Opinion: Avengers’ Spider-Man PS4 exclusivity hurts everyone

The upcoming release of Marvel’s Avengers is an exciting one for Marvel fans, as it appears to capture the movie quality feel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe while offering a Destiny-like games-as-a-service experience. Players are able to jump into the suits and boots of iconic superheroes like Captain America, Thor, and Black Widow.

However, there is one particular superhero that some players will not be able to play at all - Spider-Man. Spider-Man is one of the most popular comic book characters of all time, if not the most popular, and only some players will actually get to play as him in the game.

Marvel, Sony, and Square Enix have made the decision to make the friendly neighborhood superhero an exclusive character, in addition to cosmetics for the other heroes, for PlayStation 4. PC and Xbox One owners of the game will never get Spider-Man as a playable character, from what we know currently. This is a problematic move that hurts everyone involved.

Spider-Man Exclusivity Contradicts Past Games

The base problem with this action is that a core element of Marvel’s Avengers is being offered to only one platform. Cosmetics, credits, and a longer beta are one thing to make exclusive, but this is a character who is an integral part of the Avengers team.

As we saw and discussed in our preview, each of the heroes plays and feels different, and they are the crux of the entire experience. Only allowing Spider-Man on one platform would be like Pokemon Sword having an exclusive Pokemon that you aren’t allowed to trade, battle with, or collect at all in Pokemon Shield.

By far, the most sensible reasons why this decision was made are that Sony has the film rights currently to Spider-Man movies and was able to secure a PS4-exclusive game based on the character before. But even these points aren’t valid, as the first is related solely to movies and the second is about an entire exclusive game developed by a first-party studio — a common occurrence — and not a character in a multi-platform, third-party game.

Worse still, this move for Spider-Man is unprecedented and contradicts previous moves from Marvel. The Nintendo Switch-exclusive title Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 had Spidey in it, despite the game not even showing up on other platforms like PS4.

If that wasn’t enough, the Marvel-licensed multi-platform game Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 had Spider-Man on all platforms of PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC. So, the move to make him exclusive to the PS4 version of Marvel’s Avengers contradicts past decisions with his appearances, which is a terrible move for fans.

This Decision Creates Unnecessary Problems for Marvel’s Avengers

In addition, making Spider-Man exclusive actually creates major issues for Marvel’s Avengers itself. Developer Crystal Dynamics has revealed (via IGN) that he is currently set to be the only exclusive character in the game. One way to at least make the situation better would have been to offer PC and Xbox One players their own exclusive hero.

Having Doctor Strange or Black Panther, for example, only available on each of those platforms would have at least softened this heavy blow, even if it caused more issues in the process. But not even that is going to happen, ensuring that PC and Xbox One players are getting lesser experiences than PS4 players are.

This also means that cross-play isn’t the best choice for Avengers, as it would only worsen the pain for non-PS4 players if they joined a party for a match that had a fan-favorite character they can’t even choose to play.

But it doesn’t just hurt the consumer, as it will likely cause trouble for Marvel, Sony, publisher Square Enix, and Crystal Dynamics alike. It didn’t take long at all for this move to be heavily criticized by the community, with some players threatening to not purchase the game for any platform.

With the unfair review bombing craze happening so often in the industry, it is all but guaranteed at this point that Avengers will be the next victim solely because of the Spider-Man situation. The community will likely vote with their wallet and words, potentially making the game less successful than it would have been in the process.

But not all hope is lost. While we aren’t privy to the specifics of the contractual agreement right now, there is still time between now and the launch of Marvel’s Avengers to reverse this decision. Unfortunately, it is more likely that we will see Spider-Man only be a timed exclusive for PS4, but that is not enough at this point.

The bad taste is already left in players’ mouths to the extent where a future fix might not help in the long run. It is best to address the problem now, rather than later. But regardless of what happens in the end with the Avengers’ Spider-Man exclusivity on PS4, let this be a lesson to other companies that exclusives are acceptable, but only when they don’t affect a major part of the game.