Marvel’s Avengers isn’t pay-to-win but it is pay-to-grind

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For me, the embrace of a warm and familiar brand does a lot to smooth over the many flaws of Marvel’s Avengers, that is until last night when a new addition to the game has it skirting perilously close to pay-to-win. That’s right, Marvel’s Avengers has added progression boosters to its in-game marketplace, making pay-to-grind a thing.

As of this week, an entire row of the game’s microtransactions page – historically devoted to cosmetics like skins, nameplates, emotes and takedowns – is devoted to Hero’s Catalysts and Fragment Extractors, paid consumables to increase the amount of XP and in-game currency earned while playing the game.

The consumables were introduced into the game a few months ago during the game’s embarrasingly bugged Red Room Takeover Event, but were randomly gifted on a weekly basis. The Avengers dev team originally had this to say about the boosts: “These will occasionally be available for free to retrieve from the Marketplace, and we’re looking at other ways for you to earn them, as well.”

Marvel's Avengers pay-to-win

Who knew that these “other ways” meant spending premium currency purchased with real world cash. So if you feel like you aren’t making enough progress in gaining levels for your heroes, Crystal Dynamics is letting you pay-to-grind. While monetization feels woefully normal in games these days, the paid boosters sees Crystal Dynamics going back on its word.

When Marvel’s Avengers debuted at E3 2019, Crystal Dynamics said, “Our promise to the community is that we won’t have random loot boxes or pay-to-win scenarios.” And while there is no PvP element to make a pay-to-win argument, it’s still pretty contemptible. The purchasable boosters have been met with scorn and derision. And as I scrolled through Reddit last night, I couldn’t help but nod along.

Earlier this year, Crystal Dynamics nerfed XP gains from playing the game, arguing that players gained skill points too quickly, and that they didn’t want leveling up to become “too overwhelming.” They also added even more progression in the form of Paragon points that can be earned past the level 50 cap. In effect, Crystal Dynamics has inflated the progression treadmill of the game and creating the power vacuum that incentivizes booster purchases.

This is such a gunshot to the foot of a game that is already struggling to shake off negative perception and retain player loyalty. After a successful free weekend, the Black Panther: War for Wakanda expansion and the arrival on Xbox Game Pass managed to earn more players (and some sales), Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics did not need a self-own like this.

Not even Destiny 2 would get away with trying something like this, and that Marvel’s Avengers even tried is a scandal from which it might not recover, not unless it disposes of those consumable boosters today and starts working overtime to regain the trust of a now disgusted player base. Marvel’s Avengers already has other problems – problems I may address in a future post – it doesn’t need this.

Sources: Reddit, Play Avengers official website