In Celebration of 'Marvel Avengers Alliance'
No online game lasts forever, but we've had years of real fun with 'Marvel Avengers Alliance,' one of the most creative superhero games I've ever seen.
Today's the day. Fans of Playdom's popular Avengers Alliance game are in mourning. The game's days have come to an end; today, on September 30th, Avengers Alliance will finish forever. Players are reacting in anger and disappointment, particularly over the fact Playdom has refused to give any refunds. They have one last Special Op to complete, an event that will give them the game's final superhero (Adam Warlock) and wrap up the story they've been part of four four years. It's a sad twist in the game's tale, particularly shocking given Avengers Alliance 2 only came out earlier this year. It's likely as heart-breaking for developers as it is upsetting for players.
No online game lasts forever, but we've had four years of real fun with one of the most creative superhero games I've ever seen. The wide range of characters, the sophisticated plots, and — above all — the continuous release of new content has made Avengers Alliance an exceptionally good game. So here's a celebration of all that I loved in Avengers Alliance, and a reminder to the fans of all the good times we've had together!
The 'Avengers Alliance' Community
Like all the best games, Avengers Alliance built up a tremendously strong community. Playdom constantly attempted to migrate off Facebook - until 2014 there was a version of the game on the Playdom website, and Avengers Alliance 2 was launched as a mobile app. For all their efforts, though, the social media platform just seemed essential to the game's success. Fans created countless Facebook groups to discuss the game, to strategize, and to organize gifting. When the game was first launched, you could give and receive unlimited in-game gifts between Facebook friends. Fans added one another by the hundreds, and these gifts were the beginning of countless friendships across social media.
Playdom never had a good reputation for customer service, though, and developers never seemed to openly frequent the Playdom forums. In an odd way, this helped the growth of the community; fans learned to respond to one another, supporting one another, helping other players understand bugs, and suggesting ways of getting around the most challenging missions. The Playdom forums were always a rich source of information for players, but their effectiveness was damaged in July this year, when Playdom reported a data breach. The forums were shut down, and never regained the life they'd had in the past.
A Unique Glimpse into the World of Marvel's Superheroes
The game itself was a unique one. Its sophisticated plot was launched to coincide with Marvel Studios's release of The Avengers, and Avengers Alliance always tried to tie in with the films. You'd regularly see new costumes, new character releases, and limited-edition 'Special Ops' that were loosely inspired by the films' plots. At the same time, though, the game always tended to respond to changes in the comics; when the Season 2 campaign was launched in June 2013, it took inspiration from ongoing arcs in Jonathan Hickman's Avengers and New Avengers. Special Ops were often related to Marvel's annual 'summer event, perhaps the most notable being the Avengers Versus X-Men tie-in, which gave you the option of playing the same narrative stream from the perspective of two rival superhero teams.
Marvel's other major game, Marvel Heroes, is building up an impressive roster of heroes; but Avengers Alliance has a collection that's simply unrivaled in a superhero game. It kicked off with the main Avengers characters, but since then has expanded to include countless more unusual characters. Players have been able to collect heroes such as Shanna the She-Devil, a cavewoman from the Savage Land; Nico Minoru, a deadly sorceress who leads the Runaways; the British vampire known as Spitfire; and the teleporting multi-armed X-Men supervillain named Spiral. For many players introduced to Marvel through the movies, these characters have been a revelation. They've certainly helped develop an incredibly immersive universe, where you simply didn't know what superhero you'd encounter next. Avengers Alliance 2, only launched earlier this year, showed promise as a continuation of this approach.
As the years have gone on, Playdom has become increasingly bold in terms of plot and character direction. Although the overall plot has remained closely tied to comic book and film arcs, it's shown an increasing willingness to go in a very different direction. Season 2 has continually capitalized on the ideas of the 2011 "Fear Itself" event; the final Special Op allows you to confront the Serpent, the villain of that event. Meanwhile, characters have developed in unique directions; when Playdom launched an event involving X-Men supervillain Apocalypse, they created original designs for four X-Men who they transformed into Horsemen of Apocalypse. Most of those characters had no history tying them to Apocalypse in either the comics or the movies, making these decisions intriguing ones from a narrative perspective. Again, it meant that you didn't know what to expect, and I applaud that decision.
A Sad Farewell
This hasn't been a good year for Disney gamers. The decision to shut down Disney Infinity earlier this year was largely driven by Disney's overall revenue streams — games simply haven't been generating the profits that shareholders would expect. This decision has probably been made for the same reason. It's easy for fans to be furious over the loss of Avengers Alliance, particularly when they've invested so much time and money into the game. In reality, though, Avengers Alliance has lasted for a surprisingly long time - Facebook games of this type seldom have such a long shelf-life.
Rather than fume over the decision to shut the game down (I suspect the developers are just as upset), I think it's better for us to remember what it was we loved, and be thankful that we've had four incredible years of this game. This has been the best game on Facebook for superhero fans, and it truly will be missed. Playdom succeeded in building an immersive, creative game that built up a strong community around it. That's something to be proud of; and personally, although I was always on the outskirts of that community, I'm proud to have been part of it.
Today is your final chance to play Avengers Alliance; to take on the threat of the Serpent, to experience the Heroic Battles, and to learn the conclusion of the game's story. My appeal to fans is not to be angry or upset, but rather to celebrate what we've had. Remember what was so good about Avengers Alliance, and give the game the send-off it so richly deserves. For the last time on Facebook: