Thursday night in San Francisco, Marvel Comics and Gazillion Entertainment made some startling announcements about their upcoming Marvel MMO videogame. The news was made at the 21st Amendment brewery, just a few blocks away from the home of the World Champion San Francisco Giants baseball club. The big announcements of the night were that the game will be scripted by none other than Brian Michael Bendis, the man behind most of the events in the Marvel Universe in recent history, that the game would allow players to use the actual Marvel characters in game and, most surprisingly, that the game will be free to play.
Bendis told the crowd that he'd been secretly working on the game for months. "The reason that I was so desperate to be a part of this is that I'm a big believer that the Marvel universe is more than just this fantasy universe, it's kind of a lifestyle for a lot of people."
"It reminds me of what Stan Lee did in the 60's by making the audience part of Marvel," said the writer.
The gameplay, Bendis revealed, would allow players to play as actual Marvel characters, walking through the big events of the Marvel Universe from the classic 60's comics and through every era of Marvel history. It marks a contrast between "DC Universe Online," which has you build your own character and not play-as company heroes. While not very many character choices for Marvel's game were revealed, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Squirrel Girl and Nova were all named as people who would be playable characters.
"This is a great opportunity to explore the breadth of the Marvel universe," said Jeff Lind, studio director for Secret Identity, the subdivision at Gazillion responsible for creating the Marvel MMO. "We thought really hard about this and we would much rather live in a world where you get to be Wolverine, you get to be Captain America and deal with the issues and the interesting questions that that raises, than a world where you're a sidekick."
"The Marvel Universe MMO is going to launch with more characters than any Marvel game to date. It's not just going to be the top ten or twelve characters, it's going to be a monster list of characters," said TQ Jefferson, VP of Games Production at Marvel.
David Brevik, President and CEO of Gazillion, then revealed the surprising news that the game will be free to play. "We're really going to turn the MMO world on its head," said Brevik. "This [is being] designed as a free play game from the ground up, which is a very different approach most people are taking these days. We really want to make this a legitimate experience, a compelling experience."
"I'm going to disappoint most of you by not giving firm answers to your questions," said Lind before a brief Q+A session with the assembled press.
"It's got Squirrel Girl!" joked Bendis when asked whether the game would feature a lot of female characters. More seriously, Jefferson said that "it's not going to be a boys club game, we're going to have a great sampling of female characters."
Lind said that the game would be only available on a PC platform at first, though he changed his comment from "TBD" to "TBA" with regards to any consoles, hinting that plans are in the works already.
Responding to a question as to whether the game would be "Disney-fied", Jefferson said that this game would be one that adults wanted to play. He pointed to the already available "Super Hero Squad Online" game if fans wanted a simpler version of the Marvel universe. "Super Hero Squad Online," the MMO aimed at young fans of the animated "Super Hero Squad Show," is also developed at Gazillion.
"Disney has some hardcore fans and they didn't want any Marvel-fication of Mickey Mouse. They didn't want Mickey with claws!" added Bendis.
Bendis next wanted to give credit to Andy Collins, lead story designer at Gazillion, as helping him decide the scope of the game. Players can have a grand sweeping experience of the Marvel universe or they can just get their toe wet, he said. The game will feature all of Marvel's universes, with 616, Ultimate, Supreme Power, film and novel worlds all mentioned specifically. "We'll take from anywhere," said Jefferson."One of the real charms of a game like this is that the player will get to create their own continuity," said Bendis. "This the ultimate answer to message board bitching. 'All right, go do it yourself!'"
It was revealed that the game has been in development for over a year already, with the speakers not willing to give any information as to when the game will be released or as to how they will monetize the free experience. Leaving both these and any questions of game play hanging, the panel closed the press conference.
Stay tuned to CBR News in the week's ahead for more news on Marvel's MMO as they become available.