The Marvel universe continues to extend its tendrils into every medium possible, especially games. Insomniac’s Spider-Man 2 was met with widespread praise in 2023 as the high-water mark of Marvel’s foray into games so far, but while there are not nearly as many modern Marvel games as there are films in the MCU, the threat of burnout from these heroes is already looming large.
Enter the latest project, Marvel’s Blade, developed by Arkane Studios’ French subsidiary in Lyon. And while some may be excited for the vampire hunter to headline a AAA game, the Marvel name doesn’t mean an automatic hit. What’s worse is, there is already a more promising project that Arkane Lyon could have made instead. Yes, you may sense where this is going.
While Arkane has been around since 1999, the studio became well known in 2012, thanks to the critical success of its assassin immersive sim, Dishonored. Following its release Arkane split into two separate teams, the original base of the studio in Lyon and the new Arkane Austin was founded in Texas. Both teams would go on to develop projects separate from each other.
Arkane Lyon has been quiet about what its next project would be following 2021’s critically acclaimed Deathloop, that is until the announcement of Blade during the 2023 game awards. Lyon also developed Dishonored 2, a stunning follow-up to the original game.
What makes me hesitant about Blade is just knowing the very public history of Arkane since the release of the first Dishonored. Despite making title after title that was well received by critics, Arkane games were often seen as underselling by Bethesda (and parent company ZeniMax). Lyon made Deathloop due to Bethesda’s unhappiness with Dishonored 2’s commercial failure.
In an interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Arkane founder Raphaël Colantonio recounts Bethesda as saying, “We don’t wanna do Dishonored 3, but if you can pitch us a small game, something that maybe has multiplayer, so we can learn multiplayer, something that maybe has microtransactions, maybe something with a lot of recycling, like a roguelike.” Bethesda wanted a game that would hit the major trends of the time.
Similarly, Arkane Austin was pushed to make Redfall a multiplayer-focused title by parent company ZeniMax and — according to a Blomberg report — development was so troubled that developers hoped Microsoft would cancel the project after acquiring the company in 2020.
With that history in mind, the announcement that the next project from Arkane Lyon is a Marvel game feels more complicated. Marvel is a big name that to some extent will bring a guaranteed audience to a project, but it also comes with the restrictions of having to play within the Marvel universe. And it still doesn’t guarantee success, as demonstrated by Marvel’s Avengers, which you can no longer play at all, due to the game being shut down and removed from storefronts.
Arkane making a Marvel game feels like another instance of following a trend that is already at risk of becoming tired. Blade was just announced and has no release window as of yet. All things considered, superhero exhausting is only likely to grow in the next several years. If Blade comes out to temped responses and is seen as yet another commercial failure for Arkane, then what is the studio’s future? Chasing trends is not a way to sustain a studio that has already proven a passion and talent for making a specific type of game that no other studio in the industry is doing as well — the immersive sim. It’s hard not to feel a loss at the absence of Dishonored 3.
And there was a glimmer of hope that Dishonored 3 would become a reality, as the title was one of the leaked Bethesda projects in the FTC v. Microsoft trial. But Marvel’s Blade drove a stake through the heart-dream of a Lyon-developed Dishonored 3. Of course, it is always possible that Arkane Austin could be given the reigns to Dishonored as its next project.
Still, I am left wishing I was in the universe where Dishonored 3 was announced at the Game Awards instead of Marvel’s Blade.