"It's totally free," says David Brevik, tucked away in a back room at New York Comic Con.
The game designer, who co-founded Blizzard North and helped create Diablo and Diablo II, is telling me about his latest game, a massively multiplayer action hybrid called Marvel Heroes. The project is quite the undertaking, already in its third year of development. The first MMO with permission to make use of the entire Marvel universe, it will star at least 23 of the fictions' most famous heroes, each with unique costumes, abilities, and weapons. Then there are the set pieces, famous locations from over 70 years of Marvel comics and films.
"Really, it's totally free," Brevik says. I press him one last time. "There are micro-transaction shops to buy things that have very little impact on gameplay," he says, "but the player won't have to use them to enjoy the game."
Brevik assures us that Marvel Heroes players won't have the option to buy powers that allow them to beat the game more easily than their co-players. Nor will buying a power be required to complete any part of the game.
"The player won't have to use [micro-transactions] to enjoy the game."
A lot of what players will buy, Brevik tells me, are visual customizations. The Marvel mythos is so massive, and its fans so enthusiastic, that Brevik believes fans will want to play as very specific versions of their favorite heroes.
For example, take Wolverine. "You're going to be able to not only customize the way he looks," says Brevik, "but the way he plays. Say Wolverine is in his X-Force costume and he specializes in a lot of bleeds. That's who I envision Wolverine to be. That's the kind of game we're trying to create. You play as the hero you want to be."
But for this to work, people will need to want to play in very specific costumes. Is this monetization system possible because of the beloved Marvel canon, that people will want to play as some niche version of already niche characters? "Absolutely," says Brevik.