When Gazillion Entertainment's "Marvel Heroes" was announced as a free-to-play massively multiplayer online action-RPG, many wondered how the company planned to monetize the game. Although it's still not clear what the pricing will be for players hoping to gain an advantage in the game, Gazillion has announced a special Founders Program that allows potential players to pre-purchase characters and bonus items in anticipation of the game's Spring 2013 release.
"Marvel Heroes was built from the ground up to be a free-to-play game," the Founders Program website reads. "Players will be able to get nearly ALL Heroes and Costumes in the game for free, just by playing. The Founders Program gives you the opportunity to play as your favorite Heroes from the day we launch!"
The Founders Program has three different tiers, with content and bonuses that increase as the price goes up.
There are 16 different Starter Packs available for $19.99 each. Starter packs include a single hero with two costumes, $20 of in-game currency, access to the game two days before launch, two one-hour experience point boosts and two item find boosts. Players can choose from 16 different heroes including Black Panther, Black Widow, Cable, Captain America, Colossus, Cyclops, Hulk, Human Torch, Iron Man, Jean Grey, Ms. Marvel, Punisher, Rocket Raccoon, Spider-Man, Thor and Wolverine.
The Founders Program also contains 7 different Premium Packs for $59.99 each, which each contain 4 heroes with 2 costumes apiece, $60 of in-game currency, access to the game four days before launch, six one-hour experience point boosts and 6 item find boosts. The Premium Packs are themed to match the extra costumes, with the "Avengers Assemble" pack containing "The Avengers" movie costumes and the "Marvel NOW!" pack containing costumes themed after Marvel's recent relaunch. Perhaps most intriguing is the "Deadpool" Premium Pack, which actually only contains Deadpool, an enhanced Deadpool pirate costume and four other Deadpool costumes (with the added bonus of $85 of in-game currency instead of $60.)
The Ultimate Pack is the most expensive of the three tiers at $199.99 and is pretty straightforward. Players who purchase the Ultimate Pack get nearly all heroes and all costumes along with $100 of in-game currency, access a full week before the game launches, a permanent 5% experience point boost and permanent 5% item find boost. Most compelling for collectors are the 4 exclusive costumes the Ultimate Pack provides: "Iron Man 3" movie armor, Wolverine Weapon X, Maestro Hulk and the Spider-Man Symbiote. In addition to these benefits, the first 2500 people to purchase the Ultimate pack will get guaranteed beta access and be listed in the "Marvel Heroes" game credits.
The Founders Program is an interesting concept for a free-to-play game, essentially offering potential players the chance to buy in to the game before release -- it's very similar to pre-ordering a game for console or PC. However, gameplay for "Marvel Heroes" has yet to be seriously evaluated by critics, and the developer has been relatively tight lipped when it comes to revealing any major details as to the pricing of in-game items. The only information to that end is contained in the FAQ, which states "every allocation of in-game currency for each Founders Pack will allow you to buy more than one hero or costume." It makes the value of pre-purchasing very difficult to evaluate, especially when Gazillion head David Brevik has assured players that the game is designed to be played from start to finish without spending money.
"Rest assured it will not be 'pay for power' or anything like that -- there are no artificial barriers, just lots of stuff to enhance your experience," Brevik told CBR in October. "Here's an action MMO where you can play as the Marvel heroes, and the kicker is we're giving it all away for free. We're really excited about that -- you can play through the entire thing for free."
Regardless, the opportunity to support the game on any level will likely appeal to a number of fans -- both of Marvel video games and Brevik's work on "Diablo" and "Diablo II." The game's plot was written by Brian Michael Bendis and focuses on the heroes of the Marvel Universe attempting to stop Doctor Doom from taking over the world using the power of the Cosmic Cube.
"Marvel Heroes" is slated for a Spring 2013 release for PC and Mac.