Some Mortal Kombat 1 Fans Fear The Game Is Already Dead, But Its Complicated

Some Mortal Kombat 1 Fans Fear The Game Is Already Dead, But Its Complicated

Mortal Kombat 1 is the latest entry in one of the most iconic fighting game franchises. But compared to other major players like Street Fighter 6 and Tekken 8, its registration numbers for EVO, the biggest fighting game tournament in the world, are minuscule, coming in at 645 compared to SF6’s 5265. On top of this, its concurrent Steam players are nearly half that of the last entry, Mortal Kombat 11. To those who aren’t actively playing NetherRealm Studios’ fighting games, these might seem like shocking statistics. But for fans, this isn’t that surprising, though it’s definitely concerning.

The conversation about MK1’s status started when Hungrybox, a prolific Super Smash Bros. player and previous EVO winner, noted Mortal Kombat 1’s lackluster EVO turnout compared to most other games being hosted at the event. He also pointed out that several reactions to competitive player Alex ‘’Dyloch’’ Ruiz’s property-destroying pop-off over the weekend were dunking on the game. Did the community reject Mortal Kombat 1? According to folks with knowledge of scene, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but the game has been divisive for a handful of reasons.

Commentator Saki Sakura argues that Mortal Kombat’s in-person competitive scene has always been small, with a majority of players staying online. She also says many NetherRealm players fight on consoles as opposed to Steam, so PC concurrents aren’t the best gauge for player retention. She also claims that NetherRealm fans are “notorious” for going back to old games. Others, like long-time competitive NetherRealm champion SonicFox, note that since the game is banned in places like Japan, it can’t pull from the country’s fighting game community, which is a major region for other fighting game communities . They weighed in and said while MK1 has issues, Mortal Kombat’s lower standing in tournament sign ups is likely the effect of years of community members dunking on the series—not just a potential dissatisfaction with the latest game.

“This has been ongoing for years,” they said in a tweet. “I genuinely believe the game is incredibly good, and is arguably in its best spot yet, but folks do not stop talking about it in a negative light. Especially from figureheads who don’t even play the game.”

While some of these phenomena may be the same old shit for NetherRealm players, Mortal Kombat 1 has definitely been divisive, and some players are less forgiving than Sonic Fox.

One of the major changes in Mortal Kombat 1 included the implementation of “Kameo” support characters who provide assist attacks to the primary character in a fight, which has split the community, but part of the drop in concurrent players can probably be traced to casual players not feeling the grind. Maintaining a high player count requires just as much attention to be given to people not looking to throw down at their local tournament.

“Yeah since release, I’ve only spent 45 hours on this game (according to my stats),” MANavarro17 wrote on Reddit. “The combat and Kameo mechanics are great, but as a casual, the grind is just ass and doesn’t feel as rewarding compared to previous games. ‘Invasions’ isn’t fun at all, most times frustrating and tedious.”

“The kameos were a bad idea imo,” Exciting_Passenger39 wrote. “I thought it was going to be like a tag team setup not this bs we got.”

“For all intents and purposes, I’m a mega fan of this franchise but I must say, yeah, I’m not super enthralled with MK1,” RealmJumper15 wrote. “The gameplay is fun and the Kameo system is neat but outside of that the game doesn’t really have anything to keep me around.”

But some still argue that Mortal Kombat 1 (and the franchise broadly) isn’t built for long-term competitive play, and that’s what makes it approachable compared than its contemporaries. So perhaps it doesn’t matter that it doesn’t draw as many competitive players to EVO.

“I think it’s probably because of the entirely competitive side of things,” ChemistryTasty8751 wrote. “Other fighting games like Street Fighter and Tekken pride themselves on balancing for pro play and competitive, trying to outdo each other with high-budget tournaments. Meanwhile Mortal Kombat don’t fuck with that. Mortal Kombat is a game that prioritizes casual fun because it’s the only fighting game I would actually recommend to newbies because it’s not ‘you need to hit this frame perfect input and space yourself at this exact point to remove end lag’ It’s more ‘here’s your character, go nuts.”

But in the broader competitive landscape, is it not concerning that Mortal Kombat 1 is trailing so far behind not only its direct competitors, but its own games?

“This is actually hilariously pitiful,” NatiHanson wrote regarding Mortal Kombat 1’s registration numbers on Reddit. “People are gonna come up with different forms of copuim, but this is sad. Year 2 MKX had more entrants than this. NetherRealm were completely caught off guard with the competition (T8, SF6), and I don’t think Kameos caught on like they hoped.”

“Tekken and SF and even anime are putting out the best products they probably ever have (I’m not saying game DESIGN necessarily – but just AS A PRODUCT),” Vergilkilla wrote in response. “Meanwhile NRS—while the gameplay of MK1 is a massive improvement over MK11—as a product it is worse. Buggier, less content, less modes, worse online than the previous game for some reason. It’s a worse consumer product even if it is a better game. You can’t be going backward when all your competitors are going way, way forward.”

Ultimately, Mortal Kombat 1 might not be dead, but it is clearly in an odd spot in both its competitive and casual scenes. What lessons will NetherRealm learn from this, if any? Is the lesson that the studio should make Injustice 3 instead? That’s what I would like to see. NetherRealm is still actively supporting MK1 and has several DLC characters still lined up to join the roster. Some of them are returning fighters, while others are crossover from other media.

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