How Marvel's Avengers Could Still Make a Comeback
On paper, Marvel’s Avengers should have been a hit. Between a competent publisher in the form of Square Enix, developer Crystal Dynamics (the team behind the well-received Tomb Raider reboot), and one of the most marketable IP in the current cultural market, the game should have been an indisputable success. However, since launch, the game has largely failed to meet expectations.
Although it sold reasonably well in its early phases, the game hasn't met its lofty expectations, resulting in a reported $62 million loss for Square Enix in the quarter of its release. Despite landing seventh place in Forbes's top ten best-sellers list for 2021, Square Enix's Annual Report claimed that Marvel's Avengers had "not proven as successful as we would have liked," its release hampered by its coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the publishers to "approach distribution in ways that we never had before" and casting doubt as to "whether the release would be possible" at all.
While Square Enix has a history of being overly (sometimes brutally) critical of releases that fail to live up to sales expectations, its criticisms here seem justified. The recent decision to all but abandon the game's previously-teased roadmap in favor of small, frequent updates seems only to heighten a sense of impending desperation and despair.
Reception to Marvel’s Avengers has never been glowing. The game received middling reviews, even taking into account patches and live service updates, while fans have never quite taken to the title the way its creators hoped. The PlayStation 4 version, for instance, currently boasts a Metascore of 67 and an unfavorable user aggregate of a 4.9. Active player numbers have dwindled too, especially on PC, with current SteamDB figures reporting around 200 current in-game players for PC versions with 366 at the 24-hour peak.
Marvel’s Avengers isn’t a bad game, but it has hardly set the world alight. Complaints vary, with some critical of the games-as-a-service model, others finding its combat underwhelming, and more expressing disappointment that a game with such potential fell so short of its initial promises.
However, not all hope is lost for players. Due to Marvel's Avengers' live service model, there's still room for Crystal Dynamics to turn things around with new content. New characters from the expansive Marvel roster have previously drawn players back in (at least temporarily), and the recently-announced Jane Foster iteration of Thor could show returning players how the game has improved in recent months.
The problem is that time is running out, and the mere promise of updates and trivial tweaks won't repair a shattered relationship between fans and producers. After years of frustration and broken promises regarding microtransactions, there will inevitably be swathes of players who refuse to return as a point of principle. Dwindling player bases are hard to rectify, and restoring consumer confidence is a rare and challenging feat. Still, Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics haven't completely given up on the game just yet, and with enough effort, Marvel's Avengers could still grow into something that's truly worthy of Earth's Mightiest Heroes.