The website, Mortal Kombat 11 and microtransactions

4min read

I’m currently working on my website (the one you’re currently on, I should probably put a “work-in-progress” sign up…). Work has been going well so far. I had done most of the ‘setting everything up’ for the site a year and a half ago before I was employed by Framestore VR.

I’ve recently begun working on the project again, and the work has been going according to plan. I was expecting to spend the whole day working on on the website yesterday however Mortal Kombat 11’s story mode and juicy gameplay got in the way.

After a quick taste of the various modes that the game offers, I started up the story mode, not really knowing what to expect. I was surprised by the campy writing and the well choreographed fight scenes. The cheesy writing meshed well with the absurd events that occur in the story.

I’ve always been interested in competitive fighting games. What I love most in fighting games is trying to get into my opponent’s head, predict what they are trying to do and countering it which is usually called “mind” games or Yomi within the community.

I’m less interested in games that require players to memorize lists of buttons to press or to hit buttons with precise timings for them to be able to compete. The quicker the player can get to the level where the mind games take over as the deciding factor which determines the winner the better.

Ever since I played Super Street Fighter II Turbo Remix on the Xbox 360, I’ve been searching for the “One”. The fighting game that’ll stick with me, that I’ll fall in love with.

The closest I’ve come to was with Killer Instinct in late 2017. KI is easy to pick up and play, it has a great tutorial system for teaching new players, it plays well on a controller, its combo assist system allows new players to perform combos easily and the combo breaker system allows for a constant back and forth between players even when one player is being comboed by the other.

I didn’t enjoy playing as any of the thirty plus characters in the game. I enjoyed the mechanics of the game in theory but it was hard to stay invested in the game long term because I didn’t really connect with any of the characters.

My impression of Mortal Kombat 11 so far, as a person who has barely touched any of the previous games, is a positive one and I’m excited to continue exploring it.

One of the main complaints that has been spreading around the community about the game has been about the microtransactions (in the context of video games, meaning small purchases that provide the player some kind of in-game benefit, a new hat for their character, etc.) present in the game.

Although I haven’t delved deep enough in the game to present an informed opinion on the extent to which they are anti-consumer, if at all, but as a software engineer with three years of experience in the video game industry as well as an avid and informed gamer I’m somewhat versed in the costs and struggles of developing a video game in today’s market.

Microtransactions have become more and more ubiquitous in modern AAA video games as a means of increasing profits as the costs for developing AAA games have continued rising to meet the rising expectations of players.

Digital distribution systems like Steam have contributed to this issue by being able to offer games at drastically reduced costs to consumers due to their digital nature, further decreasing the perceived value and cost of a AAA game in the eyes of the consumer.

Microtransactions are not going away anytime soon, they are going to become more and more prevalent in AAA games to offset the costs associated with developing them.

I think that certain microtransaction practices are predatory and should be regulated, for example forcing companies to reveal the odds of receiving each item from a “loot box”. While other microtransaction economies can be relatively benign.

As a community, we should try and educate others (especially those of us who are more vulnerable to these tactics such as children, individuals suffering from obsessive compulsive disorders, etc.), about the psychology behind microtransactions (topics such as the Skinner Box, fake currency/point systems which make it harder for the player to understand the real cost of the microtransaction they’re paying for, etc.) to avoid them falling into the trap set by predatory microtransaction systems in games.

I’m not currently in a position where I can analyze how microtransactions are used in Mortal Kombat 11 and their impact on the experience however I can say that you can purchase the game, pick any character you want (other than Shao Khan who is a pre-order bonus but that’s a story for another day) and play against other players online on a level playing field no matter how big their wallet is.

Which sadly can’t be taken for granted anymore.

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