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Why The Avengers video game has the same superheroes as the movie

Marvel’s Avengers doesn’t take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

The cast of superheroes in Marvel’s Avengers includes Iron Man and Captain America Crystal Dynamics / Square Enix
Chris Plante co-founded Polygon in 2012 as editor-at-large and is now editor-in-chief. He also created and occasionally teaches NYU’s Introduction to Games Journalism course.

The Avengers video game was one of the most anticipated announcements ahead of E3 2019. But reactions to the reveal trailer have been mixed. Marvel’s Avengers’ superheroes look like knockoff versions of the original films’ stars. Or just their stunt doubles.

We’ve now had a chance to see a full demonstration of the game and can confirm the characters look better in action. But why did the game hew so closely to the films in the first place? We spoke with Crystal Dynamics’ senior brand director Rich Briggs to learn more.

In the comics, the Avengers has been composed of a variety of superheroes. Unlike the movies, where the Avengers exclusively feature the most powerful superheroes in the world, the various comics incarnations of the team are usually, maybe ironically, a bit different. Due to the scheduling of certain superheroes storylines, or simply to give a less popular character a chance to gain some fame, Avengers comics usually include a number of mid- and low-tier heroes alongside the big name heroes.

Briggs confirms Marvel allowed developer Crystal Dynamics to tell its own story in a separate Marvel universe with Marvel’s Avengers. They could have assembled an Avengers all their own. So why did they choose the same superheroes as the original films? (Minus Hawkeye. Sorry, Hawkeye.)

“[When picking the superheroes] we started with the story we wanted to tell,” says Briggs. “And we looked at who are the Avengers that made the most sense to tell that core story. We went with the ones that are very iconic and very well established. But without going into spoiler territory, I can say that as we continue to add new superheroes, it will always be with an eye toward what’s the story that we want to tell? What’s the narrative journey we want to take our players on? It doesn’t have to match anything that’s come before that. So we are revealing, as you said, sort of more iconic ones right here, but we’re really excited about where we go in the future.”

I suppose we’re to believe it’s a coincidence then? What’s most interesting about this answer is the nods towards the future. Marvel’s Avengers might look like the films right now, but down the line, we could see it diverge in unpredictable ways. We’ve already seen hints of this: The reveal trailer features Captain America foe Taskmaster, and its stinger includes Hank Pym as Ant-Man. (Unlike the films, which feature Scott Lang as Ant-Man.)

After seeing the superhero hero roster, I had wondered if the core cast had been assigned from Marvel. So I asked Briggs what requests Marvel had for the game.

“[Marvel told us] You’ve got to have humanity,” said Briggs. “You’ve got to have heroism. You’ve got to have a little bit of humor like that. These are tenets of an authentic Marvel story.”

Marvel’s Avengers will be released on May 15, 2020 on PlayStation 4, Stadia, Windows PC, and Xbox One.

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