MultiVersus: What went wrong?

By Luke Albigés,

Free-to-play crossover fighting game MultiVersus got off to a flying start last year, with millions of players jumping into the chaotic action. So where did the hype go for a game starring some of media's most iconic characters?

MultiVersus launched in beta last summer and quickly earned a spot among the best free Xbox games, thanks to its crazy crossover cast spanning movies, TV, comics, and more, not to mention its fun, fast-paced fighting. The brain-breaking breadth of the game's roster played a sizeable part in creating the massive buzz around MultiVersus at launch, leading to all kinds of wild speculation about which characters from the Warner archives could be next to join the fight, while the novelty of things like throwing Ultra Instinct Shaggy into battle with Batman in the game itself was also helping the bonkers brawler garner a lot of attention. The hype train hit full steam ahead when Season 1 began in mid-August, with news, updates, and content dropping on an almost weekly basis, including some of the fastest new character rollout we've seen in a fighting game — almost one every two weeks, with five extra fighters added over the course of the three-month first season.

Season 2 has been a different story. It was originally due to end this week, and so far, we've had just one new character in Marvin the Martian back in November, one new stage (as well as a few revised old ones), and some tweaks and fixes along the way, but that breakneck pace that made MultiVersus such a wild ride to begin with just hasn't been there for months now. Heck, even the loading screen is still the one from Season 1. Season 2 has now been extended until the end of March, but with no news about any additional characters either for this season or next, while the game is still enjoyable, we were so spoiled by that early content blitz that MultiVersus can't help but feel a bit lifeless now it's gone. It felt unsustainable at the time, else more games would have been hitting that impressive content cadence, and now, it's starting to seem like it actually might be. So what happened? The short answer is 'a lot of things,' so let's take a look at a few of the likely and possible key factors.

MultiVersus' player base has been dwindling for a while

MultiVersus Xbox release date

When millions of people are actively playing your ongoing game, of course you need to make sure they're constantly given a reason to come back. But as that player count drops off, there's not so much pressure to be delivering new content week in, week out, and drop off it indeed did. Based on our own Xbox Gameplay Chart data, MultiVersus' player base seemingly started to wane even before the first season was over, and let's not forget that this is a chart where free-to-play titles and live service games basically own the top spots. MultiVersus managed to break into the top five in its first full week in open beta — a feat only the most popular titles tend to pull off — and stuck around in the top ten right up into the first few weeks of Season 1. It slowly fell off further over the coming weeks before dropping like a stone, tumbling out of the top 40 entirely by mid-October, only returning for one week near the bottom of the top 40 when Season 2 started. Today, it's nowhere near the top 40... well outside the top 100, in fact, and with fewer players than the likes of Dragon Ball FighterZ and Injustice 2. Last week's player numbers by our count were down to just 4% of what they were at its peak back in August last year, and while these are just a sample of Xbox numbers, Steam numbers look to tell a similar tale.

SteamDB shows a steep drop-off in MultiVersus players during Season 1, with the game losing a lot of interest even before then — its peak of a little over 150,000 concurrent players came right after first releasing in open beta, with around 2/3 of those not sticking around to even see the start of the first season. It later fell further still to just around 3,000 concurrents by the start of Season 2, just around 2% of its numbers in its prime, down again to a little over 1,000 as of last week. There's still enough of a player base combined to ensure that matchmaking is still pretty snappy (thanks, cross-play!), but we were sort of expecting to see more up-and-down movement in player counts as fans of the new characters started or came back to the game to check them out, which hasn't seemed to happen to any noticeable degree. You have to wonder at this point whether any character or IP added to the game, no matter how big, could push it even remotely close to those lofty early numbers, and that's going to be a problem for an ongoing game like MultiVersus.

Aggressive monetisation likely won't have helped

multiversus xbox future

If you've played MultiVersus at all, you'll know just how expensive some of the cosmetics can get. Paid currency Gleamium can buy you all sorts of shiny new things, from alternate costumes to ring-out animations and profile flair, with the top-end character skins running you almost $20 a pop. While that's not that wild compared to some money-hungry F2P games, MultiVersus runs into an issue with its Battle Pass that a lot of the big free games don't have. The Season 2 Battle Pass included four outfits as some of the highlight rewards, three of which are for characters I don't even use, meaning players in this situation are left to either wait months for a new season and hope their mains get some love, or hit the store and splash some Gleamium. Speaking of characters, they too can be unlocked permanently with the premium currency, although the better option is to save up Gold earned in-game and grab them that way, even if it takes a while. But with so few other things available using non-premium currency, MultiVersus really can feel like the toy advert it sort of is at times.

Not having the premium currency included in the Battle Pass rewards seems like an error here too, looking at those player counts, as games like Fortnite where the Battle Pass effectively pays for itself season after season if you play regularly really seem to work wonders in keeping player counts up. Speaking from experience as someone who played a lot of Fortnite for a while, that's not even always the case, and sitting on a decent sum of currency makes it all the easier to make impulse purchases when something neat drops rather than saving diligently for the following pass. Like many others, I'm happy to put money into a free game that I'm having a good time with, and have done so with MultiVersus, but without having that extra flow of premium currency from the Battle Pass, every purchase involves reaching for your wallet, and each time just drives home how much of the game's extra goodies are cash-only sales... especially when even little things like narrator packs (which could be bought with Gold in the beta, as I recall) are sold for a premium.

