Exclusive – Marvel Games boss Bill Rosemann on multiverse, MCU and more: "All of us at Marvel, we're cutting loose"
As Marvel Future Revolution nears launch, Bill Rosemann talks about giving developers creative freedom and unleashing alternate realities.
Bill Rosemann, one of the big bosses at Marvel Games, said in a Tweet back in 2018 that Insomniac’s Spider-Man PS4 game was viewed as “the Iron Man of Marvel video games.” He stated: “As with that first MCU hit, #SpiderManPS4 kicks off a new era for Marvel console games.”
The comparison between that well-received Spider-Man game and Robert Downey Jr’s first Iron Man movie from 2008 - which famously birthed the Marvel Cinematic Universe, paving the way for more than a decade of interconnected storytelling across multiple movies per year and now Disney+ series like Loki as well – was a tantalising suggestion, which set many a gamer’s imagination ablaze with visions of a similarly sprawling slate of interlinked Marvel games.
In the years since his Tweet, we have indeed seen several more Rosemann-approved Marvel games on consoles - Insomniac followed up its first Spidey game with 2020’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, while Square Enix has overseen games based on Marvel’s Avengers (which recently dropped a big Black Panther DLC) and the Guardians of the Galaxy. Plus, Team Ninja released Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 on Nintendo Switch in 2019.
Meanwhile, Rosemann has also been shepherding ambitious mobile games like the soon-to-launch title Marvel Future Revolution – developed by a South Korean company called Netmarble, which previously created Marvel Future Fight, Marvel Future Revolution is an open-world experience for iPhone and Android users that will bring together heroes and villains from various different corners of the Marvel multiverse, meshing multiple realities into a whole new world crammed with characters.
Just like Rosemann promised in his Tweet, it does feel like we're living through a great era for Marvel-loving gamers, but there is something of a snag in that MCU comparison - it seems like each of these game developers is working on totally unique projects, as opposed to singing from one big hymn sheet of interconnected stories like their MCU counterparts in film and TV.
Recently, RadioTimes.com jumped on a Zoom call with Rosemann, and several developers from Netmarble, to talk about Marvel Future Revolution ahead of its launch on 25th August. We couldn’t resist the opportunity to ask Rosemann about his MCU comparison from 2018, and whether he sees all these Marvel games as being narratively connected in any way.
Rosemann replied: “Well, I'll just say this... part of the success of the modern-day Marvel Games - whether it is mobile, VR or console - is we offer our collaborators freedom. We don't say, 'You all have to create a game that takes place between certain comics’, or between films, or even be worried about what another collaborator is doing.
“We give them the ultimate freedom. So that when Netmarble says, 'Oh, we want to fuse all the worlds', we don't want to say, 'Oh, well, you can't, because in this game over here, that's not what the reality is'.
“So we give them ultimate freedom to have their own Marvel reality. But as we've seen, through the era of the Spider-Verse, the idea of the multiverse, [is that] every reality... every universe... exists. And they all have meaning. But they're all separate. And that gives them, and the player, ultimate freedom to tell their story.”
More like this
The games aren’t connected explicitly on a story level, then, but the existence of the Marvel multiverse implies that Insomniac’s Spidey, Square Enix’s Avengers/Guardians and Netmarble’s sizeable slate of heroes do hypothetically all exist under the same multi-dimensional umbrella. But it remains to be seen if they’ll ever stage an MCU-like crossover.
That being said, savvy fans will often spot behind-the-scenes crossovers and connections between the games. Voice talent, for one thing, is regularly shared between companies: Yuri Lowenthal voiced Peter Parker in Insomniac’s Spider-Man games as well as Team Ninja’s Ultimate Alliance 3, for example, while Laura Bailey plays Black Widow across multiple projects including Square Enix’s Avengers game and Netmarble’s Marvel Future Revolution.
Rosemann tells us that Marvel does have a hand in this, although they don’t force any particular talent on its partner companies: “Whenever we work with our partners, and we talk about voices, we give them lists, and say, 'Hey, here's people who have previously done the character. Maybe you want to work with them, maybe not.'
“But when you do have that connective tissue of, ‘Oh, Yuri! It's Yuri as Spider-Man!’ As a player, there's a familiarity. And the actor is very good at what they do. So it's a bit of both - everything feels like, 'Oh, this is Marvel.' It's the right voice. It's connected in a way. Okay, cool.
“So, you know, we like to keep it all in the family. It's like working with Netmarble - we worked with them in the past [on Marvel Future Fight], and it was great. Let's keep it going. So it's really just this kind of Marvel Games family that's between them, us and the player.”
In-game outfits also present opportunities for meta crossover moments – outfits inspired by popular comic-book stories have been par for the course in Marvel games for years (there are loads of them in Marvel Future Revolution, too), and you’re also starting to see movie skins appearing in games.
