Buyer Beware I Suppose

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For those who don’t know, there’s a game I used to play called Marvel Heroes 2016 (aka MH2016) which as you might guess was about heroes from Marvel Comics. It was designed and run by a company called Gazillion with licensing agreements via Marvel/Disney and it has been around for a few years. I started playing MH2016 before they added the 2016 to the name, and sorta lost interest around the time they started calling it Marvel Heroes Omega. I must admit I hadn’t taken the hint though. I didn’t know that they were trying to tell us something – this game wasn’t long for this world. Okay, admittedly I don’t think even they knew that. The ominous use of “Omega” was probably not an indicator the game was dying. Sounds like even the employees of Gazillion were surprised, but I’m spoiling this story before I begin telling it. Let’s call it foreshadowing, shall we? Spoilers!

I played through the main game several times and had quite an impressive roster of heroes lined up over time that I could access: I had started with The Thing, and then purchased Squirrel Girl. Those two were my favorites, but Storm was fun to play too. There were ways to open up character access by playing. You could amass quite a roster just by putting time into the game. Last time I accessed the game I recall having Black Panther, Black Cat, Black Widow, Colossus, Cyclops, Cable, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Ghost Rider, Luke Cage, Loki, Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Venom, Magneto, Spider-Man, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, Wolverine, X-23.. Well you could play all the characters up to level ten, but to unlock their full potential took either time or money. I had plenty of them unlocked and I’m hard pressed to think of one I didn’t enjoy.. Maybe Iron Fist. He was tricky and not worth the effort to figure out how to play as it turned out. Also I recall playing Silver Surfer to ten and promising myself never to unlock that one. The animations just seemed weird. Most of them were loads of fun. You could even play Doctor Doom and I got the white costume cuz he feels even more sinister to me when he thinks he’s a good guy. I got The Hulk towards the end unlocked and had meant to spend more time playing him. He’s one of the last I got around to unlocking, but time got the best of me and this past year I’ve been a little busy so playing in Marvel Heroes kinda took a back seat. I must admit I’d seen pretty much everything I wanted to see in the game. It was mostly just going over the same maps a lot, but I could grind while listening to podcasts or news reports. Keep the sound effects low and turn off the music entirely, then I could multitask. Yes of course it was always a waste of time but I enjoyed it.

Anyway. I learned a few days after Gazillion pulled the plug, that they were going to pull the plug.

I mean what I initially learned was it was gonna go down by the end of the year, and so I tried logging in for what I thought would be the last time, just to pay my respects really. Maybe spend the last of the fake credits I had purchased before. Try to ‘get my money’s worth’ so to speak. However, the servers were already down, and had apparently gone down a few days to a week before I learned that they were going to go down after Christmas. Naturally, I was a little miffed. I mean okay, I was no longer religiously logging in to get the daily incentives and maybe play a map or two. For awhile it was a daily ritual for me, but I guess I had moved on. Still, it was nice to know it was always there if I ever wanted to return to it, and recently changes had been made to improve the game. I saw some of those changes a few months ago and had meant to explore further. Looked promising.

Marvel Heroes was always a Free 2 Play game. This means you can download and install a game like this for free, play in some restricted fashion usually to your heart’s content and if you want to spend real money to get fake money inside the game, then you can get little boosts or unlock characters. The vast majority of my time playing Marvel Heroes – or any Free 2 Play game admittedly, I wouldn’t put any money down. Not cuz I didn’t think it was worth it. I just don’t have a lot of money. So if I did spend money on a game at all it’s cuz it meant something to me. There are many games I’ve played where I spent nothing on them (again more cuz I got no money than cuz I didn’t think it was worth it), but when I feel a game worthy I will reluctantly put down some coin, on the understanding I will inevitably get burned in one way or another: it’s the nature of The Beast.

Towards the end of my time in Marvel Heroes, I was buying what I could afford to buy in terms of credits when they would have discounts. So I’d buy like $20 to get what they said was roughly $3-40 the value of credits at the time. And then I’d wait to buy stuff that interested me if they ever put those on sale, like a two for one hero unlock or something. Maybe a costume change that offered a new series of vocals or changed the gender. Ghost Rider’s so much more fun as a female. Over the years I put in roughly $80-100 give or take? I don’t have exact numbers. So I’d buy the fake money when it was on sale and then I’d wait to buy unlocks for what interested me whenever it was on sale. Granted Gazillion was making up the prices for what all this was worth so the idea of buying anything on sale is ludicrous. It’s all mental. I’d feel like I was getting a deal but it’s all in my head.

