Last Thursday night, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order was announced at The Game Awards 2018. It’s set to release in 2019—10 years after the last installment of the series. There was a clear absence of comic-based video games over the last decade. With comic book movies dominating the box office, it seems like a perfect time for the series to return.
The announcement trailer was one of the biggest surprises of the night. In more interesting news: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 will be a Nintendo exclusive developed by Team Ninja (Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive). This is the first entry of the series that won’t be published by Activision or available on all platforms. It’s also the first developed by Team Ninja. The original game was developed by Raven Software, and the sequel was developed by Vicarious Visions.
With the success of Avengers: Infinity War and its follow up also set for release in 2019, it was a no-brainer to include the Avengers, X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Nick Fury. To further capitalize, the original story will pit heroes and villains against Thanos and the Black Order. Notably, Nebula and several other characters’ designs take their cues from their Marvel Studio counterparts. Still, it’s hard not wonder why now when the Avengers franchise is on its fourth movie.
When you think about about comic-based over the last 20 years it’s hard not to immediately think of Activision. They published 2000’s Spider-Man, and the sequel Spider-Man 2:Enter Electro, for PlayStation. The publisher was also responsible for the Spider-Man: The Movie games released in the following years.
In 2003, Activision signed a multi-year extension to their video game licensing agreements with Marvel. The extended agreement gave them exclusive rights to develop and publish video games based on Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four and Iron Man through 2009. In that time, they published: five more Spider-Man games, X-Men Legends, X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse and Marvel Ultimate Alliance.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, released in the fall of 2009, was the last game they published under the extension. Activision continued to publish Spider-Man games up until 2014.
The Marvel Heroes Debacle
Around 2006, Marvel and Cryptic Studios began developing a massively-multiplayer online (MMO) game with the working title Marvel Universe Online. The game was set to be the successor to the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series in a lot of way. MMOs and pay-to-play subscriptions were the current industry trend, and Marvel wanted cash in.
February 2008, Microsoft Game Studios, who was set publish the MMO, announced it was canceled. In the following year, Gazillion Entertainment signed a 10-year exclusive deal to develop Marvel games, including Marvel Universe. In 2011, Marvel and Gazillion brought in Brian Michael Bendis as head writer.
After four years in development, the MMO became more of an action role-playing game—what would eventually become Marvel Heroes. The game launched as a free-to-play on PC in 2013,but it didn’t make it to consoles until June 30, 2017. Things were finally looking up for the MMO and its growing community.
On November 15, 2017, Disney/Marvel rather abruptly made an announcement ending their relationship with Gazillion Entertainment. Initially, the developers said they would shut down the game’s servers on December 31, 2017. However, Marvel Heroes and the game’s website were taken down before the end of the month. Gazillion closed its doors, and fired all their employees. It was an ugly end to the sporadic partnership.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 marks the series’ return; it also marks the long-awaited return of the Marvel Universe to console after the characters spent the better part of a decade tied up with Marvel Heroes and Gazillion Entertainment. On the surface, it’s like Marvel’s Spider-Man in that vein, which is the first console game based on the character in 4 years. It was also the first Spider-Man game Activision hasn’t been attached to in almost 20 years.
That shows the demand for comic-based video games was there. I don’t know if Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 will be as lucrative but it’s fair to assume it will pick up where the where the series left off.
Phil is a comics, wrestling, movies and music enthusiast. He knows more random factoids than he probably should and is more than often in his feelings. He can often be found dying on a hill to prove a point most people don’t care about.