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A Missed Opportunity in Marvel Heroes’ Limited Edition Costumes

Michael Bitton Posted:
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Marvel Heroes creative designer and community manager Ryan ‘Ryolnir’ Collins enthusiastically took to the game’s forums last week with the announcement of ‘Limited Edition’ variant costumes. These costumes were meant to take existing costume designs and give players options for variants that change somewhat minor details. For example, prior to the Winter Soldier’s release, there was healthy debate over whether his movie costume should come with or without his mask. In an ideal world, players would love to have both options, but up until now, whichever version of a costume came out has been the one we’ve been stuck with.  

Now, no one took issue with the notion of Gazillion making variant versions of existing costumes. In fact, normally, this would be cause for celebration. There are tons of opportunities for variant costumes in the game already. The problem is that these variants were tied into a ‘Limited Edition’ scenario that stirred up a firestorm of controversy throughout the community.  As a limited edition offering, each variant costume would be limited in supply, and players able to snag one of these variants would be able to proudly display the costume’s numbering and even get a snazzy emote to show off with. The thrust of the idea, evoking that collector’s item feeling, is actually quite awesome. However, Gazillion’s announced execution of the idea was anything but.

These limited edition costumes were originally set to launch on a specific date and once their supply was exhausted they would be gone forever. As you can imagine, this didn’t go over well. To be honest, I’m not sure how Gazillion didn’t anticipate that reaction before announcing the plan. It’s not hard to imagine the myriad ways this could all go wrong: What if my PC is busted when these things go live? What if I’m out of town? What if my connection is down? What if Gazillion underestimates demand and the costumes sell out within seconds or minutes of going live? Etc.

Couple the poor implementation of this idea with the already dicey notion of arbitrarily limiting the available quantity of a digital good and you have an announcement that not only got players upset but also risked undermining their trust in the studio’s business approach to the game. Gazillion has spent considerable time and effort to establish a responsible and fair approach to its microtransactions and this limited edition announcement threatened to tear it all down. I don’t believe Gazillion was really pulling a 180 on its business practices in the interest of a quick cash grab, but I can’t say that I’m at all surprised that many saw it that way.

Wasting no time, Gazillion came back less than 24 hours later with an announcement that these variant costumes wouldn’t be limited in supply. Instead, they would be available for a limited duration and come back at a later point, similar to how chase costumes periodically go on sale or how Gazillion sells special costumes during holidays.

Frankly, I feel like Gazillion panicked and withdrew completely from what was actually a pretty good idea, if implemented properly.  The notion of limited edition costumes should have been extended to all costumes that are only available for a limited period of time (e.g. variants and holiday costumes), even if they come back, as just about all of them do. The trick to getting this right would have been to utilize runs of a costume or wave of costumes. Instead of Maskless Winter Soldier only being available to 1500 players, offer it in limited quantities as an ongoing series of runs. If you miss series #1, that’s OK, the costume will be back at some point with what is essentially a reprint. Sure, it’s a digital item and it’s still being arbitrarily limited in quantity during its duration of availability, but Gazillion was onto something in trying to create that collector’s item feeling and they could have preserved that by simply ensuring players that there would be additional opportunities to pick it up. 

Showing off that you’ve got #1 out of 1500 of a costume that never appears again may have been too extreme of an idea for a digital good, but offering these in numbered runs every few months would still live up to the spirit of the idea.  The supply doesn’t have to be super low in these runs, either. Ideally, there should be enough of these each run to last around a week or so. With this implementation, those who value being able to show off would still be able to do so. Having a low number on the first or second run still stands out, especially years down the road. At the same time, this would also address the main concern for those who don’t care for this sort of thing and just want to make sure they can achieve a particular look for their favorite character. I’m glad that Gazillion is actually doing variant costumes now, but I would really love to see them come back to the limited edition idea with a more reasonable implementation.

Is there any implementation of limited edition costumes that you would be OK with? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB