A decade ago, the Marvel Cinematic Universe didn’t seem like something that would be nearly as successful as it is. Superhero movies had been big before, most notably in Sony’s Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man saga and the 20th Century Fox X-Men movies. But for Marvel Studios to delve into the idea of a sprawling, limitless mega-franchise incorporating dozens of popular characters seemed like a stretch. We also didn’t really realize the scope of it at the time. That may sound odd now because it’s hard to think of the MCU as anything but a resounding success. Last week at the Tribeca Film Festival, Iron Man director Jon Favreau talked about what made that first project work and how it almost didn’t. It’s crazy to imagine an age without the MCU to look forward to but the MCU was no guarantee in its beginning.
Now it’s Hollywood’s ultimate snowball, rolling ever onward and building itself up along the way. It seems that nothing can stop the MCU, and given that state of affairs it’s probably fair to say that the films have become their own greatest marketing tools. Marvel only need to announce a future project and fans will do the rest, diving into comics, speculating about plots and cast members, and hyping the movie to oblivion. But it’s not as if Marvel isn’t steadily working on promoting its content anyway. Particularly in the last three or four years, the video game industry has proven to be one of the most effective areas in this regard.
It started when Marvel began to carve out a corner in the world of mobile gaming, thanks in large part to partnerships with mobile developers like Netmarble (who helped with Marvel Future Fight) and Kabam (designer of Marvel: Contest Of Champions). These games have reached countless fans, and they don’t just make Marvel heroes and villains playable characters in game scenarios. The games are also constantly updated with the newest material, which usually means whatever is relevant to the next movie scheduled to hit the theaters. At the time of this writing there’s a brand new Contest Of Champions update that’s pushing some of the characters from Guardians Of The Galaxy, with the sequel due out this month.
Marvel has also made a clear effort to take advantage of online gaming markets, mostly through a productive relationship with Playtech. This is a company largely involved with designing engaging online casino games, often in slot reel formats. We tend to think of online casinos as primarily offering card games, but more gamers are starting to play video slots on computers and mobile devices. Many of the most popular slots use various Marvel licenses, and feature the famous heroes and villains from the movies. While these games might be somewhat less direct than your usual mobile gaming updates from a marketing perspective they still help keep comic book movies on players’ minds.
Then there’s the console market to consider, and it’s here that Marvel is making its latest big push. While there have been tons of Marvel video games over the years, the company has been relatively slow to put out the big, AAA adventures that many would expect based on the movies. Last year, the kings of the comic book world announced their intent to put out more impactful console games, beginning with a Guardians Of The Galaxy title from Telltale. The first episode of this game was released on April 18th, with four more on the way. There is also a forthcoming Spider-Man game by Insomniac, and while it reportedly has nothing to do with Spider-Man: Homecoming, it’s clear what Marvel is doing with its new console games. The releases are coinciding at least loosely with the MCU, which should help to further boost interest in both the games and the movies.
Considering all of this, it’s clear that Marvel is using video games as another wing of its marketing department. That’s not to say they don’t have plenty of entertainment value on their own, but they’ve been extremely effective at promoting the latest and greatest cinematic content.