Kabam art director Gabe Frizzera was trying to show off Marvel: Contest of Champions at New York Comic-Con when he was thwarted by Lex Luthor.
It wasn’t quite DC sabotaging Marvel, just their very restrictive complimentary Wi-Fi provided by “LexCorp” (the Warner Bros. marketing department). It kicked users off and forced everyone to sign in every half hour, which makes demonstrating an internet-enabled tablet game a headache. It was a good result for DC, which would have Contest of Champions in their crosshairs if they knew what was good for them.
Marvel: Contest of Champions is a free-to-play fighting game that boasts over 40 million downloads on mobile platforms. It uses the Marvel license in a big way, utilizing the movies, TV shows, and duh, comic books to let players live out fights that were previously made possible through bashing toys and making explosion noises.
The game welcomed its second year with the launch of Contest of Champions #1, the comic book series tied into the game and new characters and quests that have been added or will be added soon.
For such a popular game sporting under such a big brand, Champions is kind of a boutique product. The team is shockingly small. “Like 10 people,” Frizzera says. And with a small team comes a lot of room to stretch. “We have a lot of freedom. They never force us [to do anything], even when there’s a big movie coming. They’ll say, ‘Hey, Age of Ultron is coming out, it’s going to be huge. Let’s do something together.’
Characters are crucial to the success of Contest of Champions. Every new option added is replay opportunity that extends the game’s lifespan, and Kabam is armed with Marvel’s endless supply of intellectual properties. Since it launched last year, CoC has added cult favorites Moon Knight and Daredevil, and the Marvel Cinematic versions of Ultron, Vision, Ant-Man, and Yellow-Jacket. On the day we spoke, Elektra was added, and not long after her will see Venom and Spider-Gwen added to the roster.
Now, Amadeus Cho, the new Asian-American Hulk is on the list with Kamala Khan, the Pakistani teenager from New Jersey who became Ms. Marvel.
“We’re working on her,” Frizzera said, but she’s “not confirmed.” He noted that Ms. Marvel’s shapeshifting powers present “technical challenges” but he believes the team “may have found a way” for her that makes sense.
“I think she’s going to be huge,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out how those players, how those new heroes would actually play in the game. Jessica Jones is more down to Earth, kind of like a detective.”
Jessica Jones has superpowers but she’s not usually fighting galactic wars, which is the backdrop of Contest of Champions. But Groot does, and Frizzera confirmed that the lovable tree suffering from expressive aphasia is coming to the game as well.
Marvel’s cinematic slate is going to 2019 with Avengers: Infinity War and maybe beyond that, and Kabam wants to be there every step of the way. “Who knows, right?” shrugs Frizzera. “All we need is to keep upgrading the visuals, more mechanics so people who have maybe the iPhone 9 would still be interested in it.”