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Could We Soon See the Videogame Equivalent of Avengers: Infinity War?

As the MCU wraps up a storyline a decade in the making, there's reason to be excited for the prospect of an "MDU."

Analysis by Kat Bailey, .

The Avengers: Infinity War teaser trailer finally dropped today, sending social media aflutter with discussion and speculation about what should be the single biggest superhero film ever made.

It's the culmination of a decade of painstaking development and more than a dozen movies—a climax that surpasses a fan's wildest dreams. You may not like the way that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has completely subsumed Hollywood, but you have to admire the ambition of it all. The ongoing embarrassment of the DCU is proof of how difficult it is to pull off a proper cinematic universe.

Now imagine this in videogame form.

But while Marvel has successfully conquered movies, games remain virgin territory. Talking about it in the USG Slack Channel, the conversation naturally turned to what Avengers: Infinity War might look if it were a videogame. Would something like the Marvel Cinematic Universe work in game form? We may soon find out.

At the beginning of the year, Marvel announced a multi-game partnership with Crystal Dynamics (Tomb Raider) and Eidos Montreal (Deus Ex) to create a series based on the Avengers. As Mike observed, this "Avengers Project" could be Marvel's first attempt to create a separate "Marvel Digital Universe." That's on top of Insomniac's Spider-Man game, which was announced back in 2016.

Marvel teased the project by saying, "The Avengers project is being designed for gamers worldwide and will be packed with all the characters, environments, and iconic moments that have thrilled longtime fans of the franchise. Featuring a completely original story, it will introduce a universe gamers can play in for years to come. More details on The Avengers project and other games will be announced in 2018."

It's an intriguing prospect. Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal both have the pedigree to make a really strong superhero game, and Square Enix has the budgetary muscle to back them up. For Marvel fans, it's pretty much the best case scenario for an "MDU."

It helps that Marvel is saying the right things as well. When Insomniac first announced that they were working on a Spider-Man game, Marvel Comics vice president of games Jay Ong told Polygon, "When I joined Marvel two years ago, I came in with a mandate to usher in a new era for Marvel Games. We have a treasure trove of the best superhero characters on earth. What can we do with this to create truly epic games? Is [Spider-Man] a signal of things to come? Oh, yes. Absolutely. And we can't wait to tell the world about it."

So the stars seem to be aligning for a rebirth of sorts for Marvel in the game space. Why has it taken so long to get to this point? Blame it on the vagaries of triple-A game development, which gets more expensive and more complicated with each passing year. You can also blame it on Disney's decision to kill in-house game development, preferring to license out the property to the likes of the now deceased Gazillion (Marvel Heroes) and Telltale (Guardians of the Galaxy).

The future?

Like everyone else in the games industry, Marvel has also had to deal with the collapse of mid-budget game development—the space traditionally reserved for superhero games. The licensed movie adaptations of the past are long gone. While Rocksteady and WB have found success with the Arkham series, Marvel has struggled to adapt.

Marvel's partnership with Crystal Dynamis and Eidos Montreal is a positive development, but challenges remain. Games take a long time to develop—will "The Avengers Project" be able to maintain momentum over the course of several games? Will they be able to squeeze multiple heroes, each with their own mechanics, into one action game?

In a perfect world, the two would be able to team with Insomniac to create a series of games focusing on individual characters (Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy), then bring them all together in one mega crossover game. But that's probably not realistic given that characters like Dr. Strange and even Thor are unlikely to be able to headline games on their own (unless they found their own way into indie-style downloadable releases).

Imagine this with superheroes.

Maybe we'll get an open world action game where we can choose from a roster of heroes. Or maybe we'll get a party-based RPG along the lines of Mass Effect. Or maybe Crystal Dynamics will focus on one lesser-known hero for a Tomb Raider-style adventure, with the Avengers remaining in the background.

The best evidence we have right now are job postings that have hinted at a third-person covered based action adventure game with some sort of social aspect. That covers a lot of territory.

Whatever approach they decide to take, a proper "MDU" will require meticulous planning of the sort that has defined the MCU to this point. If they carry it off properly, their reward will be a game that matches or exceeds the hype of Avengers: Infinity War—a climax literally years in the making.

