Marvel Rivals developers apologize for ‘unpleasant experiences’ caused by strict influencer contracts


Shooting yourself in the foot to ruin a winning formula seems to be a time-honored tradition in the gaming industry these days. Today, look no further than Marvel Rivals, an Overwatch-style hero shooter starring all your favorite Marvel characters (just not the way you know them, because actor likenesses are expensive).

In pre-release contracts handed out to certain gaming influencers, Marvel Rivals developer NetEase included a clause stipulating no “subjective negative reviews” could be made about the game, only to now walk it back after widespread backlash.

The non-disparagement clause in full, as presented by Seagull. Image via A_Seagull on Twitch

The exact nature of the May non-disparagement clause was initially widely publicized by Overwatch streamer Seagull, who displayed the terms onscreen during a stream and confirmed with other content creators they were genuine. With even “satirical” comments prohibited by the terms of the contract, it became apparent that anything but wholehearted praise for the game was strictly prohibited by NetEase.

Now, NetEase has walked back the terms and apologized for their initially strict limits in statements sent to various publications, including Dot Esports, as well as a public Discord announcement. The May 12 statement explained the contract as a “draft version aiming for long-term cooperations with the creators interested in Marvel Rivals” and recognized the “inappropriate and misleading terms at the first time when involved creators feedbacked.”

The Discord statement echoes much the same sentiment, reiterating this entire thing was supposedly a “miscommunication” and that the Rivals studio is now “working on revise [sic] the miscommunication terms,” with the devs committing to “always welcome creators join our community and create amazing contents together with us.”

Despite NetEase’s insistence this was all just a misunderstanding, the terms as outlined look fairly cut and dry: Please don’t say anything bad about our game. Time will tell what the revised terms NetEase have pledged to work on will look like, but the damage may already be done. Seagull—a big name in Overwatch with the power to put a lot of eyes on the game—has sworn off ever playing Marvel Rivals again as a result of the contract’s initial form.

Other streamers have spoken out against the terms, with the wider fan response seeming to be on their side. One commenter notes Seagull “should have stuck to League,” which has its own problems, though clauses like this aren’t among them.

Regardless of this controversy, it’s entirely likely the strength of Marvel Rivals’ gameplay and the ubiquity of its IP could carry it into the mainstream of the genre all the same, especially once it hits shelves with a full release later this year. That remains to be seen across the rest of the game’s closed alpha test, which runs until May 21.

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