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The Real Reason Marvel Canceled This Open World Iron Man Game

Iron Man has been going strong since his first appearance in Marvel Comics' "Tales of Suspense" #39 all the way back in 1963. The character became a household name when he finally made the jump to the big screen, launching the MCU and revitalizing the career of Robert Downey Jr. in a major way. With multiple films under his armored belt and action figures still gracing store shelves, the character clearly has staying power and crossover appeal. However, for some reason, Iron Man has never had much luck when it comes to his video game appearances. "Marvel's Avengers" bombed in sales in 2020, while Activision's impressive-looking Iron Man game was canned after multiple delays in the mid-2000s. And now, a key figure behind a fan favorite open world franchise has talked about how close comics book fans came to getting a AAA Iron Man game, only for the character's rights holders to send it to the scrap heap.

In a new episode of "The MinnMax Show," host Ben Hanson sat down with Avalanche Studios co-founder Christofer Sundberg to talk about his career, and the conversation eventually led to talk of Ol' Shellhead himself. Avalanche Studios, of course, is the developer behind the beloved "Just Cause" series, which puts players in the boots of secret agent Rico Rodriguez as he faces the elements and takes on terrorist cells and enemy armies in a vast open world. While this might not sound like the first studio one would think of when developing the "Iron Man" IP into a video game, it seems like Avalanche was very passionate about the project. Unfortunately, Iron Man's open world adventure, which was in development around the same time as the film "Iron Man 3," was not meant to be.

Why Avalanche's Iron Man didn't work out

Sundberg was a bit hesitant when Ben Hanson first brought up the "Iron Man" project, telling the "MinnMax Show" that he could not go into too many details about the canceled game or what it would have entailed. However, he did confirm that the game was in active development for at least two years, and he offered a glimpse into why things didn't work out between Avalanche Studios and Marvel Entertainment. 

When Hanson asked what ultimately stood in the way of "Iron Man" making it to consoles, Sundberg replied, "Company politics. I was a mess by the end. It was, like, shortening development time, increasing budgets. We would have to hire 70, 80 people to a team that I would've had the responsibility to find a new project for. But the development time was shortened down so much, so it was ... impossible."

Hanson pointed out that it's not often one hears of a studio not being able to deliver because they've been given too big of a budget. However, Sundberg explained that the shortened production time meant he would have had even less time to find his team's next project to follow up "Iron Man," which would have been especially difficult if he'd hired on another 80 people to get "Iron Man" done in time. As Sundberg put it, "It would've broken the studio completely if we had agreed to that." 

Ultimately, Marvel and Disney's timetable was not conducive to making the project happen, and the project dissolved. According to Cristofer Sundberg, this is a real shame, because the game that Avalanche had in mind might have been what Iron Man fans have always wanted.

What would Avalanche's Iron Man have been like?

Sundberg explained that he couldn't remember a ton of details from the game — after all, a decade has passed since his team worked on it. However, he did tease that players would have been able to fly around the game's open world. He also surprised Ben Hanson by revealing that the team put a heavy emphasis on melee combat, which is a surprising move for a character so closely associated with high-tech weaponry. Of course, Iron Man would also have been able to use his repulsor blasts to knock enemies through walls during these close-quarters fights. Those seemed to be about the only specifics Sundberg could share about the project, but he reiterated that the game could have been something really impressive, and he lamented the fact that it didn't pan out.

For what it's worth, an "Iron Man 3" game was actually released in 2013 — but it didn't exactly blow fans away. Instead, "Iron Man 3: The Official Game" was an endless runner mobile game from Gameloft that acted as a pseudo-sequel to the movie. It received mixed reviews from critics, with many deriding its lag and abundant microtransactions. With the character set to make an appearance in "Marvel's Midnight Suns," maybe fans will finally get the thrilling Iron Man video game experience they've been waiting for.