It’s safe to say that Warner Brothers, specifically their game publishing division, has not had the best year. With a shoddy PC port of Batman: Arkham Knight that is still between just barely playable and broken haunting them, they had a chance to redeem themselves and show the world that they are still capable of publishing high-quality games across all platforms…then Mortal Kombat X on the PC happened. Buggy, unresponsive with the badly optimized net code has now started a very nasty trend out of the house that Bugs built. Now, every company is allowed to make mistakes and no one is saying they can’t, they are run by humans (or, at least, I’m pretty sure the machines haven’t taken over yet) and by no means are they perfect but the follow-up to Mortal Kombat X on PC just shows you how shady Warner Brothers has become.
Like several of their titles before, a rerelease Game of The Year edition called Mortal Kombat XL was announced including all the DLC fighter packs released for vanilla Mortal Kombat X. This is when three major facts were made known:
- Mortal Kombat XL was not coming to PC
- Only the first DLC pack was going to be available to PC players
- Warner Brothers has now officially abandoned Windows support of the game
So, I fully understand that the Mortal Kombat series is a game that was born in the arcades and now lives on as a primary console game but what was the point of bringing it over to PC if Warner Brothers was going to abandon it less than a year after launch? This has a few different pieces all working in tandem to show how the AAA games market has become broken by the sheer size it has become.
With the launches of both Batman and MKX comes the question “Why is this happening so often?” and I like to think that these 2 main reasons are responsible for this.
Starting with the massive success of Xbox Live on the original Xbox, the 7th generation of consoles all launched with online being one of the new features they were capable of. This also brought a new power to development houses, and a much needed one, where they were able to patch games on the consoles like how they did on the PC. This, combined with good QA testing, was the makings for a future where one hard to find bug would not be the death knell for an otherwise great game but in the great tradition of the AAA market, if there is something that can be used for good then it can also be exploited. This has led us now to a new expectation in games where launch week is either exciting because a game didn’t have any major bugs or disappointing because it was shipped out sometimes so broken it is unplayable. Now I’m pretty sure I don’t have to explain why it is just flat out sad that gaming has come to this new idea of launch now and patch it later or go into the problems this can bring up. I will say though that there is a major difference between a 400-megabyte patch to fix some weapons balancing in an FPS and the 15-gigabyte download that MKX players had to get to make their PC version playable. Companies like WB have now ceased to look at launch week buyers as loyal customers who are the most important to their product but now as people who are paying for the right to beta test their games for another week or two until they can finish patching it to a playable state.
When it comes to game development today, usually one of three ways are used to make a game. Either a PC version is made then ported to consoles, a console version is made and then ported to PC or both versions are made at the same time. The third reason is actually the rarest because unlike having to work with the similar architecture of two competing consoles, a PC game has to be optimized with several graphics card makers drivers, two major CPU makers (AMD and Intel) and multiple generations of different combinations of both. This is why generally it is easier and less expensive on development to port a game to whichever platform it is being launched on but in the cases of Batman and MKX, led to both games having a schizophrenic development cycle. This was due to having main studios Rocksteady and NetherRealm developing the core games and then having secondary studios Iron Galaxy and High Voltage Software do the PC ports. Now both of these secondary studios have done good work in the past with Iron Galaxy porting Borderlands 2 to the PC and High Voltage Software doing work on the Saints Row 4 rerelease on the newer generation of consoles. The main issue with Batman and MKX, however, comes down to the nature of studios that exist to create these PC ports in which they are usually smaller outlets who will underbid for a job while overpromising results. Rocksteady has around 120 staff members and in the development cycle will have a majority of or if not all of them working on a major title release. High Voltage employs around 95 and they have multiple jobs going on at once in which they must divide that staff in order to work on everything. The split nature of development for PC is one that used to be “launch for one platform and then port later” to “launch for all platforms at once” due to PC’s resurgence in popularity and its newfound easiness to approach and because of this is why game development had to change and as we have often seen, not for the better.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!