Starting with Iron Man, Disney-owned Marvel famously built a connected cinematic universe for its superhero movies, and the strategy paid off spectacularly this year with the release of The Avengers. Tomorrow the company is revealing universe-building aspirations in mobile and social gaming, with the launch of Avengers Initiative, which it’s describing as its biggest mobile release yet.
Patrick Moran, the title’s lead game designer at developer Wideload Games, says Avengers Initiative takes place in the same universe as Avengers Alliance, a Facebook game released earlier this year. These games, he says, aren’t just an extension of the comic books or the movies, but take place in a consistent world of their own, with “versions of the characters that are perfected for interactive storytelling.” That connection is more than a story- and character-level — players can earn experience (called Marvel XP) in both the Facebook and mobile games, and experience from one game can be redeemed for rewards in the other.
The Avengers Initiative game is also an attempt at episodic storytelling. This first episode stars the Hulk, who has a fight a bunch of bad guys after they’ve been freed by an event called the Pulse. In future installments, you’ll continue the story while playing as other superheroes in the Avengers. The goal, Moran says, is to release a free new episode every two to three months.
That might seem like a pretty rapid turnaround, but that’s because further installments are built on top of the platform that Wideload spent 14 months developing for the game, Moran says. He adds that as a team of “console guys” (Moran, for example, worked on the Mass Effect franchise) Wideload’s goal was to build a game that could stand up to the console experience: “You want to feel like the Hulk.”
I definitely had fun playing Avengers Initiative on my iPad last night. The story (at least what I saw of it) is pretty simplistic, as is any gameplay that doesn’t involve punching the crap out of someone. But hey, the punching itself is pretty satisfying, and the graphics look good.