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Killer Instinct and the Price of Free-to-Play Fighters

We already knew that the new Killer Instinct was free-to-play, but now you know how much it'll set you back. (Not much.)

By Mike Williams. Published 8 months ago

When Microsoft announced the new Killer Instinct, I was a bit surprised and a bit floored. One of my favorite fighting games was making a return, but it was coming back as a free-to-play title under the development arm of Double Helix. The "free-to-play" set off warning flags in my head because free-to-play is fickle beast. Microtransactions that are too high can ruin a game that's actually pretty good.

Killer Instinct isn't the first fighting game to go free-to-play. Tekken Revolution and Dead or Alive Ultimate: Core Fighters are two other fighters trying out the business model. Both games use completely different versions of microtransactions for gameplay and characters.

Tekken Revolution is the first out of the gate and was released exclusively for PlayStation 3 in June. The game offers up eight fighters from the get-go, but actually playing the game costs coins that replenish at a set rate. You can either wait for those coins to pop back up, or buy more coins for arcade, online, and ranked matches. The other 10 characters unlock as you reach specific tiers of gift points, so it's just a waiting game to increase the roster. On top of that, alternate costumes are available for purchase.

Dead of Alive Ultimate: Core Fighters hasn't been released yet, but is also exclusive to PlayStation 3. DoA gives you four free fighters to start: series mainstays Ryu, Hayate, Kasumi, and Ayane. Each character beyond that costs $4 and the story mode costs $15.

Wow. They brought back Chief Thunder.

Killer Instinct on Xbox One trends closer to Dead or Alive Ultimate: Core Fighters and offers a single free playable character (Jago) at download. Additional characters out of the 8 character roster will cost $4.99 each. Players can also buy two special bundles for Killer Instinct, starting with the Combo Breaker pack, which gives you all eight characters for $19.99. The second bundle is the Ultra Edition, which nets you all 8 characters, character accessory packs, all character costumes, and the original Killer Instinct for $39.99. For decent price price, you get everything Killer Instinct has to offer at launch.

Eight characters is a bit low for a fighting game roster - Persona 4 Arena started with 10 and that was on the low side compared to Injustice's 26 characters - but being free-to-play means we can probably expect more characters to be added over time. At the prices above, Killer Instinct is really a straight-up fighting game with a free-to-play demo. This lowers the barrier for entry, something that has worked well for the growing populations of free-to-play MOBAs, card battle games, and MMOs. You could buy just two characters, but at that point, you might as well pony up the extra $10 and get the rest of the cast.

At these levels, a free-to-play fighter doesn't bother me. It's when we reach rosters rivaling Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 that I begin to worry about the free-to-play future. 50 characters at $4 or $5 a pop could lead to some strained wallets or a picky playerbase.

Killer Instinct is a launch title for the Xbox One. So far, Jago, Sabrewulf, Glacius, and Chief Thunder have been announced as playable characters.

The best community comments so far 4 comments

  • lonecow 8 months ago

    I think one thing that has changed in fighting games over the years, and I might get laughed at for saying this, is that in the new fighting games that are successful they have characters you actually like.

    The main reason I play fighters these days are because I find the characters and their stories interesting. BlazBlue has a fantastic story, and Ragna is a really likeable protagonist. Street Fighter IV really fleshed out the characters and their motivations. Persona 4 Arena, or course already comes with characters you like and care about.

    But even series like DOA, Tekken and Mortal Kombat really put time and effort into story modes that are enjoyable.

    Story and character have become important in fighting games as a motivation for playing.

    I look at Killer Instinct and all I see are bags of meat punching each other. Perhaps I am wrong, but I don't see anything that defines one character from the other, and no personality in any of them. It very much looks like a fighting game from the mid 90s. And where these other series that started when KI started have evolved and grown over the years, Killer Instinct has not.

  • Captain Gonru 8 months ago

    While fun in its day, I have to wonder if there is really a demand for this. I mean, it has been, what, 15 years, since the last one? For its own sake, I hope it's good. I'm just not terribly hopeful.

  • Stealth20k 8 months ago

    The game is a rip off

View 4 comments

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