So have you been really mystified by Killer Instinct‘s pricing model? In an interview with Eurogamer, Microsoft’s Ken Lobb–creative director of first-party published Xbox One games–gives his opinions of why Killer Instinct‘s pay model is not free-to-play, why the game is the world’s “most generous demo,” and that characters will be coming out in “Seasons” that could cost gamers up to $40 a piece if they want all of the content available.
So if you haven’t kept up with Killer Instinct‘s pay plan, players will be allowed to play the entire game for free, but only with one player: Jago. Each extra character can be purchased individually for $4.99, or gamers can purchase one of two bundles: a “Combo Breaker” bundle that comes with six launch characters, stages, and a training mode, and the “Ultra Combo” bundle, whick comes with six launch characters, two DLC characters, additional stages, and the original N64 Killer Instinct.
Lobb now adds that game will release content in Seasons, with the first eight characters a part of season one, and then the next eight releasing in 2014 as a part of season two, with all content compatible with the base version of the game. Lobb says:
You can pay $20 again and now you have 16 characters, or you pay $40 again and you’ll get the everything version. But if you want to cherry pick your favourite five or six out of the first few years, go ahead, and you’ve paid fifteen, twenty, twenty five dollars, right? Instead of having to buy two full retail price things that don’t even play together.
Sounds like you’ll have to pay $80 to get just 16 characters, plus the stages and modes.
As far as the “one free character” bit, Killer Instinct will rotate the free character around every three months so that gamers can try out more than just Jago: “So in that sense you can play for free over years and sample more than just Jago,” Lobb said.
And while Jago and the game itself is free-to-play at its core, Lobb explains why Killer Instinct is not free-to-play as the industry sees it:
I just want to get as many people playing as I can. Some people are like, ‘oh, free-to-play.’ No. It’s not free-to-play.
What is free-to-play? It’s a thing you really can’t ever own at all. Day one, if you want to buy our game, buy it. You own it. There’s no grind for little coins that unlock things later. None of that.
The free part is, day one, you can download Jago for free and you get the whole game with Jago. The story mode comes later, but you get his full tutorial, full practice mode and you can go online and play against everybody. So you have the full game with just Jago.
Then if you decide you like Thunder for example, you can buy Thunder for five bucks or equivalent. Maybe that’s all you want, so why should you have to pay forty bucks? Just pay five and then you have Thunder.
If you buy the $40 pack, there are a couple of other little things you’ll be able to buy, but you’re done. It’s not like there’s some buy coins to unlock thing. That’s why I’ve always said this is not a free-to-play game.
I play a lot of free-to-play games, and some of them aren’t bad. But the reality is, I just want to push a button and own the thing. That’s what’s wrong with some free-to-play games. Especially for something like Killer Instinct, you just want to buy it. If you’re a fighting game fan you should be able to say, here’s my forty bucks, I’m just going to play.
A lot of free-to-play is about grinding and levelling your character. You can’t level a fighting game character. We have to have a balanced play field, so I don’t think that works in this space.
Now what if you buy a few characters, but then decide you want the bundle? Lobb says you can still get it, but at a small cost, saying: “It’s not like, oh shit, I just wasted fifteen bucks buying three characters, maybe I shouldn’t buy them all. No, buy them all and then you’ll get a discount.”
On the longevity of the project, Lobb said that Microsoft hopes to continue adding content to Killer Instinct for the duration of the Xbox One’s lifecycle, as long as it’s a success:
But obviously like everything else, it depends on whether it sells, but my expectation is yes. That’s the goal.
What happens if we make a game that’s a generation, but it’s really one game? That doesn’t mean we won’t refine the engine. That means we refine the engine and suddenly the older version looks better or does something different, without you having to pay.
One thing is clear: Microsoft is really trying something completely new with Killer Instinct, something never done before in the fighting game genre. But whether it works remains to be seen, and ultimately falls on we players.
In a genre where games have been re-released several times with minor and major updates over the span of a generation, does Killer Instinct really make you pay too much in the end? Or is the idea of limiting characters, the main attraction of fighting games, far too sinister?