Kabam is the developer of the popular mobile game, Marvel Contest of Champions. At this year’s New York Comic Con, the company announced their latest project, Marvel Realm of Champions, which spins out from their first title and brings players into Battleworld. It was even spotlighted at the Marvel Games panel.
During the show we sat down with members of the development team to discuss both Realm and Contest. We spoke with the creative and art director, Gabriel Frizzera, producer, Meghann McGregor, and executive producer, Luke Takeuchi.
Gabriel Frizzera: Contest is about five years now. It keeps growing and the game is bigger than ever. I know I’ll be working on this game when I’m a hundred. A couple years ago, we started thinking, there are some ideas of the game that are too big and too crazy. It wouldn’t work with this kind of game so we started thinking about making a new game. A game that lives in the same universe. That connects to the same universe but is a completely different experience. We pitched that to Marvel and they loved it and here we are. It’s called Marvel Realm of Champions.
Gary Catig: This is the one that will be announced later today on the Marvel Stage?
GF: Yeah. It came from an idea. It’s a weird little game because sometimes games come from a business decision. We need to make this kind of game but put Marvel in it. It will sell millions. But that’s usually not the way we think. I had this idea in my head. We can take Secret Wars, expand it. It’s a very gamey concept. You have a world with different houses and stuff like that so we put Battleworld in Contest as part of the story. It’s there. We’re not using it. It’s empty.
But all the seeds of the story, I started planting it. If you go back, there’s a lot of Easter eggs about this. When the time was right, when Marvel asked, “So, what are you guys doing next?” I was like, “Yeah, nice that you asked”, because we had this. We pitched it to Marvel and Marvel was like, “This is very ambitious. Are you going to be able to pull this off?” We shall see.
We have been in development for a year and a half. I’ve been a little earlier because I’m just writing the stories and stuff. We built a completely new team. We are just set across the street from each other. Some of us have to go meet with Contest sometimes but it’s separate teams. The story and the creative is all connected. We wanted the two games to work together. Have sometimes crossovers like comic books do. Have big events. You can transit from one to another. There’s a lot going on. We’re still developing it and next year we’ll release it.
GC: When you say there’s going to be crossover between the two games. Does that mean you have your characters in your first game and they come over? I’m not exactly sure how your crossover is going to work.
GF: No and there is a reason. First, those characters will look better than Contest. They are a different generation. You cannot simply drop a model from Contest. It’s going to look like it’s from another game. Second, those characters are fully customizable. We’ll give you a naked Spider-Man and you do whatever you want with it. Put armor on it or Hulk or whatever. So those characters from Contest would not work. That said, if somebody likes a character from one game, maybe we can put the character in the other.
Meghann McGregor: We might have events also running at the same time that maybe crossover and even rewards you.
GF: Right now, there are a lot of ideas about it. Luke is the producer for Contest so we talk about how far we can go with this. We want those two games to be as connected as we can without breaking the spirits of either. We’re still discussing what it is.
Luke Takeuchi: We definitely want both games to kind of live together in the same world. It’s early days now so as more information gets released, we’ll get more into how those two games live together. What we are going to do for events both in terms of player engagement and also what are the big narrative beats when both worlds collide and our players can jump back and forth. Gabe’s got some big plans for that but it’s probably a bit early to talk about those.
GC: How does the gameplay differ with Realm as opposed to Contest?
GF: There’s not a lot we can say right now but there are a few things we can say. It’s going to be action because we do action. That’s what we do. It’s going to be PVP (player versus player), multiplayer real time game.
Contest, as much as we have alliances and all that good stuff that people can join and play together, the experience itself is a solitary experience. You can take your character and play against an AI. One of the things we wanted to do with this game is to have a multiplayer experience. To have you, on your phone, and play with your friends on a team against another team.
That’s the big mountain we have to climb with this project to make sure we make a cool game in a completely different way. The details about it, we’ll talk about it when the time comes. We’ll have a presentation at the Marvel Stage today and tomorrow at Madison Square Garden, we’ll talk a little more about it at the Marvel Games panel.
GC: Is there anything else about Realm you want to cover before moving to Contest?
MM: I think players who love Contest will really love what we’ll be doing with this game. Gabe and myself and Luke and everyone who works on this game are huge Marvel fans and we’re really excited to get people into this world and reimagine these characters. I think people who love the MCU or hardcore comic book nerds are going to find something really special in this game. Especially around the characters and even the customization of the gear.
GF: In the beginning we had this line that everybody kind of followed. Remember those old 70’s buttons, “Make Mine Marvel” with the characters? We took that and changed it to “Make Marvel Mine” and that’s what’s written on the wall now. That’s the guiding principal.
We want people to be able to tell the story with us. Change the world and influence the world and be different and become heroes. Become well known heroes in this world. There’s a lot we want to do but it’s in the same spirit as Contest. We like Marvel and Marvel fans and we like telling stories in the Marvel Universe. This is just the next step.
GC: Going on to Contest, how much buzz has it created having this tournament starting from San Diego all the way to here and the finals are going to be at this show as well?
LT: It’s been crazy actually. We were pleasantly surprised and kind of overwhelmed by the response to some of our showdowns throughout the past few months. To my understanding, for Marvel, it’s been one of the biggest engagement pieces they’ve had in the past few months.
Every time we are entering in those new challenges, it’s crazy that it kind of all culminates at New York Comic Con. Now we have all those people flying out and actually running those challenges but we have our entire fanbase in person who will be watching that live, which should be pretty interesting to watch. It’s been pretty good for us. It’s been awesome.
GC: Moving on to the future, Contest is what brought you here initially. What do you guys have planned moving forward? I know you can be occupied with the new game too, but I’m sure you have other plans.
LT: We got so much stuff planned for end of this year and into 2020. Just before New York Comic Con, we did a road map update where we talked to players about what is Contest’s plans for the next 3, 6, 9 months going into 2020.
First off, for the end of this year it’s super busy. This month we kicked off a big champion release build so we have three new champions coming to the game. One of the biggest ones being Guillotine 2099 which is a new take on one of our O.G. characters. Going into November we have a huge build coming out with brand new features and a selectable bust for alliance quest. Some cool other stuff that we can’t talk about yet but it’s coming out in November.
I think the big, big one is at the end of year. For us is we’ve been running Fantastic Four character releases and events all year long and it’s all culminating in November – December. In November, finally Doctor Doom comes to Contest with Mister Fantastic; The Trial of Reed Richards.
Then finally in December, we’re releasing Silver Surfer alongside our fifth anniversary which is going to be huge. We got tons of stuff planned for the end of this year and then going into 2020, it’ll probably take too much time but we have tons of new features and game modes that we’re looking for players to get engaged.
GF: In a nutshell, Contest is just growing. Nobody is going to let us go anywhere. It’s not like the game is failing. This year was our biggest year ever and next year will be even bigger. People have so much appetite for this game and fighting and we just want to keep evolving it. Luke is going to be an old man. We love working on it.
There’s nowhere I would rather be but working on this. We have a second project right now but we have completely separate teams working on it. The crossover is at the top with the creative. We align the two visions but we have the Realm team do their thing and Contest does their thing and we keep going.
We want to thank Gabriel, Meghann and Luke for taking the time to speak with us. Marvel Contest of Champions can be downloaded on iOS or Android right now. You’ll have to wait until next year to play Marvel Realm of Champions.