As of late April 2020, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the most profitable film franchise in history. Bringing in more than $22.5 billion at the box office, this means more than Harry Potter, James Bond, and even Star Wars. While the idea of franchising is hardly new, this unprecedented success has set the stage like never before. Combined with the growing success of media in other mediums one thing becomes clear, the age of the unavoidable franchise is here. The only question is, how will companies best take advantage of franchise potential?
Focus or Freedom
One of the biggest benefits of franchises comes the possibilities of cross-medium potential. In the Marvel example, the films grew from comic books, but this starting point only acted as a base. Comics, while long popular in certain communities, don’t have the mass-market appeal that films have. This has led to the MCU becoming far more popular than the comics, with many enormous fans never once having picked up a comic book.
This creates a tricky situation, however, on where the rest of Marvel’s franchise efforts want to place their attention. Their films have raised awareness of their properties to new heights, but this might have resulted in undue confidence. For a better illustration of this in action, we could turn to gaming.
Adapting to the Medium
On the 14th of August, 2020, the action role-playing game Marvel’s Avengers released on the PlayStation, Xbox, and PC platforms. In development for years, the game was estimated to have cost somewhere in the range of $170-$190 million according to Comic Book. Enormous hope was placed on the game, bolstered by the success of the MCU.
Yet three months after launch, the game sold only around 60% of what it needed. Despite being developed as a title user would keep playing, TheGamer notes that the amount of players has dropped to that below of many old games, which is concerning, to say the least.
Essentially, the answer comes from a misunderstanding of another medium. Marvel expected too much from goodwill, and not enough from the quality of their gameplay. The game cost too much to make, it cost too much to play, and it didn't hold interest for what it was. Consider examples on the other side of the spectrum. In video games, probably the best relevant illustration of success is from the Arkham series of Batman games. While these costs as much to buy as Marvel’s Avengers, they weren’t so much leveraging name recognition alone, with the unique Arkham gameplay going on to set new standards on its own.
On the other side of the equation, we have franchise titles like those on online casinos. If you visit Space Casino, games like the Jumanji slot perform extremely well among their collection of other slots, table, and live casino games. In this case, success was found through not overextending, by focussing on giving players exactly what they want while not demanding too much from them. Success doesn't come from the brand name alone, but by producing a product of high quality that stands alone, such as with this slot and many other crossover slot games.
Trying for Balance
As Marvel and so many other franchises have shown, success in a franchise means using name recognition as only the first step. The films are popular because they take inspiration where they can but ultimately rely on the quality of the writing, acting, and directing. Therein lies the challenge of building a franchise, knowing where to find the balance. So, will Marvel get back on track following their film success and game failure? It might be some time before we know, but at least they should now have a better idea of what not to do