You’d be excused if last weekend’s D23 Expo fell off your radar. The biannual Disney convention isn’t exactly known for big gaming news, and having been sandwiched between Gamescom, PAX West, a Nintendo Direct, and a Sony State of Play, all while airing at the same time as Ubisoft Forward didn’t help either. But if you didn’t catch the Disney and Marvel Games Showcase, you missed one of the most exciting reveal streams of the year. Disney may have backed out of video game publishing more than six years ago, but now it’s making a big push by partnering with well established studios and pairing each of them with films and characters that match their strengths and style. Here’s a rundown of all the games revealed at D23 Expo along with links to our coverage of each.
The showcase opened with a reveal of Tron: Identity, a visual novel detective game in development at Bithell Games. Mike Bithell’s studio, best known for games like Subsurface Circular, Volume, and Thomas Was Alone, is no stranger to contemplative, emotionally gripping stories about artificial intelligence and futuristic technology. In an interview after the reveal, Bithell says Tron: Identity is Subsurface Circular taken to the next level: “That kind of choice-based and character-led story stuff just felt like something I wanted to see a Tron game do.”
Tron: Identity is coming to PC and console next year. Check out our full interview with creative director Mike Bithell here.
Disney Illusion Island
Disney Illusion Island is the next game from Dlala, the studio behind the Battletoads remake. It’s a four-player co-op platformer starring Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald Duck, coming exclusively to Switch next year. Unlike similar 2D platformers, like New Super Mario Bros. and Rayman Legends, Illusion Island is not level-based. Rather, it features one continuous map to explore, with collectible upgrades that make accessing new zones possible. Dlala was actually developing a different Mickey Mouse game with Disney before it shut down its publishing arm in 2016, but towards the end of development on Battletoads, the studio got another opportunity to work with the Mouse. Dlala CEO AJ Grand-Scrutton says the development team is filled with lifelong Mickey fans, and he even keeps his personal copy of Castle of Illusion sitting on his desk.
Disney Illusion Island is a Switch-exclusive and couch co-op only. Check out our full interview with Dlala CEO AJ Grand-Scrutton .
Marvel World Of Heroes
When Pokemon Go creator Niantic acquired Seismic Games, the studio behind Marvel Strike Force, the two teams set out to combine their expertise and create a location based Go-like set in the Marvel universe. In World of Heroes you will create your own superhero and patrol your real life neighborhood alongside the Avengers. Executive producer Phil Hong tells me that World of Heroes will have plenty of parallels to Pokemon Go, but it will go much deeper into character customization and player personality. He also says “location awareness” is a key feature for WoH, which means integrating real-life places with missions. One example he shares is going to stop a bank heist at an actual bank.
Marvel World of Heroes doesn’t have a release date yet, but EP Phil Hong offered plenty of insights in our D23 Expo interview.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns
After multiple delays, XCOM creators Firaxis finally revealed the release date for Marvel’s Midnight Suns at D23 Expo. The massive, 60+ hour tactical RPG is coming to PC and console December 2, just in time to swallow everyone’s winter break whole. Creative director Jake Solomon and producer Garth DeAngelis say a single playthrough of Midnight Suns won’t be enough to see everything it has to offer. In fact, despite sporting a roster of 13 Marvel heroes, including Blade, Ghost Rider, and Spider-Man, the creators say you’ll only be able to max level two or three of them by the time you finish the campaign. This is the biggest game Firaxis has ever made. Congrats, fellow tactics nerds.
Here’s our full interview with Midnight Suns’ Jake Solomon and Garth DeAngelis.
The Marvel digital CCG has been in closed beta for the last four months, but the official release date was finally announced at D23 Expo. You’ll be able to get your hands on Marvel Snap on PC and mobile October 18 and it’s completely free to play. Marvel Snap does a lot of things different from most other collectible card games. Decks only contain 12 cards, matches only last two minutes, and there are no packs to open. Studio head and former Hearthstone director Ben Brode says they wanted to make a game that was simple to learn and accessible but had infinite depth for players to master. Brode also elaborated on the dust up around Nexus Events, a failed attempt to add loot boxes to the game earlier this year. Nexus Events were quickly removed from the game completely after significant player backlash, and Brode says everyone on the team agreed that the players were right and the monetization model was not a good fit for Snap. That kind of prompt response is exceedingly rare, and the studio’s ability to react quickly bodes well for the future of Marvel Snap.
Check out our full interview with Marvel Snap’s Ben Brode ahead of global launch on October 18.
While not featured at the Disney and Marvel Games Showcase, upcoming trading card game Disney Lorcana made its debut at D23 Expo with the reveal of the first seven cards that will be part of the debut set, The First Chapter, when it launches next fall. Disney Lorcana features classic and reimagined characters from every era Disney animation, but will be limited to only movies and characters made by Walt Disney Animation Studios proper - so no Pixar, Marvel, or Star Wars, at least for now. The publisher behind Lorcana, Ravensburger, sold just 900 Collector’s Sets at the convention, each card marked with an exclusive 1st Edition and D23 stamp.
To learn more about Disney Lorcana, check out our interview with brand manager and co-designer Ryan Miller, who has decades of experience working on trading card games.
Skydance New Media Captain America/Black Panther Game
The most mysterious reveal at the showcase was the untitled Captain America and Black Panther team up game, currently in development at the recently founded Skydance New Media studio. Led by Uncharted’s Amy Hennig, the game is set during World War Two and features four playable characters, including Howling Commando Gabriel Jones and Wakandan queen Nanli. The game is still in early development, but Hennig told attendees in an onstage interview that those who have played her previous games will have a good idea of what kind of experience to expect.