E3 2013: Killer Instinct Returns

In an announcement that fighting fans have been waiting for quite a long time for, Microsoft announced the return of Killer Instinct this past week at their E3 press conference. Remembering the title brings me back to the old musty haze and dim neon lights of the local arcade where both Killer Instinct and it’s sequel received a ton of play.  It also served as an announcement that I know many of us have been waiting for quite a while and the news this week has caused a rollercoaster of emotion surrounding the title, both good and bad.


The first emotion was joy as the familiar music and logo finally displayed on my TV after a long 17 year wait. As the week progressed and we got more information on the title, the joy gave way to confusion as it was confirmed that Rare wasn’t the one developing the title and a new free to play model was being added. The confusion then evolved into disdain and the original reason for writing this piece took shape. I had originally planed to use this post as a way to vent and let off some steam.

That was until I read this article on the game over at Polygon by Matt Leone. In the article, he presents some additional details on the title, why Double Helix was pegged as the studio in charge of reviving the franchise, and ultimately, why it’s a good fit there. As it turns out, Microsoft was waiting for the next generation of consoles to revive this franchise and once they were ready, they send out proposal requests to see who would be interested. As you could probably imagine, the folks who previously worked on this franchise were no longer at Rare and the people that are there really had no association tot he franchise.

What makes Double Helix a good fit (even if you look past their recent clunker) is that in addition to being massive fighting game fans, they have some former Killer Instinct developers working for them including Mr. Klobb himself, Ken Lobb. After reading through the post, it made me feel real better about the title and answered some of my lingering questions.

As you may have heard, the big news around this title is it’s new Free-To-Play model where downloading the base will give you access to only one character (Jago), online play and other basic modes. You can expand the game by buying new characters piecemeal.  What wasn’t discussed is that Double Helix has two other pricing models for people who don’t want to do that. Alternatively, players can purchase a “season pass” and pay upfront to unlock the characters and modes straight away, essentially a full game download.  Finally, the third model is the special edition which gives the whole game, season pass, and bonus content which the team at Double Helix have hinted at that being something like a port of the first game in the series.

Taking some time to think rationally on the situation, I can understand their point of view in regards to the free to play model. Fighting game fans tend to stick with only a couple fighters to learn their moves inside and out, essentially “maining” them in the game.  So for them, this model will probably be quite welcome as you can purchase who you want and not worry about anyone else. The trouble kicks in with the more casual fighting fans who want to just have a good time or experiment with different characters. This model prevents that unless you pony up the cash. In the end, the biggest thing we still don’t know and will ultimately settle everything is the price for the full game and each individual character if you go the F2P model. If they can somehow make it so price isn’t going to be a stumbling block or barrier for people to get into, then it’s a win in my book.

In the end, I’m thrilled that Killer Instinct is back. Hearing that some original members of Killer Instinct and general fighting game fanatics are working on this title gives me renewed hope that the team at Double Helix will do right by the franchise. Now armed with more information, I feel better about the upcoming title and I hope that all of you do as well.

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