Free-to-play gaming has been all the rage on smartphones and on the PC. In the past year or so we’ve seen it grow on consoles, as publishers like Namco Bandai are turning a lot of their big name franchises, like Ace Combat, Tekken, and Ridge Racer, into F2P games.
Gamers have been begging for a new Killer Instinct game even before the days of Microsoft acquiring Rare Ltd. They got their wish back at E3 2013 when Microsoft confirmed a new Killer Instinct available at launch for the Xbox One. The game was touted as a free-to-play experience, and at the time it was only mentioned that gamers would get just one fighter available with the download. If you wanted the rest of the roster (which stands at eight), you would need to shell out some cash. Yes cash, not those ridiculous Microsoft Points that have finally been gone away with in late August.
It was revealed late last month that additional characters would cost gamers $5 each. Six are available at launch and two are confirmed for later-released DLC. Essentially if you wanted all characters it would set you back $35. For those not wanting to buy characters individually you can buy all eight for $20 in the Combo Breaker Pack, or you can buy the Ultra Edition that includes the eight characters, accessory packs, costumes, and a digital download of the original Killer Instinct, for $40.
When I first read the headline of characters costing $5 each, I was baffled. You want $5 for one character? With the game coming with just one character, it feels like it forces you to shell out some cash if you want a bit of variety. The game, no matter which route you go (free, $20, $40), does not offer any kind of story mode. Instead you have the choice of practice / training, and offline / online versus.
Fighting games have seem to embraced the F2P genre more than others on consoles. I would not be surprised to see SoulCalibur and Street Fighter go F2P eventually. Earlier I mentioned Tekken went F2P earlier this year with Tekken Revolution. While it was an ideal setup for someone like me, who doesn’t play fighting games much, it didn’t do much justice for the fans. You were limited on how much you can play (for free), you’d have to wait for tokens to replenish. You were given a bigger roster than what Killer Instinct is giving you, but what’s more important for you? More playtime, or more characters?
I have reached out to developer Double Helix Games and was told by their PR that, as of this current time, there is no token system in place. If Double Helix does indeed not use a token system, this would likely make Killer Instinct more appealing to those on the fence about it. Having unlimited playtime will keep players more absorbed and will likely influence them to buy additional characters to enhance their experience. Why would you want to pay for a character when you can only use them once an hour or so? Of course KI could offer token bundles, which would only add up the cost of the game more. Ubisoft’s Spartacus Legends allows unlimited fighting online to allow you to earn more money to upgrade your fighter to get through the single player component. You do have the choice of purchasing additional money but are not forced to in order to progress.
The $40 bundle is likely the most appealing to the KI hardcore. All characters, more customization, and, of course, the original game. It should be noted that the original game will not offer online play but they haven’t ruled it out for a post-launch patch.
The biggest difference between the Tekken and KI offerings lies in the fact that KI gives you an option to not be stuck in F2P hell. For $40 you essentially get what would probably be considered a full game. Xbox One games will normally be $60, but given the lack of a single player component outside of training/practice, Killer Instinct is a multiplayer based title. This past generation, multiplayer focused titles normally were around $40, such as Warhawk and SOCOM Confrontation.
The developers are also planning to extend the game beyond launch and the months after. The hope is to make the game last for years, by revealing plans for a season two. I can only guess that the plan is to annually release new content, whether it be fighters or levels, without forcing gamers to buy a new game. With a F2P system it should allow fans to choose which content they would like to get it, instead of forcing them to buy all content (unless that was the better deal). Double Helix has said if gamers do purchase characters individually, the other (initial) characters would be discounted if you decide later to buy either the $20 or $40 bundle.
Does Killer Instinct offer the best F2P pricing yet for consoles? Has a different game done it better? Does this game favor the F2P community or the paid community more?