Square Enix will publish and develop a series of games based on Marvel IP.
The first project will be based on The Avengers and is being co-developed by Tomb Raider makers Crystal Dynamics and Deus Ex studio Edios Montreal.
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It's an interesting move from the publisher and follows a series of big third-party development deals from Marvel. Sega was the last major third-party publisher to control the Marvel licence, with a series of titles launching based on Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Incredible Hulk, but they failed to light up the sales charts and were poorly received. Elsewhere, Activision has had mixed experiences with the Spider-Man and X-Men brands, although TT Games has made a significant success with the LEGO Marvel Super Hero titles.
Nevertheless, Marvel has secured deals with some significant development partners over the past 12 months. TellTale - one of the few games developers that have made a success out of licensed IP - is building a Guardians of the Galaxy game, while Sony and developer Insomniac are working on a new Spider-Man title for PS4.
The latest Square Enix partnership has been described as a 'multi-year, multi-game' deal.
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"By partnering with Crystal Dynamics and Eidos-Montréal, we are now working with two of the industry's most talented and respected game development studios to bring Marvel stories to life in ways our fans have never experienced," said Marvel's senior VP of games and innovation Jay Ong.
"The Avengers project is a perfect example of how Marvel is making games a key part of the landscape for Marvel storytelling, alongside comics, television and film. We can only do this by matching our greatest Super Heroes with the world's top developers, such as the creative minds at Square Enix."
Licensed IP has gradually declined in the industry over the past ten years, as studios focus on growing and establishing their own IP. Licensed games have a poor reputation in the business for being low quality, with publishers reluctant to spend too much on development (partially because of the costs of the brand in the first place) and developers having to hit a deadline to ensure their game is out in time for the movie or TV show it ties-in with. However, Warner Bros has shown the business recently that with some strong investment, and a willingness to release the game when it's ready, then significant returns can be made - as demonstrated by Lord of the Rings tie-in Shadow of Mordor and the Batman Arkham series.
"Marvel's diverse, innovative universe has created millions of longtime fans, including all of us," said Square Enix America and European CEO Phil Rogers. "It's exciting to bring together Square Enix's award-winning development studios with Marvel's extraordinary storytellers to establish a new entertainment powerhouse. This collaboration of passion and talent will craft epic, imaginative experiences allowing gamers to live out their Super Hero dreams like never before."