Spider-Man Won’t Get a Multiplayer Game, and That’s Just Fine

Spider-Man Won’t Get a Multiplayer Game, and That’s Just Fine

Spider-Man is one of the most popular superheroes ever, and for many, he’s at his most exciting when he’s hanging around with other Spider-heroes. The success of the Spider-Verse movies and Spider-Man: No Way Home proves this more than most, but that wave has yet to really hit games beyond the two-hero exploits of the Marvel’s Spider-Man titles.

Fans have wanted a multiplayer Spider-Man game for years, and last year’s Insomniac hack revealed the studio was working on a live-service project to potentially deliver on those ambitions. Known as Spider-Man: The Great Web, its trailer recently leaked and showed off five Spider-heroes swinging through New York, stopping random crimes, and fighting with different Spider-Man villains. While we won’t link the trailer or any screenshots here, it looks like it’s basically ready to come out, which makes it ironic that it won’t be coming out at all.

At some point prior to the hack, Sony seemingly decided to scrap Great Web entirely. Presumably, some of this was steeped in fears of the game’s potential falloff: 2023 saw several live-service games close down at a consistent cadence, from years-old (Crossfire X and Rocket Arena from EA) to fairly young (Knockout City and Babylon’s Fall). Hearing that something has been canceled is never great, especially in this day and age, but Great Web getting the boot may be a blessing in disguise.

Spider-Man and Spider-Man vs. Venom in the promo for Marvel's Spider-Man 2.

Image: Insomniac Games/PlayStation

If you weren’t paying attention to video games in 2023, it truly was not the year for titles with battle passes and roadmaps, something even Sony eventually had to concede. In 2022 , it hoped to deliver a dozen live-service games by 2025, and last year, that number was cut in half to six. Flash forward to this past February, several unannounced projects were canceled alongside wider PlayStation layoffs, one of which was a live-service Twisted Metal title. Naughty Dog made its own call to kill its already struggling Last of Us multiplayer project because it understood that when you’re a live-service studio, something has to give, and it wasn’t going to give up making authored single-player experiences like The Last of Us and Uncharted. If there’s any downside to how Great Web shook out, it’s that Insomniac didn’t apparently make that choice on its own, even as it seemed to recognize that blockbuster game developerment was fundamentally broken.

Though it’s cool to see five webheads juggling multiple baddies at once in Great Web’s trailer, superheroes have proven they’re not entirely built for all that live-service entails, something we’ve seen throughout this decade. In 2020, Marvel’s Avengers called it after three years, and while it’s too early to dictate Rocksteady’s Suicide Squad game, it’s not a great sign that WB already voiced its displeasure with that title’s performance. What’s more, players seem to agree: the Steam player count for Batman: Arkham Knight shot up not long after Squad’s launch. Superhero games where the heroes are in isolated pockets of their own universe are having substantially more success, as evidenced by Spider-Man 2 selling 10 million copies in less than six months.

Image for article titled Spider-Man Won't Get a Multiplayer Game, and That's Just Fine

Image: Sony Animation/Marvel

Making ongoing multiplayer games is expensive, and comes with many hurdles if you’ve never done it before. Publishers love the idea of a Forever Game, which players come back to on a daily or weekly basis. But the fact is, we’ve been here before, and the Forever Game can’t really exist—both because we all just fall off games eventually, and we’ve been burnt out by every game trying to take that title. Players only really want to play something long-term like Call of Duty or Fortnite because they showed up first. Anything else isn’t terribly long for this world, unless the developer decides to close things on its own terms. Turtle Rock made the choice to end Back 4 Blood after three expansions, and it was a much braver statement than letting it go on until it basically couldn’t.

What is the future of superhero games? Within the 2020s alone, we’ve had open-world epics, looter shooters, narrative adventures, and card-based RPGs. While there are plenty of places for the space to go, live-service doesn’t appear to be it, and it’s okay to admit that. Similar burnouts have already hit heroes in other mediums, especially in films that have shown a more personal touch is preferable to constant spectacle. These may be characters whose stories will keep going long after we’ve all died, but that doesn’t mean everything they touch needs to go on forever as well.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

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