First launched all the way back in March of 2018, Marvel Strike Force is a free-to-play, squad-based RPG that boasts an extensive roster of Marvel’s biggest and best heroes and villains. It earned glowing reviews, including from ourselves, for its excellent presentation, impressive level of depth, and extensive endgame content. Unsurprisingly, it went on to amass a sizable and dedicated playerbase of millions.
In the time since, this well-funded title from an incredibly talented studio has outwardly continued to improve and grow in the ways you’d expect. I’ve covered it myself several times in the past, always being impressed by its post-launch support and ever-expanding roster.
FatesFury first started playing Marvel Strike Force a few weeks after its global launch, meaning he’s been with it for almost two full years. His continued involvement with the title, he says, is more down to its community than any gameplay hooks. It’s a fairly standard tale of a game that also appears, well, fairly standard, being a free-to-play actioner that relies on a tried-and-tested monetisation model to remain alive. So far so good.
Those on the inside, the leaders of the game’s community, the players spending huge sums of money, see things very differently. One point keeps coming up throughout our chat: Fates’ friends are moving on in droves; many of those he met and befriended through Marvel Strike Force are now flat-out done with it. “We feel, indeed many in the community feel that we are on the verge of collapse”.
But why? “Put simply: progress. Resources have increased in a linear fashion, while what you need to progress has increased exponentially. FoxNext has presumably tried to slow down our progress but went too far and players are being throttled instead”.
This is admittedly a problem that a great many long-running free-to-play games do eventually hit; running a live service title needs to make long-term financial sense, and new spending players sometimes don’t arrive often enough.
Having taken this into consideration, the answer for Fates was clear: A large-scale spending boycott that simply couldn’t be ignored. What started out as a freeze on purchasing any Cyclops-related offers or orbs has now escalated dramatically to include all in-game spending.
Gamer boycotts on this level are often subject to ridicule. Many prove disorganised, half-hearted, and ultimately ineffective. Fates knows this; he’s trying to approach things differently. At the time of writing, he and his fellow alliance leaders have rallied the top 25 in-game alliances and the majority of the top 250 to their cause. This represents around 15,000 players.
Those leading the charge “represent a variety of spending types: F2P, small spenders, and big spenders”, like him, he says. Though it’s undoubtedly the big spenders that they need to convert if their plans are to work.
Fates knows the risk that he and the fellow leaders run in launching a boycott within an already fractured community. I point out that there seems to be some resentment on the game’s subreddit towards those spending high amounts, who are often referred to as “whales”. Again, he knows. “One of the things we want to emphasize is to not have an “us versus them” mentality for those who don’t care to support the movement, or want to continue to spend. The economic model this game uses has to have some sort of divide: The game has conditioned players to spend”.
And spend they do. You don’t have to look far to see members of the game’s subreddit say they’ve put thousands into Strike Force in the last year alone. “It is our hope that past purchases (or even present ones) won’t mean that we bicker amongst ourselves as players. We all deserve a better game that rewards us appropriately for our time spent playing. Spenders were part of the problem that led to this, but now we want to be part of the solution”.
But why not just move on? There are plenty of high-quality games that do much of what Strike Force does – why not take chance on them? And, of course, it once again comes back to… “friendships. I have built a number of close friendships”.
He also has no doubt that Marvel Strike Force can be saved and is worth saving. “The passion behind this game from players and developers is still evident”, he says. “The solutions to the game’s issues are not difficult, but they represent a new mindset for the decision-makers at FoxNext. I truly believe that the game can be more profitable than ever before for all involved if they have the mindset to do so”.
Much of Fates’ current concern revolves around Red Stars. Prior to their arrival, “you had a clear path of progression and players of all sorts were able to dedicate time and/or money to achieve similar results. The time you spent in the game left you wanting to play more, which was a great feeling”. This, for Fates, is no longer the case.
And so what does he and the boycott community want from FoxNext? “I think a tangible sign that they are open to change, and discussion would go a long way. It is a mindset shift, from the current one that is designed to extract value out of players before replacing them, to a new one that sees players as valuable and something to be cultivated. We have been telling them many of these things for months, and so far, they don’t want to move, maybe because we kept spending”.
I ask what happens if the boycott proves ineffective: “The boycott is a line drawn in the sand. We are prepared to expand it further if we don’t hear anything back from FoxNext. Plenty of fellow players already enjoy the game without spending, and I’m ready to join their ranks”.
A potential no-login day to coincide with a mass review bombing was previously on the table. I ask Fates for his opinion on what is a controversial method of player protest in some cases and a means of targeted harassment in others; he says, “our main goal is to have a good-faith conversation with FoxNext about how the game can be improved to everyone’s benefit. This (review bombings) could be a way to show displeasure, but we are hoping that we can start working together with FoxNext before then”.
FoxNext’s Senior Community Manager was quick to respond to the initial complaint, outlining future content plans and a list of improvements the team is currently working on, including alterations to the Red Star system. Dismalcontent, another leader of the boycott, responded with further community feedback that included a proposed AMA between members of the community and FoxNext.
I ask FatesFury if he’s happy with FoxNext’s initial response: “No, not at all. While it appears they made some headway in communicating, there is a lot further to go”. The boycott is now in full effect.
“This will last until we see a substantial sign from FoxNext that they are listening”, says Reddit user Shewski, another boycott leader. “Our quickest suggested show of good faith is expanded rewards for U7 completion [at all reward tiers]. However, we will be on the lookout for whatever sign they choose to use”.
We reached out to FoxNext for comment; however, they’ve failed to issue an official response at the time of writing.