Marvel's Avengers is still dragging badly on Steam—its average concurrent player count over the past 30 days is just barely above 800—but the recent addition to Xbox Game Pass has given it a real boost on other platforms. That's not terribly surprising: People are generally a lot more likely to play a free game than one that costs $40, after all.
But instead of the bump in goodwill you might expect, a good portion of the player community is very unhappy. The problem is that shortly after the Game Pass appearance, Square Enix began selling consumable XP boosters in the game, ranging in price from 100 to 500 credits. A pack of 500 credits sells for $5.
There are two main reasons that players are upset by this. First, developers increased the grind—that is, slowed the levelling process—in March, and second, it contradicts a promise the studio made in June 2019 that Marvel's Avengers "won't have random loot boxes or pay to win scenarios."
Some players in this Steam thread, for instance, dispute the characterization of the XP boosters as "pay to win," because there's no PvP element to the game: People willing to pony up for the consumable will advance faster than those who are not, but it doesn't really impact anyone else's game either way. Others express concern that the in-game store will continue to shift to more of a free-to-play style, and that the free consumables currently offered to players will eventually be phased out completely.
Unhappiness over the sense that Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix have gone back on their word seems a little trickier to debate, especially among long-timer players. "SE and CD decided a long time ago that new players were their priority and those of us that pre ordered were paid beta testers," a redditor named FantasticMeddler wrote. "They could give a fuck for any existing players except the whales."
"They blatantly and repeatedly stated there would be no Loot Boxes or Pay-to-win mechanics," Motor_Structure7156 added in a separate post. "Labeling it `Pay-to-progress-a-bit-faster` is more accurate perhaps but it does not negate the lie that they told. If I am ignorant or disingenuous for calling a spade a spade and not a `human-tool digging interface appliance` then so be it."
It's not a universal blowback, but there certainly appears to be enough of it to be concerning for a game that's struggled to find an audience since it launched. Naturally, there are threats to quit the game outright amongst all the complaints; I suspect that most aren't serious (and a few even admit that's the case) but even so, I have to think that there's some concern the change will do more harm than good in the long run.
I'm not unsympathetic to player complaints, but I do think that maybe people could be a little more understanding about videogame monetization commitments made more than two years previous, under very different (and far more hopeful) conditions. Marvel's Avengers was underperforming badly, and while putting it on Game Pass will juice the player count, it doesn't mean anything if that can't be translated into a revenue boost as well. The absence of PvP means no harm is done to individual player experiences, and the choice between new, expanded monetization models and pulling the plug on the whole thing seems like a pretty easy one to me.