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Marvel's Midnight Suns director worries the card-based combat kept players away

Did a complex card system keep Marvel's Midnight Suns from being a hit?

Bryant Francis, Senior Editor

May 14, 2024

3 Min Read
Spider-Man and other Midnight Suns heroes look at the camera.
Image via Firaxis Games/Take-Two.

At a Glance

  • Firaxis' tactical role-playing game Marvel's Midnight Suns won praise from critics, but stumbled in sales.
  • Midsummer Studios co-founder Jake Solomon admits the card-based combat system may have deterred players from trying the game.

Firaxis Games' 2022 game Marvel's Midnight Suns won praise from critics and dedicated players for its crunchy in-depth strategy (and surprisingly robust narrative design), but the quality of its gameplay wasn't enough to drive sales. Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick told Bloomberg in 2023 that the game wasn't living up to expectations, saying at the time that the game's December release window may not have been "perfect."

But if there's anyone who has reason to do a postmortem on Midnight Suns, it's Midsummer Studios cofounder Jake Solomon. Solomon, who departed Firaxis in 2023 after the game released, was the brain behind the game's card-based combat system.

In an interview with Game Developer discussing the founding of Midsummer Studios, Solomon looked back on his final project at Firaxis and admitted his passion for the system may have missed the mark with players. "I think about Midnight Suns a lot, and I think about the card mechanic—which I designed, so I take responsibility for it—I think that [discouraged] players from even trying trying the game because they saw it and went 'what the heck is that?'"

Hindsight is 20/20, but Solomon's observation holds weight if you think back to what Firaxis and Take-Two were pitching players. The game was a turn-based tactical game (targeting a niche audience), themed on Marvel characters (targeting a mainstream audience), with combat built on a card-drawing, deckbuilding mechanic that visualized the characters' superhero abilities (not a feature something either audience would be familiar with).

To top it off, Firaxis faced headwinds from audience disinterest in Marvel-branded narrative games. Crystal Dynamics' Marvel's Avengers struggled to keep players attracted to its live service gameplay and eventually shut down, and Eidos-Montreal's Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy "undershot" its launch expectations.

Both games were also praised for their combat and storytelling, despite disinterest from the market.

Great games don't guarantee game sales

Solomon had been musing on the struggle studios face in the modern era of massive Steam backlogs and a near-constant flood of great game releases. "I'm very naïve when it comes to the business side of things," he admitted. "You want to believe 'if I just make a good game, everything will take care of itself.' That's not true anymore. That used to be true 20 years ago. There are so many games out there, and so many things vying for people's attention."

For context, 20 years ago, Solomon was fresh out of college and working on Sid Meier's Civilization III. He remembered Firaxis's anxiety over the recently released Age of Empires: Age of Kings and how its beautiful 3D visuals risked outshining Civilization III's 2D visuals.

Then Civilization III sold like gangbusters—fueling his belief that all you needed to run a game studio was just to make good games.

Solomon said he wants to be more conscious of the audience needs while making Midsummer, and why an Early Access launch for its "life sim" game will be key to the company's strategy.

About the Author(s)

Bryant Francis

Senior Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Bryant Francis is a writer, journalist, and narrative designer based in Boston, MA. He currently writes for Game Developer, a leading B2B publication for the video game industry. His credits include Proxy Studios' upcoming 4X strategy game Zephon and Amplitude Studio's 2017 game Endless Space 2.

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