Loot Boxes

Marvel's Avengers Spider-Man update sneaks in a controversial mechanic

Say hello to SHIPMENTS.

In an attempt to fix one flawed system, Marvel’s Avengers introduced something so much worse. Microtransactions and loot boxes are some of gaming’s most hated mechanics, often requiring players to pay real money for something that incorporates randomization. The upcoming Marvel’s Avengers Spider-Man update is about to introduce the digital equivalent of a slot machine that spits out costumes, so does that make the game a Marvel-themed casino?

What happened — On November 4, 2021, Square Enix revealed a bit of the Marvel’s Avengers roadmap that includes a massive November 30 update. While the update’s primary focus is on the addition of Spider-Man and the game’s first raid, details of a significant cosmetic system rework are tucked away in the blog post about the update.

Marvel’s Avengers has cosmetic items like nameplates and costumes, but the best way to get them is to buy Credits to spend on them with real money. The situation got worse once the cosmetic store on the Helicarrier was stripped back in March 2021.

Crystal Dynamics’ solution to this problem is to instead have players use Units, a currency only obtained in-game, to buy loot box-like Shipments. Each shipment will cost 500 Units, show you what’s in it before you spend your Units, and always give the player at least one premium outfit for every 100 shipments.

Shipments are briefly mentioned in the game’s 2021 roadmap. Square Enix

Loot boxes rose to prominence in games like FIFA and Overwatch as they are a gambling-like system that entices players with randomized rewards. While it isn’t the case in Marvel’s Avengers, loot boxes are often tied to microtransaction payments as well. Even when there’s no money involved, gamers still look down upon loot boxes nowadays.

That’s why it’s disappointing that implementing them is apparently the best way to fix the cosmetic system's overreliance on microtransactions, another hated mechanic.

Disappointing — Even for players like myself who do enjoy Marvel’s Avengers. Square Enix President Yosuke Matsuda admitted during the publisher’s 2021 annual report that Crystal Dynamics wasn’t a good fit for the game:

“We overcame a variety of unexpected difficulties in the final phase of the game’s development, including needing to transition to work-from-home due to the pandemic. We were able to surmount these challenges and release the game, but it has unfortunately not proven as successful as we would have liked. Nonetheless, taking on the GaaS model highlighted issues that we are likely to face in future game development efforts such as the need to select game designs that mesh with the unique attributes and tastes of our studios and development teams.”

While that statement shifts the blame as the games-as-a-service direction was likely out of Crystal Dynamics’ hands, it highlights that the game still never fully recovered from its launch despite a wealth of improvements. And even then, some changes like this Shipments system are questionable.

The Inverse Analysis — This cosmetic rework is just another example of Marvel’s Avengers' fundamental flaws and how there’s no perfect solution to all of them. On the one hand, the Marvel’s Avenger microtransactions are pretty egregious, and this is a better option because it uses currency only obtained in-game.

That said, even if Shipments let you see what’s inside them beforehand and will eventually net you a premium outfit, loot boxes are are gambling-esque system being implemented into a game that many kids probably play. Crystal Dynamics also added an “Exotic” gear level so some cosmetics will stay marketplace-exclusive, putting us right back where we started.

While I still enjoy playing Marvel’s Avengers, it’s telling that the only solution to one of its big problems is something that gamers also hate.

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