Marvel’s Avengers Has Revealed the Cynicism in Games “Journalism”

Entertainment Media Has Lost Its Way

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Over the weekend of August 7th-9th I had the chance to play the pre-order beta of Marvel’s Avengers. While I have a few criticisms of the game which I will cover shortly, the coverage following the weekend has revealed the cynicism that has taken over games “journalism” and YouTube “influencers.” I only put quotes on the words because it covers personalities that are and are not journalists. The issue, though, is the negative “reviews” of the game during this opening beta.

Captain America

First a definition of a beta: Beta testing is done during beta stage of development. Often this refers to the first publicly available version of a game. Public betas are effective because thousands of fans may find bugs that the developer’s testers did not. This is a quote from Wikipedia, which I do not consider a solid source at all times, but the definition here is pretty accurate.

So what was included in the beta? Not a ton. There was the opening tutorial mission which gave you access to all five core Avengers for a few minutes each. After that, you spend a few missions as Ms. Marvel and Hulk. While the combat was fun, there is a lot to unpack as the game releases and you are able to customize the characters through leveling. This was one of the first issues that I saw becoming a “hive-mind” talking point. “The characters all feel the same.”

Of course the characters aren’t wildly different at the early levels. For those of you that have played World of Warcraft, explain the difference in the first few levels of each class. There aren’t many. Destiny? Same deal. You don’t start to feel unique until you get a bit deeper into customizing your character and unlocking new skills. There is also an argument that making the characters too different would make it hard to transition between them, since you can’t have two Iron Man mains playing Iron Man in co-op. So having light and heavy attacks (something common in action games) is not unexpected.

Kashimaro Clickclick

On top of that, watch the video above to see just how much you can do as you start to understand and unlock the combat system. It will be fine for people that play very casually. A simple button masher. But if you want to really go deep and do some impressive stuff… well, as evidenced above, you can.

What About the Cynicism Thing

This is where things take a turn for the worse. A quick side note about the whole idea behind Back To The Gaming. We want to stick to journalism that is as factual as possible. We try to be as objective as we can, so when we roll out our impressions of the beta in the coming weeks we will try to look at what is offered objectively, based on the fact that we are only seeing a portion of the game. And that is the rub here. It seems more and more critics in the industry are treating the beta as if it is a finalized product.

Crystal Dynamics, the developer of the game, has stated that this is not the finished product and likely not the current internal build. In an interview, it was confirmed:

Xbox Achievements/PlayStation Trophies: Is there anything that’s really standing out to you as something that needs to be nailed down before Marvel’s Avengers is out in September?

Vince Napoli: To be honest, it’s hard for me to even play the beta because this late in the game’s development, things change so rapidly that I look at a month old build and I’m like ‘Oh my god, I can’t even see this, there’s just so many bugs here, it drives me crazy. I don’t want to look at it.’ Because at this point, we are just rapidly fixing every last little bit. And we have that sort of bombastic feedback, even internally at this point. Then we’re scrambling over those notes. That’s what’s nice about the beta and about getting lots of feedback from that. We’re mining for all of those little tidbits and everything we can possibly pull in. I think it’s about any outliers, we’re looking for anything that is like ‘Is there something that someone just finds completely useless, some ability that we just get some global feedback that that thing is useless, let’s zoom in and address that’. We’re still changing things at an extremely rapid pace. Maybe it’s making a few producers a little uncomfortable with the number of things we’re still changing. But Marvel’s Avengers is such a big game that we’re sort of pushing back on, we need to be able to make these changes, and we need people to make use of this beta. So, so far, so good on that aspect.

Based on that answer during the interview alone, it seems we are playing a build that is not even considered positively by the development team. Yet many sites and channels are covering the game as if it is a final version. The issue is that a game that is being released as a very small slice of the game is being judged as a final product.

iron man marvels avengers

There are issues to be sure. The PS4 beta had framerate issues, the motion blur and screen shake could get out of hand. It wasn’t clear that you could go in and set the camera to be zoomed out to make things easier to see, and Crystal Dynamics have stated that the combat is not as fleshed out as it will be at launch. The skill trees are important, as is leveling, as they have stated that they expect people to really open up opportunities around mid-game.

So why are we seeing “journalists” dump all over a preview/beta of the game? Because we now live in a world where you have to get hits.

For your site to be successful you need to jump on the wagon with your pitchforks and follow the trends. Becoming an outlier gets you ripped to shreds. I had a small discussion on a YouTuber’s channel (someone I respect a great deal) and the replies from his viewers had no substance behind their argument.

Marvel’s Avengers DLC and Microtransactions

I’m not going to call out any particular journalist or content creator (you can look them up if you want) but I will use what I have seen as points for my argument. This isn’t a hit piece against individuals, it is a piece about the dangers of the bandwagoning that has led to review bombing on Metacritic on a number of titles and a bunch of repeated articles all “cleverly” hating on the same thing.

