Can Marvel Unify its Video Games With the ‘Marvel Gaming Universe’?

Marvel is trying to unify its video game universe in the same manner as its movies. Could this ambitious plan work?

May 2, 2014 at 7:31AM

Disney (NYSE:DIS)/Marvel Comics recently discussed the development of a unified "Marvel Gaming Universe" at Marvel's House of Ideas panel at C2E2 (Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo). The idea is to connect Marvel's fragmented universe of video games with a cohesive vision, similar to the way it unified its film world as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The plan is to have Marvel's own comic book writers write or oversee the development of Marvel's upcoming video games to ensure that they share a consistent voice with the source material. This isn't the first time Marvel's talked about creating a Marvel Gaming Universe -- Marvel's VP of Games, TQ Jefferson, made the same claim at SXSW in March.

Marvel Vs Capcom

Capcom's Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Source: Capcom.

Easier said than done
This idea isn't a new one -- Time Warner (NYSE:TWX)/DC Comics accomplished this successfully with the Batman Arkham games, which were originally developed by Rocksteady. The three main Arkham games, which have sold over 21 million copies worldwide, successfully merged the comic book, cartoon, and video game worlds of Batman into a single interactive experience that felt like a natural extension of all three.

Marvel video games are more scattered -- some games are based on the cartoons, others are based on the films, while others are crossover titles with other franchises. Over the past five years, over a dozen publishers have released Marvel titles on various platforms.

By comparison, Warner Bros. has published all of its comic book-based console, PC, and mobile video games over the past five years. Only two arcade games -- Justice League: Heroes United (2009) and Batman (2013) -- weren't published by Warner.

In a clear effort to bring its characters home, Marvel recently asked Capcom, Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI), and several other companies to discontinue digital distribution of several Marvel titles. Some of the delisted games include Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, X-Men: The Official Game, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Licensing agreements with both companies will expire soon, according to EGM.

Marvel will likely bring these franchises home to Disney Interactive Studios, which recently announced the crossover title Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes, which will mix together its Disney, Pixar, and Marvel characters together in a telepod-powered sandbox.


Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes. Source: Disney.

Can Marvel make better games than Activision and Capcom?
Even if Marvel can bring its video game characters home, can it really make better games than seasoned publishers like Activision and Capcom? After all, Activision's X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Capcom's Marvel vs. Capcom series are consistently regarded as fan favorite titles.

It's easy to look at Rocksteady's stellar work on Arkham Asylum and Arkham City and claim that comic book writers are the key to creating great games. But that wasn't always the case. Over a decade ago, Ubisoft (NASDAQOTH:UBSFF) published Batman: Vengeance, a continuation of Paul Dini and Bruce Timm's animated series, and Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu, which featured a new character created by artist Jim Lee. Both titles were praised for their stories and voice acting, but were criticized for bland, lackluster gameplay. Vengeance sold less than a million copies, while Sin Tzu only sold 590,000.

In video games, creating great gameplay is usually the primary objective, whereas scripting a stunning story is secondary. Ideally, a great game would excel at both, but few people want to play a beautifully written game if the game is too clunky or monotonous to finish.

So far, Marvel has only taken baby steps in expanding its own universe. The first step was a Facebook game, Avengers Alliance, which was later tied into a full-featured mobile game, Avengers Initiative. Other games within Marvel's gaming universe include Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign, Marvel War of Heroes, Iron Man 3 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Last June, In response to Warner's free-to-play MMORPG DC Universe Online, Marvel Entertainment released its own MMO, Marvel Heroes. The game was developed by Gazillion Studios and written by Brian Michael Bendis, the creator of Marvel's "Ultimate" universe. However, Heroes met the same icy reception as Ubisoft's Batman games -- IGN gave the game a 5.7/10 rating, stating that the story was good, but that combat and customization features were mediocre. By comparison, IGN gave DC Universe Online (the PS4 version) an 8/10 rating.


Marvel Heroes. Source: Marvel.

Should Marvel leave well enough alone?
If Marvel Heroes is an early indication of where the Marvel Gaming Universe is headed, Disney would be better off letting Activision and Capcom do the heavy lifting instead.

Disney acquired gaming studio LucasArts in October 2012, but shut it down the following April to salvage its valuable IPs, because LucasArts was redundant with Disney's Interactive division. Disney then signed a deal with Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) in November 2013 to exclusively produce Star Wars titles for the next decade, since EA housed BioWare, the creator of the acclaimed Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and the remnants of Pandemic, the creators of the Star Wars: Battlefront series.

Therefore, it might be a better idea for Marvel to sign exclusive long-term deals with its best publishers, instead of pushing them away. The idea of hiring comic book writers to "unify" its entire video game universe isn't clever -- it's overly ambitious and doesn't take into account the different genres of games that are on the market.

Simply put, gamers don't love Marvel vs. Capcom because of the story -- they love it because it lets them pit Chun Li against the Hulk. Gamers adored Activision's Spider-Man titles because Treyarch effortlessly created the adrenaline-pumping sensation of swinging from building to building in an open sandbox.

My final take
In conclusion, if Marvel simply wants to assist studios in developing a unified voice for its games, I'm all for it. However, if Marvel discontinues licensing agreements with Activision, Capcom, and other publishers entirely, that could be a huge mistake.

What do you think, fellow Marvel fans? Is creating a unified Marvel Gaming Universe a clever move or a foolish one? Share your thoughts in the comments section below! 

6 stock picks poised for incredible growth
They said it couldn't be done. But David Gardner has proved them wrong time, and time, and time again with stock returns like 926%, 2,239%, and 4,371%. In fact, just recently one of his favorite stocks became a 100-bagger. And he's ready to do it again. You can uncover his scientific approach to crushing the market and his carefully chosen six picks for ultimate growth instantly, because he's making this premium report free for you today. Click here now for access.

Leo Sun owns shares of Facebook and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Activision Blizzard, Facebook, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Activision Blizzard, Facebook, and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Money to your ears - A great FREE investing resource for you

The best way to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as “binge-worthy finance.”

Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03PM

Whether we're in the midst of earnings season or riding out the market's lulls, you want to know the best strategies for your money.

And you'll want to go beyond the hype of screaming TV personalities, fear-mongering ads, and "analysis" from people who might have your email address ... but no track record of success.

In short, you want a voice of reason you can count on.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich," rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

And one of the easiest, most enjoyable, most valuable ways to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as "binge-worthy finance."

Whether you make it part of your daily commute or you save up and listen to a handful of episodes for your 50-mile bike rides or long soaks in a bubble bath (or both!), the podcasts make sense of your money.

And unlike so many who want to make the subjects of personal finance and investing complicated and scary, our podcasts are clear, insightful, and (yes, it's true) fun.

Our free suite of podcasts

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. The show is also heard weekly on dozens of radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers are timeless, so it's worth going back to and listening from the very start; the other three are focused more on today's events, so listen to the most recent first.

All are available for free at

If you're looking for a friendly voice ... with great advice on how to make the most of your money ... from a business with a lengthy track record of success ... in clear, compelling language ... I encourage you to give a listen to our free podcasts.

Head to, give them a spin, and you can subscribe there (at iTunes, Stitcher, or our other partners) if you want to receive them regularly.

It's money to your ears.


Compare Brokers