Mortal Kombat 11 released the other day, and barring a few hiccups – which you can probably guess what at least one is – it’s a great fighting game. It’s visually stunning, has an excellent genre-leading storyline, and plays great.
There aren’t any major issues with the meat and potatoes of Mortal Kombat 11. Rather it’s content on the peripheries that is getting negative attention.
As we’ve seen time and time again this generation, a microtransaction controversy can completely derail an otherwise great game. People grow impatient waiting for a response from the developer, the vocal fans start catching the ear of more casual fans which then put the issue on the radar of the press, and then before you know it we have a full-on Battlefront 2 situation going on.
While the issue is still not settled, not completely, I have to say NetherRealm to their credit, put on a point by point clinic if what you should do when you’re staring down the barrel of serious microtransaction drama.
First, let’s catch you up to speed if you’re not aware of what’s going on. Basically, there’s a ludicrous amount of collectibles and cosmetics in Mortal Kombat 11.
Most of them are obtained in the Krypt, a large explorable area that has chests scattered all throughout that you can open using three types of currencies of varying rarity which will reward you with random stuff.
There’s a lot of filler content like icons, and character art, mixed in with the stuff that people really want, like Skins and Fatalities. It’s essentially a crapshoot.
Alternatively, there is another currency, known as Time Krystals, that can be purchased with real money. You can earn Time Krystals without having to buy them, but currently it’s a very slow process.
Getting the 500 (which costs $4.99) Time Krystals you need to get a single skin out of the over 1000 that are in the game will take the average player probably a night’s worth of playing, if you’re efficient about it and that might be being generous to NetherRealm.
So in reality, unless you’re relying on buying Time Krystals to get the skins you want, you’re only going to be using them to get the occasional freebie and not counting on them to fill out your skin collection.
This would be acceptable if there was some kind of rhyme or reason to figuring out the Krypt and making use of the three free currencies you get more easily through playing MK 11.
Unfortunately, the Krypt is very hard to figure out. There doesn’t appear to be any meaningfully distinct correlation between Koin/Soul Fragment/Heart cost, location and what you actually get. It’s essentially just rolling the dice hoping you get something you want for a character you like, and if you don’t, well there goes hours of playtime down the drain.
There is another way to get skins and other customizable items reliably, but it also has its own set of problems with it that are tied to the Krypt and microtransaction issues.
Towers of Time are essentially daily challenge towers (MK term for a gauntlet of matches) that feature battle modifiers to make them difficult but will reward you with customizables; some of which are random, while some of the rewards are laid out for you making it more predictable than the Krypt at least.
The problem with Towers of Time was that some of the challenges are just straight up unfair. Even hardcore Mortal Kombat players will have trouble with them. These super hard ones are designed so that you need to use consumable items that help give you an edge, such as ones that restore your health or make you immune to damage temporarily.
But getting the right consumables, like the other items from the Krypt, is too random.
All of this made players feel like Mortal Kombat 11 was intentionally designed to make getting skins to be as much of a pain in the ass as possible so people just get frustrated and buy Time Krystals instead.
NetherRealm saw the reaction that the game was getting from fans and instantly responded hours after the game came out.
While NetherRealm’s quick response is appreciated, that’s not enough. Lots of developers catch issues like this but then take weeks or months to actually fix anything.
However that night, a server-side patch was put in to tone down the difficulty of certain Towers of Time modifiers with more tweaks coming in the next day (stuff that requires a legit patch).
Then yesterday around 3 p.m. ET, community managers armed with information from the developers, took to Twitch to address the growing controversy.
In this situation, what most people want to hear is honesty, an admission that there was a mistake, transparency, to hear what the plan is to fix it, and finally, timely delivery on promises. NetherRealm checked all of these boxes.
They explained the logic behind Towers of Time and the Krypt, and admitted that it was broken. They also explained how the Krypt works so people actually understand what the heck is going on going forward.
There are 600 chests in the Krypt, filled with the same loot for all players, but in randomized locations for each person, except for chests that require hearts like the Shao Khan chests. If two people open every chest in the Krypt, they will each walk away with the same loot.
They also fessed up to the fact that the currency rewards were too low, and they will be upping it either later this week or early next week, in addition to giving away a large amount of all three major currencies: 500,000 Koins, 500 Hearts, 1,000 Souls, 1,000 Time Krystals, at some point in the near future.
If you watched the Twitch chat, you would see the temperature go from hostile to PogChamps after saying that they were going to give away such a large amount of currency.
That’s because it’s really not that hard to make things right with most gamers. Just admit you messed up, fix the problem, and give stuff away to say sorry.
If I worked at a restaurant or a drive-thru and I gave someone the wrong order, I’d just let them keep the food if they want it, apologize, get them what they wanted, and also here’s something else free on top of that. The short term loss isn’t worth long term distrust, just make it right.
It can be just as easy to do this for video games too, and NetherRealm seems to get that.They aren’t out of the woods yet, they still need to deliver on their promises, but it’s the best response to a not so great situation.
What you don’t want is to end up like developers/publishers that have lost control of the narrative to consumers, and rightfully so, because they weren’t willing to put more effort into getting out in front of these problems and making them right ASAP.