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Killer Instinct Characters Are $5 A Pop, But Wait -- There's More

Illustration for article titled emKiller Instinct/em Characters Are $5 A Pop, But Wait -- Theres More

How much would you pay for classic characters like Sabrewulf, Glacius and the newly-announced Thunder in the upcoming free-to-download Xbox One exclusive Killer Instinct? Microsoft has slapped a $4.99 price tag on each character's head, but why buy piecemeal when you can get the whole shebang for $20?


In case you missed it at E3, here's how the new Killer Instinct works. Xbox One owners will pay nothing for the initial download, which includes the game's most boring character, Jago, for free. Each additional character — there'll be six total at launch — will cost $5 in Microsoft's new Real Money Points.


But buying these characters individually is just plain stupid, when you can get all six starters and two additional post-launch characters for $19.99 in the Combo Breaker Pack. And for those who like to sprinkle their smart with a little silly, there's the Ultra Edition, which contains all the characters plus costumes, accessories, and a copy of the original Killer Instinct.

In short, it's a free-to-play game that's really a $19.99 fighting game broken up into pieces for the incredibly picky. It's a clever way of making a demo with a really cool "buy now" button.

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Living Myth

"In short, it's a free-to-play game that's really a $19.99 fighting game broken up into pieces for the incredibly picky. It's a clever way of making a demo with a really cool "buy now" button."

Uh... well, none of that is really accurate. It's not a free-to-play game if they only allow you one character from the outset, and urge you to buy the full game for money. Say what you will about F2P MMORPGs like Tera or Neverwinter, but they don't restrict you to playing only one class and then offer the actual game for money. More often than not, you have complete access to the "full" core content experience, and there is a side cash shop to purchase vanity items, conveniences, bonuses, etc. You can often buy additional character slots if you want them, but you don't buy things like classes, races, spells, etc.

What they've done with KI is just put out a limited demo or free trial, much like many other games do. Calling it "free to play" or "free to download" doesn't carry any additional meaning in this case, and only serves to (probably intentionally) deceive the player into thinking "Oh boy, I get to play KI for free!" No, you don't. You are downloading a Jago demo. Lying about what they're providing is not "a clever way of making a demo," and there is no such thing in the universe as "a really cool 'buy now' button."

It's a scam. It's not a "good deal" if you only like one or two characters and end up paying $5 or $10 for only the ones you "want" at the time. They know that some players will buy one or two characters because they aren't happy with just Jago. If they like what they've played, they'll cave and buy the pack as it is far more economical. And then their $5 or $10 is basically flushed down the toilet, having bought them essentially nothing in the long run. Or, if they buy a character or two and then decide the game isn't for them and quit, they've essentially just paid $5 or $10 for an extended demo.

And make no mistake, this will harm the overall quality of the game. A fighting game depends heavily on a balanced roster, with a variety of character types available. How is online play going to work? When you sign up for a match, are you going to be playing against nothing but Jago, even if you bought the full package?

To make the MMORPG analogy again, this is the same as if you made a "free-to-play" game where everyone could only be Human Warriors, and if they wanted other races and classes they could optionally buy them. So, you have a human starting zone jam-packed with warriors, and nobody's playing anything else. The other zones are empty, nobody knows how to do anything but be a warrior, and even the players who bought the full game are having a terrible time due to horrid population imbalance. It wouldn't be "clever" or "really cool" for an MMO to do it; I don't see how it's okay for a fighting game.