For the last few years, Activision has made pretty good use of its Marvel license, publishing the last few Spider-Man games, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Deadpool to name a few. Activision's licensing deal for Marvel titles has ended alongside the 2013 calendar year.

The problem? Games are disappearing from digital marketplaces.

Deadpool was the first title anyone noticed, after it disappeared from Steam just days after being a part of Steam's year-end sale. Game Informer was then able to confirm with Activision that the end of their licensing agreement also signals the end of their ability to publish and distribute those titles. They've been removed from digital marketplaces on Xbox, PlayStation 3 and PC with no plans for the titles to return.

There's not really any debate anymore about whether games are art. Even with that, they exist in the same space as other profit-driven art like movies and television shows. They are, unfortunately, subject to licensing agreements. This sort of thing happens with Netflix and other streaming services as well, with the primary difference being that games like Deadpool, which was released just six months ago, aren't part of some subscription program, but rather had their own individual purchase prices.

We're trying to confirm that people who bought Deadpool and other titles that were on sale on Steam this week can still download them, and will update this story once we have verification. Most titles bought on Steam stay in user libraries, though.

This is a reminder that these complicated licensing agreements mean any game that is based off a popular franchise, whether it's a comic book, a sport, a movie, or even another game franchise, can disappear from digital marketplaces at a moment's notice. If you're interested in any of the Marvel titles published by Activision, they're still available at retail on disc, as long as the current stock lasts.

Here's the list of Activision-published Marvel games that have disappeared:

  • Deadpool
  • Spider-Man: Friend or Foe
  • Spider-Man: Web of Shadows
  • Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions
  • Spider-Man: Edge of Time
  • X-Men: The Official Game
  • X-Men Destiny
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine 

The status of Activision's upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (coinciding with the upcoming movie) is unknown right now. The publisher, obviously, knew about the upcoming expiration, so it may be that that game is under a separate license or might even be licensed through Sony, who owns the movie rights to the character.