Due to recent events occurring over at Mortal Kombat Online, I’ve started monitoring the site’s official Twitter account. For the most part, it’s been about the same as I can remember, with one slightly annoying difference: there have been a few people constantly flooding our “mentions” with requests regarding a PC version of Mortal Kombat, especially now that Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition (with all of the DLC characters and skins included) has been announced. While we’re not the only people getting these messages, it’s still irritating to see the flood.
What I’m about to say is my own opinion, and not that of Mortal Kombat Online and (definitely) not NetherRealm Studios. The chances of Mortal Kombat coming to PC are non-existent, with the exception of Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection. Even then, the PC version of MKAK has been delayed by several months.
I’ve already seen some of the most common arguments regarding porting Mortal Kombat to PC. One of these arguments is that there’s an online petition with something like 13,000 signatures, showing demand for the game. The problem there is that when it comes to showing demand, online petitions don’t mean much. Anyone can put in a signature, but it doesn’t mean they actually intend to buy the game. A secondary problem is that 13,000 is in fact a pretty small number. By comparison, 732,000 copies of the game were sold in the first week for consoles (reference). I would hazard that if the online petition wanted to be taken seriously, they would need 50-100 times the signatures that they currently have.
Another argument I’ve heard used is the fact that Capcom has released Street Fighter 4 and Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition to PC, and that they’re planning on releasing Street Fighter X Tekken as well. They also claim that the popularity numbers are high for the game, indicating a lot of sales. Unfortunately, they don’t give figures as to the exact number of sales. In addition, it doesn’t take into account just how many sales there were compared to how much the game has been pirated. I’ve heard arguments that the SF4 games on PC have DRM to prevent piracy, but the problem there is that the pirates rather quickly defeated the DRM. I’ve heard stories about how tournaments would use pirated copies of SF4 for PC instead of licensed or console copies.
That said, people would still point to the PC sales and say, “They’re still making money!” The question becomes, “How much money?” If Netherrealm were to release a PC version of Mortal Kombat, they would have to use time and resources (in other words, money) towards porting the game over. If the game’s sales on PC do not cover the cost of porting, then it’s not worth it for them to go through the trouble. Unlike consoles, PC hardware runs the gamut of different manufacturers, drivers, and capabilities. They would have to take all of that into account.
So, one may ask, why was Capcom able to do it? The answer is simple: they already HAD a Windows version. Unlike Mortal Kombat, the Street Fighter 4 games were released for arcades, and the arcade hardware they used was a system called Taito Type X. Instead of using proprietary components, Taito Type X uses PC hardware and runs on Windows XP Embedded. In other words, a very good chunk of the porting had to be done anyway, so what extra they needed to do was covered by the PC sales.
That doesn’t change the fact that the Street Fighter 4 games are very heavily pirated. While it’s true that console games are pirated as well, the barrier for entry for pirating console games in much higher. While any PC can run a pirated PC game, game consoles have to be modified before they can run pirated console games. Modifying console hardware is a risky venture; not only can it ruin your console (rendering it a brick) should something go wrong, the security systems in the console itself will get you banned from online services if the modification is detected. While I’ve heard it said that only paying customers can play Street Fighter 4 online, I personally find that rather doubtful as I’ve not heard of how this is supposedly accomplished outside of a “Kombat Pass” system like Mortal Kombat uses. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard that claim and have the reality be that many online players of a game were pirates.
The sad thing is that none of this is really anything new. When I started at MK Online (then called MK5.ORG) back in 2002, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance was in development. We had gotten a lot of people asking if and when MK:DA would be released for PC. So, when I went to E3, I asked a couple of people in Midway’s marketing department if there was a PC version in development. They said that there wasn’t, simply because they had never made any money off of the PC versions. The fact that the game was very heavily pirated became apparent in that respect, because I knew a lot of people with MK games for PC, yet the game never made any money. In addition, at least one person who demanded a PC version in the site’s chat channel inadvertently admitted that the only reason he wanted it was so he could pirate it.
So, in essence, it really comes down to money. NetherRealm and Warner Bros. apparently do not feel that porting Mortal Kombat to PC would be worth the money. While the Street Fighter 4 games are out for PC, they were ported ahead of time for different reasons and as such the comparison is not valid. I’m sure Warner Bros. has already done the research and crunched the numbers, as if there were a true profit to be made we’d be seeing a port. Unfortunately, the petitions have too few signatures, the projected PC sales aren’t high enough, and the piracy would be rampant.
With all of the factors taken into account, there simply isn’t enough of a legal market for the port for the effort to be worth it.