Marvel Games has announced Marvel Rivals, a new entry in the MOBA/3rd person shooter genre. Developed for PC by studio NetEase, who was known for their work on Marvel’s first MOBA mobile game Marvel Super War, this fast-paced 6v6 shooter aims to appeal towards players of popular franchises such as Valorant or Fortnite. The game plans on doing the seasonal drop model for new content and new superheroes beginning with a closed alpha this May.

Marvel Rivals will feature epic team battles from members of the Avengers, X-Men, and Guardians of The Galaxy, as they take on Doctor Doom and his futuristic 2099 counterpart who threatens to rule the multiverse. Battles will unfold on iconic maps with destructible environments crafted by former developers who worked on games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield.

“We are overjoyed to bring Marvel Rivals to players around the world. “We have always loved Marvel’s universe and its characters, and we are so excited to develop this game,” said the Marvel Rivals Producer, Stephen Wu. “This is the game we want to make, and we feel very lucky to be the team who made all of this come true.”

Marvel Rivals is one of our most ambitious game development projects. Since the conceptualization of the game and throughout our collaboration, our Marvel team has poured our hearts and souls into this project, and we are thrilled to work with the incredible team at NetEase Games to help deliver the ultimate Super Hero team-based PVP shooter, ” he said Jay OngEVP and Head of Marvel Games.

Thus far, Marvel Rivals you have confirmed it has 18 playable characters such as Spider-Man, Scarlet Witch, Magneto, and Peni Parker. There’s also a very Overwatch feeling to the game from its design choices to its gameplay and it’s worth noting all the similarities. For instance, Peni Parker and Overwatch’s D.Va, seemingly look very identical, as both characters depict Asian gamer girls and both use mechs that were inspired by the anime, Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Like Overwatch, Marvel Rivals will emphasize unique character abilities. What’s different is that the game has added different team-up skills with characters working in tandem such as Rocket and Groot or Hulk and Iron Man. While coordinated fused attacks are slightly newer to the Superhero shooter PVP, we’ve actually seen quite a lot of it in older Marvel games such as Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 back in 2009. This also makes for quite a lot of sense given that Marvel’s current Editor-in-chief CB Cebulskiwas actually the head writer of the original Marvel Ultimate Alliance video game.

heroic highlight as Iron Man and Hulk channel an attack against a building
Photo Credit: Marvel

Why Marvel is doing a PVP shooter in the style of Overwatch is pretty obvious: these are games that pull in quite a lot of money IF they’re successful. However, the track record for new games to compete with the top games within the space has been shaky at best and it’s actually quite hard to break into this genre even with stellar IP. The ESports scene, where a large chunk of that coveted Gen Z audience resides, is exactly the reason why a lot of companies are trying to get into this model – as outside of anime consumption, there actually hasn’t been a lot of Gen Z products that stick regarding fandoms and IP.

As it stands, most ESports stars retire at the age of 26, so this is very much a young person’s field. Room for growth in either the MOBA or PVP shooter genre is difficult as competition is quite fierce outside of the big core titles such as Valorant, Overwatch itself, or even the game that started ESports: League of Legends, which still pulls in almost 2 billion dollars in revenue a year despite the fact it is now a 15-year-old video game (And it is exactly what everyone is trying to emulate).

Atop of this, a big reason this is happening is that there’s a longstanding but unspoken connection between Marvel comics and Blizzard most people are unaware of. Overwatch has always been about superheroes, beginning as a standalone project by Blizzard Studios called Project Titan.

Originally, Titan was meant to be a mix of styles of Sci-fi, Superhero, and Team Fortress – all centered around an MMORPG World of Warcraft type of design that was supposed to revolutionize the industry. The project unfortunately was too complicated to execute, and later, had its assets broken down and turned into a smaller-scaled project, one of which became the immensely successful game, Overwatch.

scenic shot in marvel rivals with Asgard in backdrop scenic shot in marvel rivals with Asgard in backdrop
Photo Credit: Marvel

At the time Blizzard’s CCO Chris Metzen, widely considered the mastermind behind many of the company’s best video games, had a longstanding history with comics and actually began his career at Blizzard at the age of 19 as a graphic artist. He began his career at Blizzard by adapting a DC comics superhero game called Justice League Task Force finding some of Blizzard’s earliest origins in… superheroes.

In fact, Metzen’s biggest designs throughout his career at Blizzard were actually entirely inspired by superheroes. James Raynor, the protagonist of Blizzard’s international breakout product of the 90’s Starcraft, was actually based on concept art crafted by Metzen based on a tough roguish figure inspired by Marvel’s Wolverine/Logan. Warchief Thrall and his magical lightning Doomhammer in Warcraft? A stand-in for M’jolnir, the hammer wielded by Thor, who is unionically, also Metzen’s favorite superhero (and the spitting image of Prince Arthas himself).

Now, all of these games created by Blizzard wouldn’t exist without their signature protagonists, and ironically, Blizzard’s biggest heroes (outside Diablo) were based off concepts on Marvel characters. Which is why a Marvel game designed to be like a Blizzard superhero shooter game, feels like inspiration just coming full circle.

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Photo Credit: Marvel

Still, Marvel Rivals will face their share of problems. It’s not like live service games are helping the multiplayer industry and many gamers have declared exhaustion of too many of them the same way people have of our streaming services. For every Helldivers success storythere’s ‘Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League’, which is the exact type of shooter superhero game Marvel Rivals will be judged in comparison to despite being vastly different games.

Suicide Squad Kill the Justice League is bombing in sales with review scores plummeting and a discount already being applied less than two months into the game. It’s a concerning situation given that Rocksteady was also the same studio that created the highly acclaimed Batman Arkham Asylum video games, and the shift from single player massive story to live service superhero shooter can only be described in one word: Failure.

Atop of this, almost every company with IP to franchise seems to want to head in the multiplayer only direction that is service games, where most of the profits are generated not by purchase of the game but transactions over time. These usually result in lower quality games that depend on a seasonal model rather than worry about hitting a quota of copies/units sold.

It’s not a bad idea if done correctly (Destiny made this work for years) though as it stands, there’s again, more games like this than ever before. Mostly because they’re less risky to produce and depend on what’s essentially micro transactions over a games lifecycle.

Magik slashes in marvel rivalsMagik slashes in marvel rivals
Photo Credit: Marvel

As it stands, a single-player AAA game may cost hundreds of millions to make, such as the 300 million dollar cost to make the Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 video game. It also doesn’t help that there is no certainty that money may ever come back, so it makes sense to pivot from a business standpoint, even if that’s not a guaranteed future.

Now, superheroes and shooters didn’t even go hand-in-hand until Overwatch in 2016, so this is all a very young and very confusing time regarding the direction of where video games go from here – especially when adapting superheroes. Still, it’s not unheard of to catch lightning in a bottle twice – especially, when you’re the company that has the God of Thunder.





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