Mortal Kombat is one of the longest-running fighting franchises on the market, but it hasn’t been an easy battle.
Originally an arcade-centric series eventually ported to consoles, Mortal Kombat has since focused on fighting in the home, with each iteration keeping the brand up-to-date with rival titles.
It has even branched out into TV, movies, music and comics – all in order to avoid suffering a Fatality of its own. This has all generated a whopping $2bn to date.
For series co-creator Ed Boon, who has worked on every title in the main series, Mortal Kombat is not the same beast that he and fellow designer John Tobias first came up with in the early ‘90s.
“The Mortal Kombat franchise has changed dramatically since 1992,” he explains. “The entire presentation, the feature set and the development process are nothing like the first title.
“Only a few things are the same: it’s still a fighting game, the key characters remain, and there are secrets and Fatalities in the game. Other than that, we’ve added so many layers, features and other content that it’s a completely different animal.”
A CHANGE IN STYLE
As he told MCV in our recent look at fighting games, Boon believes that this is largely due to changes in the market itself. MK has been quick to keep up with what gamers want.
“Fighting games are no longer experiences you play in a public arcade setting – now you play them at home with friends or online,” he says.
“This means they need to be more accessible. There are some great fighting titles that are just too complicated for the average person. We want to make sure anyone can enjoy Mortal Kombat.”
The series hasn’t been seen on shelves since 2008’s crossover title Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe. The game had to be toned down from MK’s trademark level of gore in keeping with DC conventions.
The game sold well enough but publisher Midway was K.O’d by the recession shortly afterwards – by far the greatest threat to MK’s future to date.
Fortunately, the series was picked up by Warner in 2009 and two years on, Mortal Kombat is finally ready to step back into the arena.
“This is the first mature-rated Mortal Kombat to come out in about four or five years,” Boon says. “I believe the last game created a hunger for many players to see Mortal Kombat return to its original roots and that’s exactly what we are doing with this one.”
Developer NetherRealm is confident that the new Mortal Kombat will take the series back to its roots, appealing to long-running fans and new players alike. And while Boon isn’t assuming the game will automatically be a best-seller, they are very optimistic.
“Mortal Kombat sells as well as or better than our rival fighters do,” he says. “We’ve seen some of our competitors sell fewer units with each iteration of their games because they are not offering something dramatically different from the last version. While they still are great games, they are basically the same great game with better looking graphics.
“Mortal Kombat has been around over 18 years and we believe this version will be one of the best selling of all of them – perhaps the best selling fighter of this year.”