Marvel Snap: The Dangers of the Pay-to-Win Game

Marvel Snap has taken the mobile gaming world by storm as one of the top free-to-play games available. Boasting an impressive 14 million downloads and counting, it’s clear that the game’s quality and its blend of casual and card game elements have captured the interest of players.

However, this beloved card game has recently taken a troubling turn as its popularity has grown. Marvel Snap, once known for its accessible entry point, has gradually become a pay-to-win game due to its microtransaction model. This shift is a stark departure from the game’s initial celebration for breaking that trend.

A Costly Game

Marvel Snap is a digital trading card game similar to Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering Arena. What set it apart was its beginner-friendly nature, with a focus on smaller decks and easy-to-understand mechanics. It seemed like the perfect gateway for newcomers to the world of digital and physical trading card games. Or so I thought, until I noticed the underlying problems that have emerged over time.

To truly grasp the issue, we need to delve into Marvel Snap’s card acquisition system. The game revolves around leveling up four key aspects: collection level, player ranking, owned cards, and, if available, the season’s battle pass.

Marvel Snap card list.
Image: Second Dinner

Advancing through the battle pass and achieving higher ranks rewards players with the game’s two currencies: gold and credits. Gold can be obtained through real-money purchases and is used to buy card variants and additional credits. Credits, on the other hand, are essential for upgrading cards and increasing a player’s collection level. Every four levels, players have the chance to receive Gold, credits, player icons, titles, tokens for the token shop (which offers a new random card every few hours), boosters to level up cards, and more cards.

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It’s at this point that the problem arises. Like any card game, some decks are inevitably stronger than others, and the top-tier decks require specific key cards. Unlike physical trading card games, there is no way to purchase individual cards, making Marvel Snap a game of patience when it comes to unlocking cards and playing the way you want.

This issue is amplified by the game’s matchmaking system, which pairs players with opponents of similar or slightly higher rank. However, player ranking does not necessarily equate to collection level, so some players may have more powerful decks with better synergy despite being at the same “skill level” as their opponents. This problem is further compounded by the fact that player rankings reset at the start of each season.

Marvel Snap's collection level list.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The power imbalance extends to the game’s battle pass as well, as each season introduces a highly impactful card, sometimes even altering the meta. This transforms the game from a free-to-play experience to a play-to-win scenario as you climb higher in skill. New players who join after the conclusion of previous battle passes miss out on game-changing cards that could revolutionize their playstyle.

Certainly, there are other strong cards available outside of the battle pass, but acquiring them involves months of play and hoping for lucky unlocks through the randomized collection level system. This slow progression often leads to players, including myself, reluctantly resorting to spending money on gold to unlock credits. After a certain point, it becomes the only way to compete against opponents.

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Super Skrull in Marvel Snap token shop.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

In an attempt to address player concerns, developer Nuverse introduced the Token Shop, providing an alternative way to unlock desired cards. By accumulating 1,000 to 2,000 tokens, players can access different cards that rotate in the shop every few hours. However, tokens are currently scarce. Furthermore, they are mixed in with Collection Level rewards, which means that the availability of cards and credits has significantly decreased. This well-intentioned update inadvertently exacerbates the problem, reducing opportunities for players to earn credits for free.

With each update, Marvel Snap seems to stray further from the qualities that initially garnered praise. It has evolved from a beginner-friendly experience that required no financial investment to a money sink that rewards early adopters who are willing to spend. Though it continues to maintain its popularity, it’s only a matter of time before players grow tired of emptying their wallets and seek out other alternatives.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 finally gets its fall release date at Summer Game Fest
  • Marvel Snap road map reveals new competitive mode, token shop rework
  • Marvel Snap’s Friendly Battles set a new bar for its post-launch support
  • The best mobile games of 2022: 6 must-download titles from a shockingly great year
  • Marvel Snap will fix its biggest problem by adding a new shop

Note: This article is written for OnSpec Electronic, Inc. For more information about OnSpec Electronic, Inc., visit their website.

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