Did the Warner/Discovery merger affect MultiVersus after all?

multiversus 20 million players

While game director Tony Huynh previously stated that MultiVersus would not be affected by the big changes that took place at Warner last year with the Discovery merger, this was a huge deal that will have lasting impacts, not all of which will have been made aware at the time. We can only speculate, of course, but who's to say that the new top brass haven't requested changes to the game's future content as they have so much of the rest of Warner's portfolio, possibly leading to wasted dev time on stuff that won't get used any more or meaning shifts to prioritise things that weren't originally in the development plan? It could be a factor but since we can't know for sure, we should probably leave this one here... go any deeper down Bugs' rabbit hole and we'll end up spending weeks theory-crafting what-ifs after taking a wrong turn at Albuquerque.

Ongoing voiceover work has been hit pretty hard

multiversus xbox future

One of the best things about MultiVersus is the interplay between characters from different universes, and from Garnet dunking on Batman to Superman worrying about Shaggy's power levels, there's some genuine gold in the game's dialogue. The problem here arises in that every new character added introduces exponentially more match-up permutations, with voice actors either needing to get their lines recorded early for potential upcoming characters (hence a lot of the early leaks and rumours) or return to the booth each time they're needed... and that's not always possible. An ever-growing cast means an ever-growing pool of talent, and every new voice just makes that availability challenge even greater. While there are a few sound-alikes in the game already, it'd probably be quite noticeable and jarring if lines changed slightly in delivery from one moment to the next due to a sub filling in. Getting a new actor or actress to re-record the existing lines and add new ones would be a fairly inelegant and expensive solution, but it's one of the only ones Player First Games has in a few cases now.

Since the tragic passing of famed Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy, the team hasn't been able to add any new dialogue for Bats (especially unfortunate considering his interactions were among some of the best), but what's the solution? Leave him with nothing to say about any of the new characters while keeping the existing lines as a tribute to the popular actor, or cut him from the game and recast the character moving forward? It's a lose/lose situation for the dev team really, and one of the perils about doubling down on licensed character interplay in a live service game, not to mention not the only example in the game already. Now that Adult Swim has cut ties with Rick & Morty co-creator and VA Justin Roiland, what's the play with the pair of them? The studio has said that the show will continue without Roiland, so in theory, all Player First can do is leave the duo as they are until the show picks up with new actors and re-record their lines (or repurpose ones from the show as seems to be the case with them right now). MultiVersus really made a rod for its own back with this wonderful idea of having inter-universe banter, and like the early flood of content, it just seems to be unsustainable in the long term.

Is MultiVersus shutting down?


Like the Warner/Discovery thing, let's not get too deep into this one as there's no actual evidence that MultiVersus could be closing down any time soon. But based on a few recent details, it's something that fans have been discussing and it's worth at least a mention. Season 2's relative dearth of content compared to the barrage of new stuff that we had in the previous one came over as a bit of a red flag, but it's no reason on its own to believe that the game could be winding down. The new end date for Season 2 falling on March 31, though, is interesting since that would be the last day of the financial year, so it's not beyond the realms of possibility that Warner could have a close eye on MultiVersus' performance to decide whether all the cash, time, and effort that goes into making something with so much love for so many franchises is actually viable. It's most likely a coincidence, sure, but still an interesting observation some fans have raised, and even if the date is unrelated, there's surely no doubt that there will be a lot of eyes on a project of this scale, at many levels.

I recently jumped back into MultiVersus after losing track of time — and interest, in truth, with so much else to play late last year and so little new stuff coming to the game — in the current season, but the extension and free booster they offered has given me ample opportunity to get this one mopped up. I do hope the game sticks around as I've had great fun with it so far, especially with friends and just spitting fire at fools online with my boy Reindog, so I'll be really interested to see what the future holds for MultiVersus. It's a game with so much potential that it really feels like we've only scratched the surface, and it'd be a real shame if it were to end up winding down before it even really had a chance to properly find its rhythm. It still seems to have a pretty lively competitive scene, which should help to a degree, but it's still kinda crazy to me that a game with this kind of star power seemingly couldn't manage to hit the big leagues. Kudos to the team for making this a fun ride so far, and I genuinely hope there's still plenty more to come from this wonderful, stupid game.

How about you? Any MultiVersus fans in the house? Thoughts and predictions on the future of the game? Let's hear 'em, but for now, that's all folks!
Luke Albigés
Written by Luke Albigés
Luke runs the TA news team, contributing where he can primarily with reviews and other long-form features — crafts he has honed across two decades of print and online gaming media experience, having worked with the likes of gamesTM, Eurogamer, Play, Retro Gamer, Edge, and many more. He loves all things Monster Hunter, enjoys a good D&D session, and has played way too much Destiny.
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