A nagging case of the gimmies cost Activision two Spider-Man remasters, a recent insider leak reveals. The Santa Monica publisher, whose licensing contracts with Marvel expired around the same year as Capcom’s, touched base with the comic book giant when Insomniac announced development on Marvel’s Spider-Man all the way back in 2016. Activision proposed eighth-generation remasters of Shattered Dimensions and its sequel Edge of Time for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, requesting older collabs be relisted digitally as well. Work on the re-releases lapsed when developers reignited talks to produce new Spider-Man games exclusively under the Marvel banner. Realizing the remasters were simply a clever, underhanded ruse to get the company to acquiesce to more projects involving Activision, Marvel promptly snipped ties and moved on. Talk about digging your own grave.
The news comes to us from Reddit user armoredadvanced, who recently shared an anonymous tip from within Activision itself. A former developer who would rather not be named confirmed recent-generation remasters of Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions and Spider-Man: Edge of Time were officially in the pipeline when Marvel decided to nix both projects. In-house designers had gone as far as affixing new button icons, crafting higher-resolution textures, and retrieving source code from old hard drives (dubbed “early prototyping” by industry experts) when production was rendered inert barely a year later.
Activision’s goal was to cash in on the hype surrounding Marvel’s Spider-Man, but like most attempts at leeching off of another’s success story, it bombed spectacularly. Yet another stain on Activision’s waning luster. Executives did manage to relist previous collaborations, namely Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, but this deal ended a year before Marvel’s Spider-Man went to retail and completely blew the competition wide open on how superhero games are developed and marketed. Suffice it to say, Activision’s remastered Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time, which boasted only minor bug fixes and graphical enhancements, would not have matched up.
The third Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Black Order, was created by Koei Tecmo’s Team Ninja, the same group behind Dead or Alive, Ninja Gaiden, Hyrule Warriors, and Fire Emblem Warriors. After Activision merged with Vivendi Games in 2008, resulting in the Bruce Hack-led Activision Blizzard, the parent company experienced an unmistakable decline toward the end of the 2010s. Not only did Activision lose both Marvel and Spider-Man, the studio’s output tally dropped from 19 to eight. The company went from dominating gaming’s most recognizable franchises to headlining only three: NASCAR The Game, Destiny, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
Activision didn’t always suffer a fading star or come with a massive crutch. The company was once a darling of the industry, having been established as long as gaming’s been around. Many retro arcade games owe their success to Activision’s astute creative choices and business stratagems, from Pitfall! and River Raid to Tenchu’s, Star Trek, and Tony Hawk’s line of sports titles. The popularity of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man standalone movies led to an extended contract with Marvel, as Activision joined Capcom as one of Marvel’s most iconic video game copartners. The studio had since produced every tie-in Raimi Spider-Man and Fox X-Men video game, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, and a truckload of beloved originals: Total War, Call of Duty, Wolfenstein, Doom 3, Guitar Hero, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, and Prototype. Other publishers have since taken over most of these IPs.
Insomniac Games is currently developing Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 and a brand-new Wolverine video game set in the same universe. Firaxis Games is making Midnight Suns, a tactical RPG featuring a customizable “Hunter” as the main protagonist. No new Marvel titles have been announced by Capcom or Activision, not since Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Mobile game rights to Marvel’s growing roster of superheroes are presently leased to a handful of independent studios, most prominently NetEase, Gameloft, Netmarble Games, and Kabam. TellTale Games has also inked a deal with Marvel on cross-platform story-based titles, resulting in its maiden entry Guardians of the Galaxy: The TellTale Series. Activision’s licensing contracts with Marvel expired in 2014.