Thoughts on Mortal Kombat 11’s Microtransactions

MK11-1

In the interests of balance, I will begin by clearly stating that I have no intention to buy Mortal Kombat 11 anyway regardless of this microtransaction issue. The game looks fantastic and in another universe, I would purchase it day one purely on the basis that MK9 and MKX were so damn good. But this is THIS universe and here, I don’t have as much time or the drive for gaming as I used to. When I do feel like picking up a controller for a few hours, I have other fighting games that I’m already enjoying and want to get my money’s worth from. I have big story-driven games that never seem to end as well as a large enough backlog of unplayed stuff on the shelves.

What I’m saying is this: yes, I am going to grumble about something I’m not even buying into but I just wanted to make clear that my initial reasons for not picking up MK11 have nothing to do with what I’m about to talk about here. I feel that the microtransation topic is worth discussing however as it effects an entire genre – a genre of gaming that I am most passionate about.

So basically, NetherRealm Studios has locked masses of cosmetic items such as character skins, taunts and intros behind a microtransation paywall. You CAN earn the “Time Krystal” currency in-game but as you may have already guessed, it takes ageeeeees to amass enough of this currency to buy anything. Conveniently, you can also purchase Time Krystals with real money…funny that, isn’t it? There are no LOLs to be had when investigating the prices however. At the time of typing this post, the exchange rate is $1.00 for 100 Krystals (I’m UK-based but using a US article as my source so dollaz it is) which means that a character skin is costing $5.00. Intros are a whopping $7.50.

Each character has approximately 90 pieces of add-on gear and if you want to buy the skins alone then your wallet will be held up for something in the region of $300 which I find insane.

wtf
[Source]
You aren’t being forced to purchase any of these bolt-ons of course and it’s perfectly possible to buy the game and just enjoy some Mortal Kombat without being parted from more of your money. But this is how publishers get away with implementing these sorts of systems. That and the fact that they DO allow players to accumulate the bespoke currencies in-game for no extra cost. Unfortunately, there is also nothing preventing them from fixing the acquirement rate so low that people will inevitably cave in and start spending real money. If you’re anything like me and have the need for completion then this will be immensely frustrating.

To summarise my main issues with what Mortal Kombat is doing using quick bullet points:

  • This microtransation system was kept under wraps right up until launch, giving nobody time to accept the game’s structure for what it is and know what they were buying into. Sucks if you pre-ordered.
  • All of this was pre-planned content, locked away before the game was even released.
  • It is a full-price retail release that already costs in the region of £40, not a freemium or F2P game where you should expect microtransactions as the nature of the beast.
  • It’s cynical design, playing to consumers’ need to have everything NOW and enticing them with shiny goodies that only cost “a few dollars”.

This mobile phone game style of making money seems to have infected consoles and fighting games in particular in recent years much to my dismay. As I said above, it’s easier to swallow if you are downloading an F2P game, not so much after dropping a stack of notes on a full-price retail release. Dead or Alive 6 has implemented something similar while Street Fighter V was an utter disgrace in my restrained opinion. Now it has arrived in Mortal Kombat too.

I have no issue with genuine post-release DLC. Right now, I’m enjoying SoulCalibur VI a lot and the developer is putting out new DLC over time which takes the form of new characters and packs of customisation equipment. It keeps me playing the game beyond the initial launch window and is genuine post-release content that the developers have been working on. It comes with a price-tag and you just buy it. Straight-up, traditional DLC with no tricks or attempts to hide monetary outlay behind smokescreens of in-game currency accumulation or philosophies of “well, you don’t have to buy it…”

But to me, these microtransations are simply bullshit that spoil modern gaming. It’s why I had no love for Street Fighter V when I’m happy playing offline but can’t amass enough fight money to buy anything – a real problem when Capcom want you to pay for simple things like palette swaps. It’s why I would probably boycott MK11 if I was in the market for a new game and my aforementioned reasons for giving the game a miss were no longer obstacles.

As I say, I don’t have to pay for any of the extra content if I’m THAT against it. After all, the “buy it if you want it that much; don’t buy it if you don’t” way of looking at things is a valid and usually accurate approach to all things DLC and add-ons. That said, I firmly don’t believe in these money-grabbing systems when the game is a full-price release. Street Fighter V was exactly the same and I waited until I could pick up the game for £15 or thereabouts because I know there would be some bits I’d want to buy but not if I’d already put £40-£50 up for the disc in the first place.

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You can grind, grind, grind for alternate costumes like this…or just give Capcom money. [Source]
It wasn’t so long ago that there was uproar when Capcom were asking a lot of money for a bunch of extra characters in Street Fighter X Tekken…extra characters that had been found to be on the launch disc by data miners. In other words, post-release DLC had been exposed as already existing prior to launch and closed off to the consumer. Your money didn’t buy brand-new content; it simply unlocked a part of the game you already owned. People were pissed and SFxT‘s name was dragged through the mud. Yet here we are with the same companies pulling the same shit and now we seem content to just shrug our shoulders and accept it.

I don’t know whether the younger generation of gamers are on-board with paying through the nose for costumes and colour swaps but I’m an old-school gamer. I remember having to beat Tekken 2 with all characters to unlock everybody. I remember having to hunt down shit loads of weapons to play as Sophitia in a bathing costume in Soul Blade. I remember having to have perfect runs and then beat horrendous over-powered bosses to unlock sweet stuff. I remember earning in-game currencies at sensible rates. Nowadays it seems that everything in fighting games is either already unlocked or needs paying for. I miss the thrill of chasing content and earning it with effort. I miss paying for the game disc and that was it – the complete, straight-up deal.

When I read about what Mortal Kombat 11 was doing, I felt very disappointed. Yes, I wasn’t planning on buying it anyway but even so, I certainly wouldn’t now because I wouldn’t want to give NetherRealm my money and support such a crappy method of squeezing every last penny from the playerbase.

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