I can't wait to see what comes of it.

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Comments 8

  • Avatar for DrCorndog #1 DrCorndog 18 days ago
    I don't care for what Marvel's done to big-budget movies, despite enjoying the MCU overall. I already dislike the state of AAA game development, so I really can't see an MDU being a good thing.
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  • Avatar for swamped #2 swamped 18 days ago
    I truly appreciate the optimism here. I'm thinking the ideas presented in this article are probably far better than what they actually have in mind.

    Makes me miss City of Heroes. :'(
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  • Avatar for benjaminlu86 #3 benjaminlu86 18 days ago
    I think it's really idealistic to think that something like the MCU for games could survive the realities of game production. Hollywood film production timelines are extremely regimented, especially for films with Disney money to grease the wheels of progress, as well as a draconian and market research-optimized release schedule to hit. You have X weeks to do pre-production and pre-vis, Y weeks for filming, and Z weeks for editing (and Q days for reshoots). If you can't keep up, we'll replace you. This is not to say that MCU films can't be creative or inspiring (Thor: Ragnarok is one of my favorite movies of the year), merely that only creatives who can handle the pressure and grueling schedule can make it under these circumstances.

    Game production, particularly at the AAA budget level, is a sprawling mess of multiple rounds of feature creep and paring back. Only the most formulaic of franchises can put out a new game every year like clockwork (and sometimes they suffer for it too). If we wanted a MDU as creative and diverse in genre and tone as the MCU, the regimented yearly production model is out. This leaves the messiness of typical AAA production, which I don't think is suited for multiple studios all working in a shared universe that coordinates every few years for a blockbuster beat 'em up. If any one of them gets delayed (and they will), it would have a knock-on effect on every other release, potentially tumbling all of them like so many bowling pins.
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #4 donkeyintheforest 18 days ago
    i would love a 4 player gauntlet couch co-op style game like some of the old marvel games. maybe the mobile market is starting to bottom out and they are gonna make real superhero games again (batman arkham games aside, although its been a while since those even)!
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  • Avatar for The-Challenger #5 The-Challenger 18 days ago
    I just realized something, if this is called Infinity War then that means they plan on skipping the actual Infinity War with the Magus and the clones, etc.

    I hope the SquareEnix game is shown at TGS..I think that event still takes place.
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #6 LBD_Nytetrayn 18 days ago
    I wrote about this prospect back when Insomniac's Spider-Man was announced, but I've since become disillusioned by their games. Killing Infinity, Heroes not making it to the end of the year, pulling titles after less than a year of availability, and Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite's rolling-pennies-for-gas budget don't inspire faith going forward.
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #7 Ohoni 18 days ago
    You know what would be really cool for an Avengers game? Do a thing sort of like an interactive movie, where basically you know how the movies will have a big fight, and the heroes sort of split up and do things suited to their traits? Do that in the game, have the heroes split up and each do their own thing, like Hulk is beating up on some big tough guy while Cap is defending some civilians and Hawkeye is picking off stragglers and all that.

    Then design it so that these battles just sort of take care of themselves in the background (but don't actually progress much), but then as the player controls one character, and completes a task with him, control switches to to another character, and you advance what they're trying to do, and then to the next, just as a movie would cut from one to the next (although more concentrated, more complete sequences rather than short action cuts).

    And while you aren't controlling a character, you'll still glimpse them doing stuff in the background, and maybe be able to call in minor assists from time to time, or have them do minor assists on their own, like while playing as Cap Hawkeye might snipe a guy for you, or Hulk might lob debris into your area.

    I think this could work really well while allowing each character to be unique and balanced, because each has their own tasks to be doing, as opposed to a more sandbox experience where you'd have to somehow balance the Hulk and Black Widow against all enemy types.
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  • Avatar for docexe #8 docexe 18 days ago
    @benjaminlu86 Yeah, I also don’t think something akin to the MCU is really possible in the videogame space (at least, not at the AAA level), for all the reasons you point out.

    Still, Insomniac’ Spider-man game looks great, so I at the very least hope we finally get a pair of good Avengers/Marvel games.
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