First: microtransactions. Some of the big names in the industry have been complaining about the microtransactions in Marvel’s Avengers. I get the frustration with having to pay for more than just the game, but the narrative has been on the level of a political story. No one is actually talking about the full picture and instead are just creating a narrative that supports outrage, which then drives traffic. For example, many are all over the microtransactions as an evil thing that is being forced on players. A few points about this:

  1. The microtransactions are cosmetic in nature and will only be cosmetic. As of the time of this writing, Crystal Dynamics has been clear that they will only sell items that have no impact on the gameplay itself. No speed ups, no loot; just costumes and nameplates. This has a negligible impact on your gameplay experience. If there is a particular costume you love and you can only get it with real money that could be seen as a negative, but it will be negligible.
  2. As of this writing, all future DLC (which Crystal Dynamics is now saying should be called “updates”) will be free. All future characters, including their loot, storylines and anything else related to them will cost you a grand total of zero dollars. (That’s U.S. dollars, I’m not sure about the conversion rate). Sarcasm aside, a game that has a long life-cycle planned, with a solid number of large updates for free, has to have a monetization model.
  3. We have no idea what the cost of the microtransactions will actually be. I am a huge fan of Thor, so if I need to spend $2-5 dollars to get a Ragnarok or Love and Thunder costume, I can stomach that. But I don’t need it in order to enjoy the full experience of the game.

Exclusivity in Marvel’s Avengers

spiderman

The exclusivity in Marvel’s Avengers is a sticking point that I understand. I will ultimately play the game on PC since the performance struggled on PS4, and I would rather have the “next-gen” experience now. I miss out on the Spider-Man content, but I can always get the game on sale later to play through his self-contained story (which was recently confirmed by Crystal Dynamics.)

On top of that, we have different exclusive items that are tied to products/services like Verizon, 5 Gum, and Intel. These are cosmetics for the most part, with 5 Gum being the outlier with an artifact or two mixed in. Again, exclusivity is something that I’m not a huge fan of, but I won’t burn a game to the ground based on it — as long as I still get to play the game. There has been plenty of outrage about the Spider-Man deal, but that is above Crystal Dynamics’ head. Sony and Square Enix worked together to make that deal. You can be upset, but don’t write off the game because of it.

Seek to understand.  Marvel’s Avengers is a big title that has obviously been expensive to make. Square Enix is a company that needs to make profits. Since they are releasing all of the updates, characters, stories, raids and other additions for free, they need to ensure they profit beyond the sales of the game and whatever they get from microtransactions. Sony paid a big chunk of money to get exclusivity, so Square Enix wisely took that. It is good for the business and unfortunate for the consumer, but if it leads to more free stuff for everyone and a better experience it is a small price to pay. The other exclusivity deals likely fall into that same camp.

Baseless Claims

black widow

In a recent YouTube video, from which I referenced a conversation in the comments above, the individual cited a Crystal Dynamics interview in which they claimed “the point of this project is the microtransactions.” I asked for reference to this interview, which I would be happy to read but no one could provide, but it seems to me that if you are going to make a game that is solely created for microtransactions, you don’t go this big. Just sit back and think without emotion; logically, for a second. Does anyone actually believe that the point of a AAA game based on one of Marvel’s biggest franchises is to sell microtransactions?

That’s an insane statement that (if it ever was said) is being taken out of context. The point of microtransactions is to keep the game going post-release. That is clear. Developing some of the upcoming leaked characters, which I won’t spoil here, is not free. I’m no video game scientist business man, but I’m pretty sure you have to pay people to create the assets, storylines and programming to live up to what is promised.

In addition, the early “reviews” of Marvel’s Avengers make claims that the game isn’t great due to the repetitive environments, lack of enemy variety and boring boss fights. In a level-capped beta, you aren’t going to see everything. The final game could be no different, but we have reason to believe there is more to be seen and we can’t judge the final product based on what we are shown now. This has been addressed by Crystal Dynamics many times before the beta, and they have said in multiple interviews that enemies will change as you level and get to harder areas. In addition, raids will be released that could potentially change how boss fights work. Will we see more varied environments in the launch game? I can’t say. This is a beta.

Finally, many early “reviews” talked about how the matchmaking doesn’t work. This is a beta. Things aren’t going to work. You can’t just say the game is no good because there are issues in an early beta. Diablo 3, a huge game by an experienced company, launched with major online issues to the point that it was unplayable for days. And that was the release version. Blizzard isn’t alone in this either. If matchmaking doesn’t work at launch, there is an argument to be made about issues. The idea of the beta is for Crystal Dynamics to figure out the issues and solve them before the September 3rd release.

Conclusion

ms marvel

Ultimately, I’ve tried to be as specific as possible about the issues that “journalists” are causing during a beta without attacking any particular outfit or content creator. Any reviews, or “review-in-progress” articles should be taken with a metric ton of salt. This is not the final version of Marvel’s Avengers that we are getting to play. We are given the opportunity to be beta testers. Betas are inherently full of issues. That’s why they aren’t called releases. If the people that I have mentioned in this article read this, take no offense personally. I’m calling out an issue that is taking over our industry as people that play and write about games. We can all do better and if you are one of those at fault, you should do better.

Don’t jump on the hate train for hits. Say what you think and be honest with what you are writing. Get back to making integrity the foremost part of everything you do. It is what the audience and the developers deserve. You can say you feel the game has issues, but you must acknowledge that it is a beta. Do your research. Make sure you have claims that can be backed up 100% but don’t take them out of context to drive your own narrative. This is not an article defending Marvel’s Avengers. I enjoyed the beta and I am looking forward to the game, but I also see that it could either be a favorite or a game I have trouble recommending. I won’t be able to say where it falls, though, until it is released. I won’t pretend that I can predict the game’s future based on a small beta and those that do should be ashamed.


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Chris has been playing around in the gaming industry for entirely too long. These days he is working on become an educator while also chasing his passion of helping up and coming writers and content creators make a name for themselves. He’s a talker, so careful if you value your time.

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