Christopher Judge, best known to gamers for his portrayal of Kratos in God of War (although he'll always be First Prime of Apophis to me), is joining the Marvel's Avengers cast as the voice of Black Panther. The new character will be added as part of the War for Wakanda DLC that's set to arrive in August.
According to an EW report, Judge was initially hesitant to take on the role, saying he "turned it down straight away" when it was first offered because of the legacy of Chadwick Boseman, who earned acclaim for playing the character through four Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Boseman died in 2020 four years after being diagnosed with colon cancer. Judge eventually relented, however: "My mother and my children said if I didn't do it, they would disown me."
"To be quite honest, I was fearful of being compared to what Chadwick had so wonderfully done," Judge said. "The only way I could really wrap my head around it was to not even attempt a voice match, to let my performance stand on its own. I put all that into it and hopefully people like it."
The effort to ensure Judge's performance stands on its own is being aided by Evan Narcisse, writer of the 2018 Rise of the Black Panther series, who served as a narrative consultant on the War for Wakanda DLC. "I want to double down on the idea that this is its own iteration of the Black Panther mythos," Narcisse said. "Even if you know the comics and can quote the movie by heart, there are still going to be some surprises."
"Chadwick's performance was somebody who had more questions about how to perform the role of Black Panther and king. This version doesn't have those questions. He already thinks he has all the answers. I think one of the cool things in this expansion is there's tension between him and [his sister] Shuri like we haven't seen before about how best to move Wakanda forward."
We're pleased to welcome Evan Narcisse (@EvNarc) as our Narrative Consultant on the the War for Wakanda Expansion.Meet him on our livestream this Friday, July 16 at 10:30AM PT! Reply here for any questions you may have for him.📝 https://t.co/kRf93wAT37 pic.twitter.com/8TRhhFtEkhJuly 15, 2021
The big question, of course, is whether the addition of Black Panther and the Wakanda setting will spark new interest in Marvel's Avengers. Despite its pedigree (which, to be clear, is based on the comics, not the movie franchise), the game has not attracted a significant number of players: As indicated by Steam Charts, its monthly average concurrent player count was barely over 400 in February 2021, less than six months after it launched. There was a bounce in March following the release of the Hawkeye DLC (which was actually quite good) but not enough to move the average player count over 1,000, and by June it was back down to just 578.
Fraser opined in March that a possible move to free-to-play (which still hasn't happened—Marvel's Avengers remains a premium-priced game) wouldn't be enough to save Marvel's Avengers, because "it's a solution to a problem it doesn't actually have": The issue isn't price, it's that the fun ends when the campaign does. We'll find out in August whether War for Wakanda addresses that shortcoming. A release date hasn't been announced yet, but Judge, Narcisse, and War for Wakanda narrative lead Hannah MacLeod will reveal more about the expansion during a Twitch livestream (opens in new tab) beginning at 10 am PT/1 pm ET on July 16.