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SXSW: Marvel Execs Talk Developments in Gaming, ‘Avengers Alliance’

On the Geek Stage at SXSW’s Interactive Festival main hall, Marvel execs chanted their lifelong mantra of keeping the fans part of the Marvel world.

“We’re here to talk about how you are part of the Marvel universe,” Arune Singh, Marvel’s exec director of TV communications, said. “Since the beginning, we’ve made our fans part of the our universe.”

And they made good on that promise by patching in via satellite Brian Michael Bendis, the creator and producer of the Marvel comics “Ultimate Spider-Man” and “New Avengers,” and Clark Gregg, star of ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Marvel revealed a few new tricks up its sleeve, including an updated version of Marvel Augmented Reality that debuted at SXSW in 2012, new anniversary editions of “Ultimate Spider-Man,” “X-Men” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and an application programming interface enabling programmers to access Marvel artwork,  pull data and develop their own websites.

“You might have noticed that certain similarities and threads touch from one game to the next,” said TQ Jefferson, Marvel’s VP of games, regarding new developments in Marvel’s gaming space. “Much like you see in publishing and film, we’re trying to build a gaming universe connected by common elements and narrative into a larger gaming initiative.”

The two-year-old “Avengers Alliance,” which started as a free Facebook app, now has more than 50 million players. It’s still free to play and now available on four gaming platforms. Jefferson said the much-anticipated Chapter 5 will debut soon.

Thanks to Hollywood blockbusters like “Captain America,” The Falcon, Steve Rogers (Captain America’s alter ego), Winter Soldier and Batroc the Leaper have joined the Marvel gaming universe.

“Especially Batroc, we wouldn’t have gotten him anytime soon,” Jefferson admitted. “It’s really thanks to the film.”

Exec editorial director Ryan Penagos noted that the company has been devoted to its loyal fanbase since inception.

“Stan [Lee] was getting in touch with the fans, creating fan club experiences and the like over 50 years ago,” Penagos said. “It’s been part of our DNA.”

Penagos was one of the first pioneers of Marvel’s more recent fan-outreach efforts, heralding Twitter back when it was Twitter.com with a homepage.

“I realize that every brand is on Twitter now, but we’re not your car brands or food brands,” he said. “We’re you guys. We want to make sure what we’re talking about is as exciting to you as it is to us. And we don’t hire someone to answer your questions. We do it ourselves.”

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