Killer Instinct Will Be Free to Play, Characters Will Not Be
I am not the only person who was excited to hear there is a Killer Instinct reboot coming. While I wish it was not an Xbox One exclusive, as an avid fan of fighting games I am looking forward to seeing it in action.
In other good news, the game is apparently also going to be free to play, available for direct download on day one of the Xbox One's launch. Unfortunately, as with so much of the good news Microsoft has been giving gamers about its new console, this news is not as exciting as it initially seems.
Killer Instinct will be free... with a single fighter. Gamers can play Jago all they like for free, but the other characters will need to be purchased to be unlocked. The price of the other characters is unknown, it is not even confirmed they will all be priced the same.
This is a decision with some very unpleasant considerations. If Killer Instinct wants an actual competitive fighting game scene, it will involve having multiple consoles per tournament with all characters unlocked. When a game has two or three DLC characters who are a few dollars each, it is not a huge deal to have consoles with them unlocked for competitive purposes. It is entirely likely to have the total cost of unlocking all of the characters coming in well over the cost of a standard game.
I paid extra to get my ass kicked like this!
Balance is also an issue that becomes much more relevant when characters are purchased individually. If a given fighter is notably weaker or non-competitive, no one will buy them for anything except aesthetic purposes. If a different fighter is measurably stronger, they will obviously be purchased more. If the characters are priced differently from each other it could also very easily turn into a pay-to-win system, with weak characters costing a dollar and stronger ones being fifteen.
Despite all these concerns, having the game free at launch gives players a chance to try it out before buying it, coming close to the same sort of preview experience we used to rent games for. This is an interesting way of mitigating the difficulty of playing used games, and it is entirely possible for the total cost of unlocking everything to be cheaper than buying a full game.
I do not expect it to be cheaper, but it's possible.