A paid influencer who surged to the top of Marvel Strike Force’s leaderboards with a roster of maxed-out characters will have his account erased and his activities moved to a test server, the mobile game’s makers told players yesterday. This follows a week in which the influencer’s unrealistic progress and relationship with developer FoxNext angered the playing and paying community.
At issue was the performance of KnightlyGaming, a YouTube influencer with 41,000 subscribers and about 12.5 million views since 2014. He had been hired on a contract basis to create video guides for FoxNext for Marvel Strike Force, which launched in March 2018 for Android and iOS devices.
To create these videos, KnightlyGaming said, FoxNext gave him a trove of in-game assets to quickly level up a broad cast of characters to showcase the game’s depth. Earlier this month, FoxNext raised Marvel Strike Force’s character level cap from 55 to 65. When KnightlyGaming showed seven characters at the new maximum in less than two weeks, the Marvel Strike Force community recoiled, especially in his comments and on the game’s subreddit.
KnightlyGaming first tried to clear the air with a video in which he revealed that he “actually had a relationship with FoxNext” dating back to before Marvel Strike Force’s launch, in which he was hired to make content “to help them with advertising and marketing.” Part of that work meant that he received “a large gift of resources to my account so that I can make high-quality content.”
The fact remained: Someone being paid by a video game’s maker was dominating the game among the general population. Marvel Strike Force maintains a “Power Leaderboard” that charts player progress across three categories, where KnightlyGaming showed up.
KnightlyGaming’s explanation of how he was able to advance his characters was later taken down — on FoxNext’s request, he said — because his statements appeared to represent that he was a staff employee either of Marvel or the developer. He then clarified his remarks in another follow-up video (below):
Like most free-to-play mobile games, Marvel Strike Force relies on a complicated system of in-game currencies that can be acquired or found through free play, and then currencies or items bought for real money that help advance a player’s roster more quickly. Suffice to say, KnightlyGaming had a roster with seven characters at the maximum level of 65, five of them at the best rank of seven stars, all of that drawing attention to such an extraordinary accomplishment barely two weeks after the level cap had been raised.
KnightlyGaming, in his original mea culpa video, acknowledged that he should have curbed the use of the resources FoxNext had given to him “so as not to raise eyebrows.” In his follow-up video, KnightlyGaming said his account would be hidden so that his progress wouldn’t show up in the game’s leaderboards.
Yesterday, however, Marvel Strike Force’s developers weighed in on the game’s subreddit with an explanation. They acknowledged that KnightlyGaming had been given additional resources to do his sponsored guides, but that he did so “in the production environment,” meaning the playing space where everyone else is.
“In order to prevent this type of issue in the future, we will be setting up a test server where anyone we work with in this fashion can log in and capture content without any impact to the live game or leaderboards,” they wrote.
Further, “We’ve deleted the account’s [i.e. KnightlyGaming’s] progress from the Power Leaderboard and will be permanently removing the account itself,” the developers said.
Clarification: A previous version of this story said KnightlyGaming and FoxNext had an undisclosed relationship. His work for them was disclosed in the guides he made for Marvel Strike Force. This post has been edited to reflect that.