Insomniac’s Spider-Man PS4 game impressively included outfits from the Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland film franchises, for example. (Of course, rumours remain rife that those actors might cross paths in a movie at some point, with fans excitedly waiting to see who or what appears in the first Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer - but their suits showed up in a game first!)
Much like the Spider-Man and Avengers games that have come before, you can expect to see MCU skins in Marvel Future Revolution. Netmarble has a whole range of MCU cosmetics ready to rock in the game, including an Avengers Endgame Iron Spider suit for ol' web-head.
These crossovers between the different divisions of Marvel – comics, games and the MCU – come about because of openness between teams behind the scenes. Rosemann says: “What's really cool about this modern era of Marvel, and of Marvel Games, is that we're all divisions, and we're all working closely together.”
Rosemann continued: “We're all sharing, you know - we share with publishing, 'Hey, here's what we have coming out in this game a year from now'. And in return, they're showing me stuff from comics coming out a year from now. And what that allows us to do is, if we think something is cool, we can put it in the game, and something can hit in the game and in the MCU, or in the game and Marvel publishing, all at the same time.
“And so, then, as a Marvel fan, you're like, this is so cool. It's all connected. Everyone's working together. These things just aren't floating around and not talking to each other - we're all behind the scenes, sharing content.”
Does this mean we’ll see more familiar outfits showing up in Marvel Future Revolution? Rosemann says: “So, yes, there will be times when there will be events or uniforms that are from different [divisions] - could be from the comics, could be from the MCU. But we always want to share behind the scenes work together, so that we can offer all of this to the players, no matter what your favourite iteration of a character is.”
The inter-division crossovers go both ways, as well: fans will remember that Insomniac’s version of Spider-Man showed up in the multiverse-hopping Spider-Geddon comic books in 2018, not long after his video game debut, and you could also see his Advanced Suit in the closing credits for the 2018 animated movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe recently opened up the multiverse during the Loki season finale, and those parallel dimension possibilities are now being explored in the What If animated series. Is it kismet, coincidence or deliberate corporate synergy that Marvel Future Revolution is due to drop in a few days, with a multiverse-shaking convergence at its core?
To that, Rosemann says: “I think what happens often is that, you know, all of us, Marvel and the creators we work with, we're all fans, right? We all grew up with it. And we're all looking at the same toy box. And we're all reaching for things. 'Oh, this hasn't been done before'. And so, sometimes, we're all reaching for the same thing at the same time.
“And the idea of alternate realities, you can only do that after you have years of storytelling, right? So if, for example, with the first What If episode with Captain Carter, you can only do that if you had Steve Rogers as Captain America, with Peggy, and you told those stories… and then [you can] say, 'Oh, okay, what if Peggy becomes Cap and Steve is in that Hulkbuster?'
“So that's the same thing for us. We've worked together for years on Future Fight, and delivering the core Marvel experience. Now we can say, 'Okay, now we can do alternate versions of this, what if we combine things?'”
Rosemann adds: “For all of us at Marvel, it's building upon years and years and years of storytelling, and that's when you can do an alternate version, that's the only time you can have reason and have meaning, because you and the Marvel fan understand it. If you just come out of the gate with an alternate reality, and you don't know the stories, you're like, 'Well, I don't understand, why is this different?' So it's [about] building up that time.
“And all of us at Marvel, we're all cutting loose, you know? And that's what's so fun about Future Revolution, we just said to Netmarble, 'Hey, you're the chef'. Right? You want to build this open world with these different versions of the characters - we're going to give you all the ingredients. You pick the ingredients, and you put them together in a surprising and delightful way. And that's what the team has done.”
The ingredients they’ve picked are interesting ones, too. Marvel Future Revolution will see multiple alternate realities being forced together – due to a big sci-fi cataclysm (which was previously teased in Future Fight), the game takes place on a version of Earth that now plays host to a Hydra Empire from one dimension, an Asgardian settlement from another reality, and even a version of Sakaar (the gladiator planet seen in Thor: Ragnarok).
It’s highly ambitious for a mobile game, so much so that Rosemann says some of his colleagues at Marvel thought it was an upcoming console game when they first saw it. And even though it may not have explicit story connections to the other Marvel titles that have come to market during Rosemann’s tenure at the helm, there are heaps of behind-the-scenes links for returning fans to enjoy in this unique spin on the Marvel multiverse.
Follow Radio Times Gaming on Twitter for all the latest insights, or visit our video game release schedule for all upcoming games on consoles. Swing by our hubs for more Gaming and Technology news, and if you're a Marvel fan, don't miss our round-up of Marvel gifts. Or if you're looking for something to watch, see our TV Guide.