Many years ago, Marvel almost had their very own traditional MMO. It was in development from a partnership between Microsoft, Marvel and Cryptic Studios (City of Heroes) but it ended up getting canned. Cryptic used the assets and was able to salvage their work, reshaping it into Champions Online, and for Marvel, they later signed a 10-year deal with Gazillion Entertainment to exclusively develop online Marvel games.

First came the kids-only Marvel Super Hero Squad Online, and next on the docket is an MMORPG from David Brevik, one of the minds behind the Diablo 1 & 2. It was titled, Marvel Universe Online, then Marvel Universe, and now – more simply – it’s called Marvel Heroes and you can sign up right now to enlist in the beta.

The very first Marvel Heroes trailer released back in May, smartly timed around The Avengers hitting theaters, and since that time, Gazillion and Secret Identity Studios have slowly been revealing details and additional playable characters. The game – described as “Diablo meets Marvel on steroids” by Brevik – is being written by Brian Michael Bendis (Ultimate Spider-Man) and will feature the largest roster of playable Marvel characters of any game. Three new characters were unveiled this weekend at New York Comic-Con: Jean Grey, Nova and Luke Cage. There are now over 25 officially announced characters with more on the way.

Marvel Heroes Trailer

Marvel Heroes hopes to hit the casual gaming crowd, the core gamers from the Diablo demographic and anyone who’s reading the books and loving the movies. On that note, Gazillion is smart to publicize and release the game when they are. Marvel Comics is in the midst of relaunching many of their main ongoing series as part of the Marvel NOW! initiative as we speak, placing focus on characters currently hitting it big in the film universe or are about to over the next three years. This is why Nova and Rocket Raccoon for instance, are earning their roster spots, just as they are getting spotlight attention in Marvel NOW.

Bendis himself, is helping write the Guardians of the Galaxy relaunch in the books so we can see the approach Marvel is taking in generating brand recognition for their more obscure – and in this case, cosmic- characters, using the books, games and the films to all help co-market each other. Hence, the “cosmic cube” from the films also being a plot-driving object in the game’s overarching story. At Comic-Con, they debuted 40 minutes of new gameplay footage and you can see the new trailer highlighting the game’s key basic feature up top and the latest screenshots below:

Since the release and controversies surrounding Diablo 3, Brevik has labeled Marvel Heroes the spiritual successor to Diablo 2. So, we’ll soon see if the changes he’d have made to Diablo 3 will shine through on the free-to-play Marvel game.

Sign up now for the Marvel Heroes closed beta at

Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.

Sources: Marvel, Forbes