Mortal Kombat X launched today in North America, Australia, Europe, and pretty much everywhere that’s not New Zealand. With its launch, came the release of some day-one DLC, something that’s becoming increasingly common with major releases.
Among those add-ons are two that have sparked the ire of gamers across the Internet – consumable “Easy Fatality” tokens, in packs of five or 30, which can be bought repeatedly (a type of DLC commonly referred to as a “microtransaction”). Nothing sets of angry gamers more that they see as exploitative, so comments on various gaming websites were highly predictable:
“Future content packs will focus on ‘hands-free’ character control — why play the game, when you could let the AI play for you?” wrote one commenter at Ars Technica.
“Publishers/Developers are working so hard to find ways to suck more and more money from gamers,” said another. “It’s offensive to treat gamers, especially less skilled gamers, as cash cows.”
Over at GameSpot, one charming individual had this to say: “thats bulls***. pay to cheat. this generation is the year of bull****. they cant come up with new game ideas so they make iphone like IAP. F***ing B*******!”
“The way i see how the microtransactions and dlc is going is like a disease early on it is just a mild annoyance and you have people saying ahh it is not to bad why are you complaining. But if it is untreated can lead to worse things happening later on,” wrote someone at IGN.
People are mad.
They’re mad about something that (a) they are under no obligation to buy, (b) has literally no impact on the game for anyone other than the buyer, (c) is available in the game anyway, albeit through a grindy, randomised system, and (d) simply makes a standard cosmetic aspect of the game. I can’t think of any microtransaction that could be more benign.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Fatalities are one of Mortal Kombat’s trademark features: particularly gruesome finishing moves that require specific, often complicated inputs and can only be triggered against an opponent that’s already been defeated. Easy Fatalities offer no advantage to the person using them because, simplified inputs or not, they’re only available when a match has already been won.
All that the Easy Fatalities microtransactions bring to the game is a choice for consumers about whether they spend time or money. If you have time, and Fatalities are important to you, you’ll be able to put the time in to learn the standard inputs. If you want to do Fatalities, but don’t have the time to learn them, you previously would have been shit out of luck. Now, you have the option of spending money instead of time. Whether the cost of the Easy Fatalities bundles is worth it will depend on each individual player, their financial situation, and just how much they’re willing to spend. Value propositions are entirely subjective.
There’s a concern that this kind of monetising will leak into other aspects of game design, and in the future we’ll see microtransactions and DLC for things that do influence gameplay. This kind of slippery slope argument is not only fallacial, but entirely redundant. The “pay-to-win” model, or “optional” DLC that’s deliberately exploitative by making the free route excessively tedious and/or time consuming are not new things, and they get rightfully criticised when they do appear, especially in full-priced games. Just look at what happened with Forza Motorsport 5 and its DLC economy.
Mortal Kombat X’s Easy Fatalities are entirely optional add-ons, that have literally no effect on anyone but the person buying them. Don’t like them, don’t buy them – its that simple. (Gamers are more than happy to yell “don’t like it, don’t buy it!!!111!” when it comes to feminist critiques of games, but apparently that logic doesn’t extend to optional add-on purchases… go figure.) For many, these microtransactions won’t be worth it, but for those that it is, Netherrealm are offering a choice that Mortal Kombat players haven’t had before.