The Zimbabwean Perspective

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Mortal Kombat 11’s Aftermath Expansion Pack shows why modern fighting games are the gift that keeps on giving.

And it’s not the only example…

Mortal Kombat 11 was easily last year’s best games and by far it’s best fighting game, and with it’s upcoming Aftermath expansion pack, it’s easily cemented itself as one of the biggest reasons fighting games have become a joy most people can’t help but always want to go back to.

The pack comes as part of MK11’s continued post-game support initiative, essentially making the game continue to offer content (both paid and free) long after it’s initial release. This content has included costumes, fighting moves and other content to keep players continuously engaging with the game beyond just beating each other up online. The Aftermath expansion is the second one, coming after the first Kombat Pack, which added 6 new characters to the game, including non-Mortal Kombat guest characters Spawn, The Joker and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Terminator. All these have gone on to build a pop culture image for the game that goes even beyond fighting games and has helped continue MK11’s continued cultural relevance. The Aftermath expansion pack goes a step further, adding three new characters this time, but also an expansion to the story acclaimed story mode along with new gameplay mechanics, skins, and stages. It essentially revamps MK11 into a whole new game for a few months and for player’s it’s essentially a well of perpetually returning dividends.
NetherRealm knows how to keep its players excited
Now this isn’t all out of the goodness of game studio NetherRealm’s heart however. In fact, all this bonus content MK11 has is part of their ever evolving “games as a service model that lots of new modern games have been structured from and Mortal Kombat as a whole is just the latest to enter the fold. It’s why as amazing as the game is, a large part of the reason it will stay out of the hands of most Zimbabwean gamers for a while is that it’s essentially online only, with all game progression, unlockable and even skins and customization all tied to an online account whose data NetherRealm themselves store. And considering the internet situation in Zimbabwe, well, you know how this all turns out. Either way the games as a service model is what’s made games like Destiny 2, Overwatch, Apex legends , and Fortnite some of the highest earning  games in the world, and it’s made them so much money that three of the four games we just mentioned are essentially free to play, only charging players for in game extras, which there are so many of that everyone will have to buy something eventually. Fighting games haven’t fully adopted this model, preferring a combination of traditional game sales and additional content in the form of downloadable content and expansions such as Aftermath, along with free content of some sort to keep players interested and engaging with the game long after it’s release.
Tekken 7 has essentially had one of the longest lifespans of any game simply because of how it keeps adding content
Bandai Namco’s Tekken 7 serves as a great example, having been released in 2017 yet it’s still releasing new character packs for fans to suck up and enjoy, alongside free skins or “clone characters” such as forest and martial law, who are essentially the same character in a different look. Even the severely underestimated Power Rangers: Battle for The Grid (which ironically was overshadowed by MK11 due to very close release dates), has essentially made a name itself by adhering to its cult following with constant updates and an admirable developer-players rapport as well. This specific approach from fighting games essentially makes them more beloved amongst the gaming community , as other games-as-a-service contenders tend to gain a bad reputation for focusing too much on gaining more money from players while hindering the playing experience itself through being too hard or not rewarding gamers accordingly for their hard earned dollars. Fighting games however have a more niche crowd that can appreciate even paying for a single character while seemingly just appreciating continued engagement from the game’s developers and a few free extras like a new stage or skin for existing characters.
The underrated Power Rangers Battle For The Grid has become a cult favorite because of a fan-favorite constantly evolving roster.
And as such , fighting games like MK11 essentially become a golden goose for both players and their developers, as the money made from expansion packs and DLC almost matches the excitement gamers get from playing them, and creates a seemingly never ending give and take for both parties that they seem to be pleased by. It’s a product of this always connected, hyper-social and ultimately capitalist world we live in, one where it’s no longer just the games themselves but the culture and collective behavior around them that makes money. I’m not sure I like it, after all it has me begging for some kind of MK11 offline mode (please NetherRealm?) but to quote a popular meme-centric viral video, “it is what it is”.

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