Mortal Kombat developer NetherRealm had a strong 2011. The Chicago-based studio released Mortal Kombat on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 to a warm critical reception, and the title has gone on to sell more than 3 million units.
This year, however, the studio is hoping to diversify. In an interview with GameSpot, Mortal Kombat co-creator and NetherRealm creative director Ed Boon talked about the Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition, its iOS project Batman: Arkham City Lockdown, and how the studio is seeking to branch out in 2012.
GameSpot: The Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition is pretty diverse. It has a movie, CD, downloadable characters, and more. How did you go about deciding what to include in the pack, and why did you include what you did?
Ed Boon: After the game was released and we did all the DLC--there's so much content to download--we knew that we were going to have like a Game of the Year Edition. We wanted to do like a celebration-type version. We've had so much DLC…four separate characters and all of the costumes, and we wanted to have everything packaged together. That was the main motivation for doing it. And the movie and the other items were things that marketing said, "Hey things are available, what do you think?" And our opinion was that anything that makes it that much more special is a win. So those were thrown in as well.
GS: The latest figure Warner Bros. announced was 3 million for Mortal Kombat sales. Is there an updated figure available? If not, what does it mean to you, and to NetherRealm, to have your game appreciated by so many?
"With our studio, we really want to diversify ourselves and work on multiple formats, multiple types of games, not just Mortal Kombat games."
EB: I've heard other numbers, but I'm not at liberty to say. But it's continuing to do well. And we're very happy with the fact that it sold as well as it did. And it really is the first high-profile title from our studio, so for us it was always a big deal, that we come out with a bang and really put us on the map. We couldn't be happier, and we hope that this is one of even better things to come.
GS: Mortal Kombat was the fifth most searched gaming item on Google in 2011. What do you think drove so many to Google your game?
EB: I didn't know that stat, so that's pretty cool, considering all the kind of crazy busy high-profile titles that have been released this year. So that's really a great stat. I guess it means that we're really glad that people enjoy our game. Keep in mind that this franchise is coming up on 20 years old, so from our standpoint that makes it that much more of an accomplishment because we're competing against much younger franchises, and it's just very hard to make a splash when you have so many other gigantic boulders falling onto the water, too. We're very happy with it.
GS: I saw on Twitter that you're hoping Microsoft points get phased out. Why is this?
EB: From my perspective, there's always been this translation that has to be done. When a game comes out it's 800 MS points, and what does that translate to? When I first heard about it, I always thought to myself, "Why would you do that?" And then after thinking about it, I thought, "Well, OK, it costs more per point, and then keep the prices point-wise the same," and I saw that value, but to me, I think it's just a simpler model. Everyone's gonna do the math, so why make them take that step? And I just think simpler is better.
GS: NetherRealm recently released Arkham City Lockdown for the iOS. Will NetherRealm continue to work on iOS projects, and what was it like developing it compared to a console game?
"I would be surprised if we never did another Mortal Kombat game again."
EB: It's surprisingly similar, but for not as long a time period. We're working in the Unreal environment, both in our console games as well as the iOS games, so there's a familiarity there. We can share our programming resources, which is great. Obviously, the iOS games aren't as long, in terms of how long it takes us to complete the project. As for future ones, we would definitely like to do additional iOS titles; we have nothing to announce at the moment, but that's generally something we want to do. With our studio, we really want to diversify ourselves, and work on multiple formats, multiple types of games, not just Mortal Kombat games.
GS: You're not saying anything about Mortal Kombat for iOS?
EB: No, not today.
GS: Also there was a rumor, which you debunked, that you're giving Mortal Kombat a rest. But what can you say to gamers eager about the next console Mortal Kombat experience, especially with next-gen rumors swirling?
EB: I would be surprised if Warner Bros. and us never released another Mortal Kombat game again. We don't have a title to announce, but if this last one sold over 3 million and counting, there's a certain amount of assumption that we'd consider doing another Mortal Kombat game. But at the same time, we want our studio to do more than just make Mortal Kombat games. We love making them but we also want to do different types of games. Different genres, different IPs. The Batman iOS game was kind of like us dipping our foot into that whole different types of games to do. We're going to continue in that direction, but I would be surprised if we never did another Mortal Kombat game again.
GS: So you would say 2012 will be a year of diversification for NetherRealm?
EB: Oh yes, without a doubt.
"The Batman iOS game was kind of like us dipping our foot into that whole different types of games to do."
GS: Some have said the future of the fighting game genre is character customization. What do you think about this, and what is your vision for the future of the fighting game genre?
EB: Character customization can be taken in such a broad range of interpretation. From my personal perspective, to say, OK well, let the player dress his character, put on a scarf, a belt, put other things. I think there's novelty to that, and it's fun, but I don't know how much weight that really carries. If you can modify things like the properties in certain attacks, or if they're carrying a certain weapon, changing that weapon. Make it a little more interesting. Now, it adds the challenge of you don't want someone creating this uber-character that beats everyone because he's so strong; there's a balancing issue there. But customization is great. But when it's just looks--aesthetics, costumes--I don't feel like that's as interesting or as deep as we all can go.