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Screenshot: Square Enix

“Marvel’s Avengers” is running out of time to stage a comeback.

Why it matters: Launched last September with high expectations, “Avengers” was the stuff of game execs’ dreams — globally popular franchise + top development studio + live-service business model focused on players remaining engaged long-term. So its failure is all the more cautionary.

  • Sales figures aren’t public, but publisher Square Enix reported losses of tens of millions of dollars in its gaming division in the quarters following “Avengers’” release.
  • The game isn’t popular. On PC service Steam, for example, its low average player count can’t get it into the platform’s top 100 games.

State of play: Today, the game is getting a new free downloadable expansion called “War for Wakanda” that adds Black Panther, a new region and new missions, all as a hope to revive interest. (Disclosure: A close friend helped write the expansion, but we haven’t discussed it.)

  • These kinds of post-release additions are usually meant to make a hit game more popular.
  • For “Avengers,” which industry analyst David Gibson estimates cost its publisher around $200 million, the needed boost is more dire.

Between the lines: The game’s problems are myriad, according to Forbes gaming reporter Paul Tassi, who tells Axios he’s logged 300 hours in it.

  • There are the disappointing post-release offerings, which have trickled out modes and characters on a schedule impacted by the pandemic and California wildfires near lead studio Crystal Dynamics.
  • But there are more fundamental problems, Tassi said: A good story mode and enjoyable combat system are undermined by an “interminable grind” in the so-called endgame.
  • Games like “Avengers” often hook players with the chance to unlock “loot,” or gear, that makes their character better and cooler to look at. But Tassi notes the loot in "Avengers" doesn’t appear on your character, reducing the appeal of the hunt.

What’s next: Square Enix was able to at least briefly boost player counts by offering the game for free last month, suggesting a shift in business models that focuses on paid add-ons could entice more players.

Go deeper

"Metroid Dread" developer's complaint highlights problems with video game credits

"Metroid Dread." Screenshot: Nintendo

Video game developer Roberto Mejías created some of the visuals that players see in Nintendo’s new hit Switch game “Metroid Dread,” but, to his frustration, his name does not appear in its credits.

Why it matters: Video game credits are inconsistent across the industry and are often complicated by the policies and politics of the studios and publishers that create them.

1 hour ago - World

Iran agrees to resume Vienna nuclear talks in November

Ali Bagheri (R) with Enrique Mora in Tehran on Oct. 14. Photo: Iranian Foreign Ministry handout via Getty

Iran's new chief nuclear negotiator said following a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday that Iran would resume negotiations in Vienna before the end of November, with the exact date to be set next week.

Why it matters: The Vienna talks have been frozen since Iran's new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, was elected in June. This is the most direct commitment from Raisi's government to return to the negotiating table.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Democrats' billionaires tax explained

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

There is now legislative language behind the push to tax American billionaires on unrealized capital gains, as Sen. Ron Wyden last night released his 107-page plan.

Why it matters: This would be a sea change in U.S. tax policy, which has only applied to realized gains (otherwise known as income).

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