I didn’t buy into a monthly thing like I had done with DCUO or City of Heroes years before. I don’t think that was ever an option for MH2016. With DCUO you could either buy access to content piecemeal, or you could have access to everything on a monthly basis until you stopped paying the monthly fee at which your account reverted to as if you’d never really put money down at all. Which after you’ve experienced that but can’t afford to continue that, returning even for special events leaves one feeling cobbled so I just ..I don’t even know if I could log in to DCUO anymore. I left when Mogo The Living Planet Who Also Happens To Be A Member Of The Green Lantern Corps Even Tho He’s A Planet And Not A Humanoid became a place to explore. I don’t know why, but walking around inside a living planet just didn’t set well with me, and by then I’d done all there was to do really. All i wanted anyway. I had taken to flying around Metropolis or Gotham City collecting exobits that you could then turn into exobytes which were worth selling on the auction market or you could use them to improve armor.. I was essentially just grinding. And I had gotten to a point with multiple characters where all that was left to me was high end content, meaning you had to upgrade your armor even more to be invited to group missions with other players and if you screwed up the other players were rather unforgiving. I didn’t always screw up but sometimes I did. More often than not someone else would screw up and I’m sitting there watching people arguing with each other when I just want to finish the mission I don’t care whose fault it is let’s just finish this and then people would start leaving the group until there’s not enough people left to finish.. Needless to say after awhile I just stopped playing altogether, and if I wasn’t playing, why put money into it, so I let my account lapse. I’d have to reinstall now on a new computer to revisit DCUO. That’s assuming it still exists at all. Don’t think it’s worth it to me now to go back. Those were the days though, huh? Central City was my favorite place to hang. I am thankful to DCUO that when they made the hellish landscape of Trigon to do the whole Raven storyline with The Teen Titans that they did their level best to respect the version of New Teen Titans that I know and love: the Marv Wolfman and George Perez years. That was a real treat, and kept me playing the game long after I probably should have stopped. It was great to see those characters in all their glory. Really brought me back to my childhood. Anyway. Back to MH2016

Each time I put down money for MH2016 I was thinking is this worth it to me? Considering how much i played for free all this time, is it worth it to me to give Gazillion $20 now and then as a kind of thank you for the time and effort put into the game? Granted I wish I coulda given more as I really enjoyed it, but it’s a balance between what I can afford and what I think it’s worth. I actually had waned in interest this past year, but if memory serves I still had credits in reserve the last time I signed in. So part of me feels I should investigate and see if I can legally get any of the virtual money that I hadn’t spent back. Another part of me thinks that even tho technically I didn’t get anything for that left over fake cash, overall I did get my money’s worth from the experience.

Bottom line though: I don’t think this occurrence is good for the video game industry overall. While I should have spent my fake cash in there sooner of course, I also should have gotten a heads up prior to their killing the game. I didn’t learn they were going to shut down MH2016 until days after it happened. So I didn’t have a chance to go in there and settle accounts. This is very buyer beware and I’m probably just gonna cut my losses and move on. However, I will think twice next time when a similar offer is made to buy credits at a discount that can be spent whenever you like. I now have this experience to factor into my decision of whether I care to spend money at all. It’s not like I have tons of disposable income to just throw around.

Granted, maybe most people who play these games have ample money to spare, but I doubt it. Maybe most people are like me. Or maybe some. Some people play Free 2 Play games cuz they don’t have disposable income to plop down on big triple A titles. The reason why a company would make a Free 2 Play game is cuz they feel if they can get you into their lair to play for free, they can entice you once inside to put down money for bonus features. Some people refer to this as “Pay To Win” games. Where you can play for free but if you want to finish the game or compete with other players that’s gonna take coin. I don’t go for any of that. And next time I find myself inside a “lair” being offered to spend money for some fancy trinket, I’m gonna look back on this experience with Marvel Heroes 2016 and other similar experiences I’ve had, and I’m gonna be more likely to say no. If a lot of people are like me in that manner, I don’t see how the failure to end a game as well as you started it is good business practice for anyone.

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