Marvel Heroes Omega, Gazillion Entertainment’s free-to-play Marvel Comics-themed massively-multiplayer online game in the same vein as Diablo, finally shut down yesterday after two wild weeks that saw the company unexpectedly change the date of the game’s closure (service was first slated to end on Dec. 31), lay off a good chunk of its staff the day before Thanksgiving and finally evaporate into the ether with little more than a Twitter post as a grave marker.
The implosion of Marvel Heroes also took Gazillion with it, leaving many players who had just spent real money on in-game cosmetics and items unable to secure a refund. That’s saying nothing of the numerous developers who suddenly, and perhaps at the worst possible time of the year, lost their jobs. Suffice to say, there’s a lot of bitter feelings swirling around the Marvel Heroes title, which is shame because the game was one of the few pieces of non-comics media in which the full potential of Marvel’s roster could be felt.
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Marvel Heroes had problems – a lot of problems. There’s no sweeping that under the rug. The game’s premise, an always-online world where your favorite Marvel Comics characters can run around, side by side, thwarting evil and blasting iconic foes into the dirt, has evergreen potential. Unfortunately, the game was mismanaged from the start, a hump it was never able to overcome and that was exacerbated by the profoundly flawed Omega System implemented towards its end.
Still, there’s no denying that, in a world where Marvel superhero movies and television shows are ruled by a complicated cloud of licensing agreements and cinematic universe continuity mandates that have splintered the company’s hero roster, Marvel Heroes was unique, one of the few places, aside from the comics, where all of Marvel’s heroes, Avengers and mutants alike, could stand together on an even playing field. The fact that such an experience is gone forever should be massively disappointing for comic book fans.
For a little perspective, here’s a quick (and incomplete) rundown of the kinds of deals that have fractured the Marvel Comics universe in both film and television: Disney owns the rights to the Avengers. Fox owns rights to X-Men and most mutants. Sony has Spider-Man and most of his ilk, Venom included. Universal has the rights to a solo Hulk movie, which is why the green guy is never far from another Avenger in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Netflix makes the Defenders shows for Marvel, and references MCU events but only in passing. ABC is owned by Disney, so Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is one of the few shows that ties right into the MCU. Hulu’s Runaways looks to be telling its own story, though it may get into the history of mutants with Molly’s arc. Fox’s The Gifted seems to take liberties with the company’s own movie canon, but is nonetheless unafraid to directly address the hardships mutants face in the “Sentinel” arc. Legion is on its own bizarre, but beautiful, island over at FX.
The various studios and networks above have been able to carve out unique, often entertaining stories without the aid of the full Marvel Comics roster -- company likes Disney and Fox have thousands of characters to work with between them, after all -- but the joy of a Marvel comic book is the lack of compromise, the promise that anyone -- absolutely anyone -- could be around the next corner. That's a feeling Marvel Heroes captured with gusto.