7:46am PT by Graeme McMillan
'Age of Ultron' Invades Marvel Games
The age of Ultron is affecting more than just Marvel's cinematic universe. To tie in with the release of the second Avengers movie (released on May 1), the robotic villain will also be invading the world of Marvel Games, with Ultron-centric content appearing in Marvel Contest of Champions, Marvel Heroes, Marvel Puzzle Quest, Marvel Avengers Alliance and even Marvel Pinball.
"Our mantra from the last few months has been 'Ultron invades Marvel Games,'" said Marvel Games creative director Bill Rosemann. "The beauty of something like this is, you can see Avengers: Age of Ultron and then you can say, 'You know what? I want to be an Avengers, I want to fight against Ultron,' and you can do it."
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For Peter Phillips, evp interactive & digital distribution, the cross-promotion is more than just marketing synergy; it's also a way to allow fans to continue the Ultron story beyond the movie. "That's part of what gaming is, to me: It really gives people an opportunity to keep the story ongoing. Movies are obviously one of the primary ways in which we deliver our stories, but we also have things like comics and games, where people can keep going almost forever."
Rosemann said that Marvel didn't demand Ultron tie-in content from the developers responsible for each game, but instead offered an opportunity that they were eager to take advantage of. "We went to our partners and said, 'Age of Ultron is happening.' We started sharing our content and asked, 'What is your game, what is it about? What is the ultimate gaming experience and how could Ultron deliver the next level?'"
It helped, of course, that Age of Ultron was a movie that was so eagerly anticipated. "Think about the thing that really jumped out at people from the first trailer: Hulkbuster Iron Man," Rosemann said. "Imagine the game-makers seeing that, salivating and rubbing their hands together and saying, 'What could we do with Hulkbuster Iron Man in our game?'"
The relationship between Marvel's movie and gaming divisions ("They're literally down the hall. We walk up and down the hall to share content," Rosemann said) meant that the game designers had access to content from the movie at an early stage.
"The movie is being made at the same time that we're discussing how it could be integrated into the games," Rosemann explained, saying that the divisions "share everything that is possible at all times," a relationship that promises a high level of fidelity in terms of adaptation. "When you see the characters in the games, it's not going to be 'sort of like' they are in the movies, it's going to be spot-on," Rosemann promises.
This doesn't mean that each game will be recreating the events of the movie, however. While some games will be faithful in terms of plot — Marvel Heroes will allow the player to take on the role as one of the core Avengers, with costumes based on their movie designs available for purchase, with a new "Age of Ultron" game mode allowing them to take on the robotic despot — the connections will be more distant in others; Ultron will "infect" the contest storyline of Contest of Champions, for example, while Marvel Puzzle Quest will offer Hulkbuster Iron Man and Scarlet Witch as in-game prizes for players who defeat Ultron in a Boss Battle event.
Phillips said that these tie-ins don't mean that Marvel won't make a specific Age of Ultron game at some point in the future, "just that it's not going to come out May 1 to tie in with the movie."
"It's not about something that comes out May 1 and has a lifespan that lasts the length of the box office," he said. Avengers: Age of Ultron is, "something that's going to be on people's minds for years, partially because we've got other characters with their own films and tie-ins that have been already announced, but also because there are so many storylines and ways that connect with it in other forms of Marvel's business. Games is a piece of that, and enables us to tell that story moving forwards."
Ultron's invasion of Marvel Games launches on Apr. 23. Avengers: Age of Ultron will be released in theaters May 1.