As many of the post-mortem reviews on this site will attest, some games die too soon. Whilst games such as ‘Warbook’ and ‘Deep Realms’ had their fans, they were outdated by the standards of the games that grew around them, forerunners in the advancement of bringing RPGs to the (then) relatively young platform that was Facebook. They had a good but limited run, and when they disappeared it was obvious that other games already existed to fill their niche. Not so for every game. Disney announced this month that they would be pulling the plug on both the long-standing ‘Avengers Alliance’ free to play browser/mobile RPG and its newly minted sequel ‘Avengers Alliance 2’ which hasn’t even been out for a year at the time of writing this article.
In part this may be due to the lack of people who have made the jump to the sequel, which whilst offering fully 3D graphics was largely more of the same but streamlined into a more simplified system and featured a drastically reduced selection of characters. The original Avengers Alliance had been running for five years and alongside one of the best turn-based battle systems MBU has ever seen, it had a massive selection of characters with expansions and special events only serving to add more over time. Each new movie had dumped its cast into the game as promotional material and multiple costumes for each character added further interest for comic book and movie fans alike. The sequel felt neutered by comparison and worse, was plagued by the same problems that Disney face in their film department – that being that several of their biggest properties belong to other studios. Whilst Alliance 2 may not have featured the Fantastic Four, or any of the wide range of X-Men characters, they were all present and accounted for in the original, which was still running an excellent service. These factors saw interest drop in the sequel, and its understandable that it folded. A similar attempt to spin the formula into a Strategy RPG also failed to garner attention with the unveiling and swift demise of ‘Avengers Alliance Tactics’ in 2014. Through both of these issues however, loyal players had continued to remain with the original title through both Facebook (its original platform) and mobile/tablet devices.
So why close down the original game? It’s a sad truth that running a server costs money, and Alliance passed from its creators at Playdom into the hands of Disney Interactive at the tail end of 2014, a company that’s well known to launch and then shut down games, laying off 700 people in that same year and closing down ‘Disney Infinity’ shortly after a third wave of Star Wars toys launched as well. Since taking ownership no third season of content for the game appeared, instead only adding occasional new characters to advertise movies. Truthfully, with the inclusion of characters not owned by Disney’s movie department, and the game built in Adobe Flash for Facebook, the game likely would never have seen expansive new content. With a hardcore player base in place and a few large-quality updates however it would have been possible to draw back a new-wave of players to make the game profitable again, but that would involve an amount of effort and interest on the part of Disney Interactive that we’re yet to see in any title they run. Adding cross-play support across all devices (as done by the excellent ‘Celsius Heroes’) may have been the stunt to reinvigorate the title, or perhaps the running of servers could have been made open source as has been done with many classic MMORPGS, but sadly we will never know. As of September 30th the plug will be pulled and Avengers Alliance in any form vanishes forever.
So when we look back on Avengers Alliance what will we see? A failed franchise? Possibly in terms of spinoffs, but nobody can argue that the original was a money maker while it lasted. No, the game will be remembered for its amazing 2D illustrated style and high quality sprite work that saw every Marvel character it could get its hands on redrawn lovingly and granted their own move-set. A moody and atmospheric soundtrack and a turn based battle system that was so good it could carry a high-profile console release single-handedly. Playdom knew what they were doing when they built this gem and it showed in every aspect of their production. Avengers Alliance, we salute you!