one million subscriber mark. (And does anyone even remember Matrix Online, let alone play it?) The fundamental stumbling block seems to be a mismatch of medium and desire.

If you love the heroes of a film or comic franchise, then you probably want to be them, or at least interact with them on a regular basis. But doing that’s simply not feasible in an online game played simultaneously by several thousands of people– especially if you’re trying to capture both an audience of hardcore gamers who enjoy roleplaying in the game’s universe for long stretches of time, and more casual players who just want a quick, action-oriented experience.

Sony Online Entertainment learned this the hard way with Star Wars Galaxies, and a game based on Marvel comics is sure to endure similar (insurmountable?) challenges. Can you create a superhero game where everyone wants to be Wolverine, but no one wants to be Wolverine’s apprentice claw sharpener?

By Wagner James Au

You're subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

Related stories

  1. MMO+Marvel+Cryptic = success and revolution.

    If your thinking that user creation will be a problem for this game just look at the Cryptic track record with Villains and City of Heroes. Easily it creates what users want in my opinion – to create your own heroes the way you like them. Users won’t try to play as traditional characters like Wolverine but rather use they as design ideas for their personal created player.

    This will be one hell of a MMO because of the increasing number of fans, the hype of Marvel, and the track record of Cryptic. Also I did not see much mentioned about the possibility of this being the first game to bridge console and pc playback together. PC (Vista) and Xbox360 players have a chance to experience the first interoperable game for the console and PC which opens up the community base even more (and how many will be online at a time). Considering the formula built around this game the potential seems very high for this to make a mark in the MMO race.

    Share
  2. Perhaps Wolverine and Spidy will be NPC’s in the story, while user players will be your average mutant or wannabe.

    Share
  3. After making the worst MMO out there called City of Heroes it can only be uphill from here. Don’t hold your breath though. Microsoft has been known to drop MMOs like hot potatoes and hasn’t released a single MMO to date. There is also a conflict of interest with City of Heroes and this new game as Cryptic is developing both of them. So anyone who likes City of Heroes can watch as development tapers off.

    Share
  4. There are too many “ands” or dependants.

    Microsft AND Marvel AND Cryptic being released on PC AND 360. Too many cooks in the kitchen.

    Share
  5. While writing this, it occured to me that Cyptic
    could just make a Moderately multiplayer online game, in which each server is inhabited by a hundred or so players, and thousands of NPCS. That way, everyone gets a chance to play the top characters. That could be a new way of handling the leveling up process: instead of
    experience points, you get Hero Points, and when you earn enough of those playing as a minor character, you can invest those to play a more
    major character. So instead of building up a single character of your own creation, you’re trying to earn the right to play, say, Spider-Man or Wolverine.

    Trouble is, the stumbling block with letting players play their big characters is Marvel would likely freak out over the idea of people griefing with their sacred IP. Spider-Man swinging over New York without pants, stuff like that would give Stan Lee a coronary.

    Share
  6. Actually, Stan Lee would love pantsless Spiderman. Now Marvel’s board of directors is another story entirely. Excelsior!

    Share
  7. There are very few companies that can go against the 800-pound gorilla that is World of Warcraft. However, I think that the combination of Microsoft and Marvel could at least make a dent. The Marvel games all do very well, and City of Heroes has done pretty well, all things considered. If they make it so XBox 360 and PC players can interact, I think it’ll only add to the success of the game.

    Will it surpass WoW? No. Like you mentioned, even Star Wars couldn’t hack it in the MMO department. The only thing that will bring WoW down is if they bring about their own destruction… they’d have to really screw up for that to happen.

    Share
  8. I agree, as I stated they have a chance to make a mark because of the level of gamers and interaction that they are now in “proprable talk” about, but it seems like a viable option soon with Vista. There were a lot of mentioning of Cryptics so called bad games – but they have done ok (it’s no WoW) with sales on both recent titles.

    All I can say is Xbox Live’s community and marketplace + the famous PC patches will be a generating something to make them atleast good for them. Taken that there aren’t any MMO’s that are great on Xbox360 and needed option of a WoW PC competitor, it will happen with this market and hype built around it. Things to worry about are more concerning the Vista situation, MS will have to show us a hell of a gaming upgrade for this while also trying to contemplate backwards compatibility (older PC games are sure to be bouncing all over Vista). So time is something to consider as well, and I am sure someone (hacker’s delight or our good ole’ buddies TransGaming) will make a application replicating the experience for XP users. Online is the only these platforms can co-exist, and it will be a huge gaming revolution and it is starting with Marvels attempt at MMO.

    CyKiller

    Share
  9. I agree, as I stated they have a chance to make a mark because of the level of gamers and interaction that they are now in “probable talk” about, but it seems like a viable option soon with Vista. There were a lot of mentioning of Cryptics so called bad games – but they have done ok (it’s no WoW) with sales on both recent titles.

    All I can say is Xbox Live’s community and marketplace + the famous PC patches will be a generating something to make Cryptic numbers at least good for them. Taken that there aren’t any MMO’s that are great on Xbox360 and needed option of a WoW PC competitor, it will happen with this market and hype built around it. Things to worry about are more concerning the Vista situation, MS will have to show us a hell of a gaming upgrade for this while also trying to contemplate backwards compatibility (older PC games are sure to be bouncing all over Vista). So time is something to consider as well, and I am sure someone (hacker’s delight or our good ole’ buddies TransGaming) will make a application replicating the experience for XP users. Online is the only way these platforms can co-exist, and it will be a huge gaming revolution and it is starting with Marvels attempt at MMO.

    CyKiller

    Share
  10. As a player of both CoH/CoV and WoW. I noticed that there are more committed team membership with CoH than WoW. I quit WoW cuz hardly anyone wanted to “team up”. For those of you “who do have a life” other than just gaming (and, you know who you are!-lol) We all have different work schedules, there should be certain archetypes (ie.–on WoW hunters and warlocks) on Marvel MMO that you should be able to solo all the way up the chain—nerfing all these good tanks and such must cease!!! Take a message–don’t repeat history (ie.–tank nerfing)–cuz everyone don’t play at the same time—oxoxoxox Jennifer =)

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post