Playing a pre-launch build of Marvel Strike Force at the 2018 Game Developers Conference, I was excited to dive into the multiverse battlefield the FoxNext team has created. The solid turn-based combat, an ever-expanding roster of beloved Marvel heroes and villains, and immersive hero-collection elements borrowed from games like Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes drew me in from the jump. I couldn’t wait to download the launch version on my phone. When Marvel Strike Force arrived on iOS and Android in late March 2018, I was immediately hooked.
The premium elements felt pricey at first, but largely unnecessary if you played the game a fair amount and complete all your daily objectives. Of course, dropping some money accelerated your progress, but I was mostly free to play for the first year of the game’s life. However, once I started spending money selectively, the microtransactions I chose felt rewarding and valuable. Unfortunately, as the game’s lifespan approaches the beginning of its fifth year, the transactions feel less “micro” as offers ranging from $50 to $100 a pop are more common in the game’s market, in addition to two simultaneous battle passes that refund players’ purchases of $20 a month each.
The easy fix is to ignore the premium offers and focus on the gameplay instead, right? Well, that works to an extent. As I mentioned before, in the early days of Marvel Strike Force, spending money felt like a luxury purchase – nice bonuses that unlock new characters faster or boost them with less grinding. Today, huge event-based rewards are sometimes impossible to earn unless you spend more than hundreds of dollars. The current in-game eventilation opening with tThe character Echo gives free-to-play players who spend a ton of time grinding through barely enough character shards to unlock her, then rewards those who drop a lavish amount with bonuses that bridge the gap between the haves and the haves.
There are plenty of free-to-play triple-A games that do well, give players a great experience and offer extra goodies if they feel like throwing some cash at the game. Unfortunately, Marvel Strike Force is not one of them. Every step of the way, Marvel Strike Force now feels designed to frustrate players until they finally collapse and spend. It is true that one goal of a video game is: to bring in profits. But when the game is so arguably designed to make the player feel bad or left out unless they spend money regularly money, it shows exactly why so many immediately lose interest when they hear a game that is free to play.
But Marvel Strike Force’s problems extend beyond the constant siphoning of players’ wallets. Amid parent company Scopely reports massive growth and profits from its Marvel hero collector (to the beat of 70 percent growth and more than $300 million in 2020 alone), the quality of the game has continued to decline. Currently, Marvel Strike Force regularly crashes when players perform certain actions in the menus. In addition to the groundbreaking glitch that inadvertently rewarded players with exponential gold that took the game offline for an entire evening in May 2021, players have faced glitched microtransactions, character kits that don’t perform as described (often resolved by the team that created update the text of the description rather than the kits themselves), and numerous other technical issues. In the last 24 hours alone, the game has displayed incorrect text telling players what the rewards will be for the next raid, plus the incorrect art telling players that base Red Star orbs give 10x credits if they aren’t. When Scopely praises how much money the product makes for the company, the least players should expect is a high-quality product.
But if players continue to spend money, what incentive does Scopely have to make changes? The age-old concept of voting with your wallet has never been more relevant than with a game like this; my spending has definitely fallen drastically in the past year. I know I can’t be alone in my disillusionment, as the Marvel Strike Force Reddit page is inundated daily with complaints from players along the same lines. Scopely has a dedicated, built-in fan base willing to spend money, but if the company continues to disrupt its player base, that revenue could dry up. It’s anecdotal at best, but for the past two years my alliance has had trouble filling vacancies left by players who became angry about the greed-driven design and left the game.
In addition, updates continuously ignored many of the quality of life improvements that the player base most demanded. The unfriendly, RNG-heavy red star system has been disliked by many since its inception, while the Real-Time Arena mode introduced in 2020 fell flat within the community, only adding to the amount of screen time Marvel Strike Force is taking from players. asks. And Marvel Strike Force requires a lot of time and dedication in addition to all the purchases you want to spend money on. Marvel Strike Force respects your time about as much as your budget.
With all these mounting issues, you might be wondering why Marvel Strike Force has been and remains my daily game for so many years. The answer is simple: I still enjoy the core gameplay, character count, and hero collection/upgrade loop. However, as the issues continue and the game design focuses on frustrating players until they get more money, my continued dedication becomes harder to justify. Now, unlike a favorite restaurant that takes a dip in quality while raising its prices, I have to make a difficult, somewhat sad choice in the near future. As Scopely and developer Boundless Entertainment continue to alienate their player base in the name of profit, it’s inevitable that my always tenuous time spent in this game will become more of a fallacy than a genuine love of the game.