Are Marvel Licenses Up For Grabs? Activision-Marvel Games No Longer Available Online (UPDATE: Yes They Are!)
Disney's purchase of Marvel may have put a dent on the longstanding Activision Marvel contract.
UPDATE: GamesIndustry.Biz has verified that the deal between Marvel and Activision has ended. This implies a change in the 2005 contract they had signed, which would have had Activision making games for the company until 2017. You can read more about the history between the two companies below.
ORIGINAL STORY BELOW:
Activision community manager Dan Amrich has clarified the status of the company’s Marvel games, explaining that not only Deadpool, but all of Activision’s current Marvel games are no longer available for digital download. Amrich indicates this is the reason why Marvel’s games came up on sales throughout the holidays on PSN, XBL and Steam. Neither Activision nor Marvel have provided further explanation at this time.
For those asking about it: Marvel Activision titles are no longer available for digital download. http://t.co/pabtJkcDnL Hence the sale!— Dan Amrich [1oS] (@OneOfSwords) January 1, 2014
Marvel and Activision’s relationship dates back to over a decade, in 1998 when Activision snagged the rights to make games based on Spider-man and the X-Men. Through the years, the bulk of Marvel licensed games came from the company, with key exceptions such as the Marvel vs. Capcom games, Zen Studios’ Marvel Pinball franchise, Playdom’s Avengers Alliance on Facebook, and so forth. Other Marvel franchises Activision made games for include Fantastic Four, Blade, and most recently, Deadpool.
The thing is, the current status of Marvel’s relationship with Activision, or of the licenses for its characters in future video games, is suddenly made unclear by this. Activision signed an exclusive contract to make Marvel games in 2005 to extend until 2017. However, since Marvel itself was purchased by Disney four years later, that deal moved to new stakeholders.
As we know, Disney itself recently acquired the rights to LucasArts properties, and chose to open up the Star Wars license to open bidding. Are the Marvel characters also up for a similar treatment? Where do the Marvel films’ right holders (Sony notably holding the rights to Spider-Man) come in to this?
I should say, opening up the game rights to Marvel characters is not necessarily a bad thing. There were many events and new characters ignored in the games, even as Marvel’s comics IP rose in prominence, because the bulk of licensing focused on the movie characters. For example, Marvel’s series of major crossovers, from Disassembled and arguably peaking with Secret Invasion, never made it to the gaming world. There were also characters with their own worlds such as Ultimates, Supreme Squadron and so forth, that were clearly not utilized.
I would argue that Marvel was constrained by that Activision contract from pursuing these opportunities. In any case, we will keep you informed if there is any news on the future of Marvel licensed games.
Image is from Spider-Man: Edge of Time.