Marvel Goes MMO– but will it work?

13 Comments

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?

13 Comments

tomar

first of all i want to go on record saying that i think this can be done if they do it similar to coh cov. second leave wow alone. it will die just make your game and people will play. that is what really killed galaxies soe wanted to make it like wow. that is when i quit playing. they had an awesome game then they changed it and killed it. just make your game people will come

Bob Marley

Just one thing as a correction and I don’t know if anyone will read this but, there has already been a “successful” console, PC MMO game released called Final Fantasy Online. Personally I believe there should be more, but thats my opinion.

JAson JEsse

Ok WoW is horrible. It was revoltutionary and alot of people got hooked, but not it’s more just people being afraid to change. City of Heroes/Villains is a great game. There are lots of MMOs better than WoW.

I would look for Marvel MMO to be alot like CoH/CoV. Cryptic got alot of things right in that game and now know what should of and could of been done better. The character creation detail is on a whole different level than any other MMO. It has enough depth to keep you playing for years, but is easy enough for a newb to love.

My only worry is having Micosoft/Marvel/Cryptic all coming together. That’s alot of egos. The console/PC dual release scraes me too.

Jennifer

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 =)

Aaron Johnson

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

Aaron Johnson

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

veronica

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.

Jesse Kopelman

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

Wagner James Au

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.

MMO Player

There are too many “ands” or dependants.

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

Chris Brainard

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.

Migs

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

Aaron Johnson

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.

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