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Editorial: The MKvsDC Crossover Nobody Sees Coming

05/07/2014 :: Posted at 09:20 PM by Mick-Lucifer
Is cross-title gaming the future of pleasing everyone in a crossover?

It was the bombshell that rocked us in April 2008. Revealed in a Mortal Kombat Online exclusive: Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe turned the core fighting franchise on its head -- introducing MK's first all-out crossover with another franchise! It brought an end to then-rampant sequel speculation, and created an indelible link with the superheroes that starred in 2013's Injustice: Gods Among Us.

Six years on from that memorable first image [pictured top] - we are again anticipating what might be announced when a mystery countdown ends June 2nd. Sequel rumors persist for both Mortal Kombat and Injustice -- leading to speculation of overlapping, or simultaneous development cycles.

Always up for a lark: NetherRealm Studios Creative Director Ed Boon has thrown "Injustice Too" into the collective vernacular. The overseer of both MK and Injustice is probably just engaging in a little harmless subterfuge, but it alludes to a hypothetical outcome few have even dared to consider.

The next generation is changing the game and we think there's a concept that would make use of dual franchise development. An idea that would land Warner Brothers on the cutting edge of attempting to please everybody. Before we get to that, some history:


Scorpion battles Batman as top selling DLC in Injustice: Gods Among Us.

While it's fair to say crossovers remain a controversial subject - they are also incredibly lucrative. Hollywood has become awash in franchise-building crossovers; while combat gaming series like Super Smash Bros. have been doing big business for years.

Hardcore fighting games have had mixed results, starting life with a string of wacky encounters like: drink mascot Pepsiman (Fighting Vipers), the manga dinosaur Gon (Tekken 3), Daytona USA car Hornet (Fighters Megamix), and others. Various Soul Calibur guest fighters stretched fan acceptance with crossovers from: Tekken, Legend of Zelda, Spawn & Star Wars. The gold standard was arguably set when Capcom extended the life of their lagging Street Fighter franchise in the late nineties - delivering: Marvel vs Capcom and Capcom vs SNK.

Earlier in the year, we learned Scorpion was the highest selling download content for Injustice: Gods Among Us. The same was true for Freddy Krueger: hotly debated horror icon who appeared in Mortal Kombat (2011) in conjunction with a major movie reboot. We don't know exact numbers, but it's clear the appeal of fantasy crossovers extends the promotional reach of games regardless of die hard fans' objections.

The standardization of guest characters in fighting games is obviously in no small part due to the simple battle for consumer dollars. Maximizing revenue to expenditure is important to any business. Capitalizing on the overlap of two established franchises is an easy logic to build, but there's obviously a gamble where the established audience is concerned.

With Mortal Kombat and Injustice: Gods Among Us, Warner Brothers dabbled in a solution to fan outrage by including their guests as DLC. The distributor/consumer compromise was struck eloquently by including their franchise guests as late inclusions in pre-paid 4-character Season Passes. Cost adjusted individual purchase options kept things fair, offering the grace of choice to players.

DLC guests were a good use of the digital medium, but even opt-in extra purchases couldn't erase fandom's perception of missed opportunities and series dilution. As long as DLC extended lifespans are finite: fans will perceive one horror movie icon as one less franchise-relevant kombatant.

As technology and the digital domain develops, so too does the strategy of developers. Killer Instinct, Tekken Revolution & Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate have used next gen consoles to experiment with "free-to-play" hub gaming. Based on optional micro-transactions, they build the opt-in experience into the fabric of the game by offering a basic, free version that can be expanded per user prerogative. By establishing a core platform, it opens the window to infinite development and a new way of expanding series. It remains to be seen if this is a creative boon, or an open window for micro-transaction burglary. It is, arguably, the basis of our speculative crossover, though.


MKvsDC: What if you picked a side & worlds really collided?

A sense of value is one of the principles working against the free-to-play micro-transaction model. Download or disc: it's tough to go past the satisfaction of buying a complete game. It dramatically mitigates suspicion of price gouging, and instantly justifies a purchase with a core measure of content.

Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe was a strong seller in 2008, revealed to have sold over 1.9 million units in a December Midway 10-K Filing. Gamespot reported Mortal Kombat reached an impressive 3 million sales in August 2011. Warner Brothers proved the pulling power of their heroes when solo in the fighting genre: Injustice: Gods Among Us reportedly outselling their rivals by almost 2:1 during launch month. Impressive, but data gathered from dedicated Mortal Kombat sites showed a dramatic drop-off in interest during the Injustice cycle, suggesting a limit to overlap.

From all of this we can clearly infer there is a market for a Mortal Kombat/DC Universe crossover, but not necessarily as much as a pure sequel to each franchise. So -- what if they could have it both ways?

Warner Brothers' MMO DC Universe Online crossed boundaries when it offered cross-platform play between PS3 & PC, and more recently between PS3 & PlayStation 4. What if a similar concept were applied to Mortal Kombat and Injustice as two games developed in a single cycle?

In 2008, the tagline said Worlds Collided. What we're suggesting is that - in 2015 - it would be more than possible to have games collide. Two separate, individually purchased disc releases that support peer-to-peer competition and micro-transactions in both games. In effect, a crossover experience with and between a complete "Mortal Kombat 2" and an "Injustice 2".

Think of it this way: If you have Scorpion in Injustice and play online against someone who hasn't bought that DLC -- your match will still occur. The same would apply for a MK versus DC crossover mode, where owners of Mortal Kombat could challenge players in Injustice, and vice versa.

NetherRealm have made great effect of their hotfix patches in an alternate use of the DLC delivery system, but are yet to dabble in downloadable story matter. It would be a no brainer to allow owners of MK2 and/or DC2 to be able to buy the crossover characters from the other game, but perhaps the Versus experience would be best serviced by also providing a third Versus story mode for download. This could also be free to anyone who has save files from both games.

In essence: It's three games for the cost and labour of one mammoth AAA development cycle. An experiment that would allow NetherRealm Studios to break new ground that makes use of their unique position as marshals of two major franchises. It could conceivably be the crossover that pleases everyone -- allowing fans of either franchise to keep their experience pure, or branch out into the extra crossover experience. A revolution of the franchise crossover, with a simple tweak of development logic.


Pleasing Everyone: Could cross-game online support be the future of crossovers?

Is any of this likely? Well, no. Unlike our Special Forces HD April Fool, we aren't operating under any pretence of this being likely. This is purely a fantasy hypothetical scenario. An idea that addresses the concerns of enthusiastic fanbases, rumors of an Injustice sequel, Ed's playfully inclusive "Injustice Too", and a concept that could very well be the future of franchise crossover gaming. Something conceivably possible with the technology available, but a sideways shift in the conventional approach.

Does this capture your imagination? Does it change your perception of a crossover? Register to share your thoughts on the forum about a potential MKvsDC2, and which side you'd choose. Be sure to join the June 2nd Countdown for the next big reveal, while you're there!

    
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