Nov 10, 2022 - Technology

Marvel's mobile gaming hit doesn't nag players to pay

Marvel Snap. Illustration: Second Dinner/Nuverse

Red-hot mobile game Marvel Snap is riding a wave of praise — with the card-battling game drawing kudos as one of the most fun releases of the year as well as for its infrequent requests for players to spend money.

Why it matters: So-called “free-to-play” mobile games, popular as they may be, are notorious for nickel-and-diming players.

How it works: Players collect cards based on Marvel characters, building competitive decks based on those cards’ stats and special powers and then battling other players.

The conventional free-to-play approach: lure a player in for free and then constantly cajole them to pay to play longer, progress faster or win more.

  • Marvel Snap’s approach: Players can easily play repeatedly for free.
  • Snap users can spend money to accelerate a system tied to improving the look of cards and can pay $10 for a season pass that unlocks a specific card. But players otherwise can’t buy cards or even packs of randomized cards, a common option in the genre.

State of play: Since its launch in mid-October, Snap has been downloaded more than 8 million times and has been the third-most popular game on iOS and Android, according to data.ai. What they’re saying: “We're not doing the normal monetization approach,” Marvel Snap chief development officer Ben Brode told Axios.

  • He’s aware of criticisms from some industry observers that Snap could be asking players to pay for more. “That’s the word on the street,” he said, with a laugh.
  • But he argues that Snap’s approach, praised by its players for its restraint, is better for sustaining the game’s growth and good for the morale of his team that keeps working on more content for the game.
  • “We want to be really proud of the work that we're doing,” he said. “We feel like people want to play a game that they feel is responsibly monetizing. Some people would like it to be no-monetization, but that's actually not good for players, because then we can't afford to keep making the game.”

Flashback: Snap’s developers honed their monetization approach the hard way.

  • In July, the team added and then quickly abandoned and apologized for a system called Nexus Events that encouraged players of a beta version of the game to pay for the random chance to get cool cards.
  • Players hated it, and Brode promises that nothing similar will be tried again.

Quick game facts: Marvel Snap is the debut game from Second Dinner, a studio co-founded by Brode and Hamilton Chu, who were both leaders on Blizzard’s card-battler, Hearthstone.

  • Dev team size: about 60.
  • Publisher: Nuverse, which is part of TikTok parent ByteDance.
  • Behind the studio name: Brode and Chu would wrap work at Blizzard, head to their homes for family time, then meet up over a second dinner to plot going indie.

What’s next: Snap is a “live service” game, so there’s more to come, including a “battle mode” late this year or early next.

  • Data-miners have spotted an Uncle Ben character scheduled for the game, and Brode confirms that the team will do some “dabbling” with cards based on Marvel civilians, but mostly focus on heroes/villains. (About Uncle Ben, Brode notes: "He's going to be super, super rare.")
  • An upcoming patch will also add artist credits on the cards.

Sign up for the Axios Gaming newsletter here.

Go deeper