Square Enix’s Avengers game will arrive this fall, and it’ll bring back console-exclusive content in a big way: the company announced that PlayStation players will get exclusive access to a playable Spider-Man character sometime in 2021.
Frankly, that sucks. It’s not clear whether Sony paid Square Enix extra for the exclusive character or if this is simply an extension of the movie rights that Sony has long since held to the character. But the fact is that PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 owners will be able to get access to a major piece of content for the upcoming game that players on Xbox, PC, or Stadia won’t.
Platform-exclusive content in third-party releases has been a frustrating aspect of the games industry for years, with both Sony and Microsoft shelling out for exclusive levels or early access in games like Call of Duty, Destiny 2, or Control. But since cross-play between Sony, Microsoft, and PC platforms for games that exist on all three platforms has started to become the norm, the fad of gating off pieces of content to the owners of the “right” console has been falling out of favor — at least, until this latest resurgence.
What makes it particularly frustrating is that different playable heroes are a key part of Marvel’s Avengers, with the specific hero you play (and their role in a four-player team) having major impacts on gameplay.
Marvel’s Avengers is set to launch with six playable characters — Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, and Ms. Marvel — with the promise of additional characters (like the recently announced Hawkeye) to be added to the game in the future for free. Each character has their own loot pool, skill tree, combat style, and traversal methods that set them apart. Imagine if Diablo or Destiny had an extra class that was only available on Xbox or PC; that’s roughly the level of what PlayStation owners are getting here.
As frustrating as the exclusive content is, it does make sense given Sony’s current strategy for the PlayStation brand as a whole, which has been to focus on PlayStation-exclusive games that simply aren’t available anywhere else. Continuing to push that platform advantage through DLC — especially with a character like Spider-Man that’s so tightly tied to Sony as a company — makes perfect sense (for Sony, at least).
Marvel’s Avengers is set to be released on September 4th for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Stadia. Next-generation versions for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are also planned for later this year.