Marvel Powers United may not have turned out to be an instant classic, but with a big name IP and 18 playable characters, the game represents a bar of scope and polish arguably never before seen in a made-for-VR title. The game’s executive producer tells us that Marvel Powers United represents one of, it not the largest content investment Oculus Studios has made to date. What’s more, the studio has no intention of slowing down its content investment trajectory.

Oculus Studios’ Mike Doran, executive producer on Marvel Powers United, told Road to VR at a recent press event that the investment in the game is “among the biggest, if not the biggest to date. The number of people, the amount of time we spent on it, the ambitions we had for the number of characters we wanted to get in there—we went big everywhere.”

Marvel Powers United launched last week to mixed reviews, though many reviews agree (ours included) that the game’s visual polish and attention to character detail is a strong point. The game had a two year development cycle, Doran said; that’s somewhat common for traditional AAA games, but nearly unheard of in VR—at least for a game with the scope of Powers United.

Image courtesy Marvel, Oculus

“For [Oculus] Studios specifically, our bets have gotten bigger, our budgets have gotten bigger,” he said. “The amount of resources we’re able to put into something like this versus a Touch launch title are much greater, and you’re going to see that come through on the screen.”

Last year, Oculus’ Head of Content, Jason Rubin, told us that Oculus Studios had moved from investing hundreds of thousands of dollars per project, in the early days of Rift development, to several million per project. It seems likely that Marvel Powers United VR, with its two year development cycle and major IP, fell into that new upper tier.

A two year lead on development would have put the beginning of the game’s production all the way back to July 2016, some six months before the company even launched the Touch motion controllers—nearly ancient history with how fast VR is moving. This early genesis could explain the game’s foundation of wave shooting and coarse motion input interactions, as Oculus had to build a prototype for Marvel’s consideration, and didn’t have the benefit of learning from a handful of great titles which would come months later and pioneer many aspects of motion control gameplay.

Photo by Road to VR

While the game itself had a long lead time, the Rift + Marvel Powers United VR bundle didn’t come into the picture until the beginning of 2018, Doran said. The bundle, which officially launches today in select countries, is the first time that Oculus is putting a major piece of content front and center on the package, emulating a tried and true strategy often employed by console makers.

The bundle makes it clear that Oculus has high hopes for the game to attract new users into the company’s PC VR ecosystem, beyond just pleasing existing headset owners. “We hope it sells a boatload of [headsets]—that is the ultimate goal [of the bundle]” Doran said.

The company doesn’t just want the game to be a poster child for the headset, they have plans for post-launch support, Doran says, as long as players keep coming back for more.

“[User retention] sort of ties into our DLC philosophy. There will be DLC for the game, it will be free, we’re going to be generous with the community—we’re not talking what or when quite yet, but as long as people keep coming back and playing, we’re going to keep making stuff.”

Playable heroes in Powers United include: Black Bolt, Black Panther, Black Widow, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Crystal, Deadpool, Doctor Strange, Gamora, Hawkeye, Iceman, Rocket Raccoon, Spider-Man, Star-lord, Storm, The Hulk, Thor, and Wolverine. | Images courtesy Marvel, Oculus

And while Oculus Studios sounds committed to delivering DLC for Marvel Powers United VR, it sounds like plans are still being formulated as to what that content might look like.

“I think what we want to do [with DLC] is get the game out there, get it in the hands of the fans, and let them tell us what they want more of. Obviously we could come up with no shortage of cool scenarios that we could script and put people in, or stories that we would want to retell, but you have to fit it in a structure—you only have so much resources and time and ability to get stuff done,” Doran said. “This was the choice we made, we wanted to lean heavily into the multiplayer and the co-op social aspects; we’re going to see how the fans react and what they want more of.”

At a minimum, Doran assured us that DLC will be free and microtransactions are not part of the plan.

“No microtransactions. The chests that we have in the game—or loot boxes if you will—those are purely cosmetic and fun cool collectible stuff; they do not make you better at the game or more powerful or anything like that. And it’s really about being as friendly as possible to the community. You invested in the game, we want you to be happy, we want to give you more cool stuff, so as long as you keep playing, we’ll keep making it.”

Now with Marvel Powers United VR out the door, and with Defector and Stormland now on the horizon, what’s next for Oculus Studios? Doran wasn’t ready to spill any secrets, but said quite firmly that when it comes to investing in new VR content, “We’re not slowing down.”

Disclosure: Oculus paid for local transportation for Road to VR to attend an event where information for this article was gathered.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Firestorm185

    “Marvel Powers United represents one of, -it- not the largest content investment”

    tiny spelling error guys, just thought I’d let ya know. ^^

  • Firestorm185

    Cannot wait for Stormlands!

  • HybridEnergy

    That’s weird. because it plays like a 20 dollar wave shooter from what I hear.

    • MeowMix

      In the early beta footage of the game from last year, the gameplay showed linear objective based maps. I’m hoping they can polish those maps up and include them as part of the DLC. That should help diversify the gameplay modes.

  • Mythos88

    They should invest more in speeding up their plans of a headset with higher resolution. With the Odyssey, Vive Pro and soon PiMax 8k, we’re already moving beyond 1080×1200 and good riddance.

    • cartweet

      Resolution isn’t a difficult problem to solve and will solve itself over time. We’ve already seen plenty of prototypes from samsung and others that have over 1000ppi. What oculus is investing in are the real difficult problems with VR such as vergence accommodation conflict, foveated rendering and full body tracking.

    • MeowMix

      It’s coming. Just google Oculus research, you’ll see what they’ve been working on. The VR community is still small beans. If you want competitive pricing on headsets, then it takes time and maturity of the tech. The price of the PiMax8K and Vive Pro show that.

      Although, I’d be down with a Rift CV1 revision (CV1.1 ?) with the new GO lenses. They should just discontinue the current model and any new Rift CV1 going forward should at least have the new GO lenses.

  • MeowMix

    Thanks Ben, quality article as always. Glad to hear the DLC is still coming !

  • sfmike

    Too bad Powers United has such uninspired game play. But maybe wave shooters are what sells to most gamers. Not this one though as I want more diversity.

    • Sandy Wich

      Well what did you expect from a company that only cares about profit? Of course they copy the flavor of the month IP, “Marvel”, and then slap on the most played and easiest to develop mechanics.

      But I don’t wanna be too harsh on it as I haven’t played or even seen it yet, just going off what you’re saying.

      But if it’s true they suck. Give me something with a bit of soul ffs!

    • KUKWES

      for uninspired gameplay…which you copy and pasted from reviews pretty much its one of the best experiences I have had in VR yet.

  • MosBen

    It makes sense that they’d invest some money in a really polished looking game to see if it can move some headsets as part of a bundle. When a new console launches they usually try to have it launch with some games that show off the console’s graphical horsepower. There are a number of reasons why the games tend to be fairly shallow, but that’s usually the case. But it’s more of a presentation of what is possible, and then better games usually follow once developers have time to get creative with their game designs.

    There are lots of smaller VR projects right now that are pushing the boundaries of what a VR game is like, or being creative with how content is presented to you. A big, splashy, but ultimately kind of shallow game is a good test to see where we’re at.

  • Sandy Wich

    Well I do love myself some wolverine…..

  • Wow, 2 years! It’s a long time for a VR game!