Mortal Kombat on PC? Don’t bet on it.

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.

17 thoughts on “Mortal Kombat on PC? Don’t bet on it.

  1. I highly doubt that the PC versions “never made any money”. I dislike the fact that PC is incresingly associated with piracy when in fact PS3 and 360 games are probably having the same problems.
    Look at Minecraft, it’s making a lot of money, and it hasn’t even been officially released!
    Services like Steam and OnLive are also getting great acceptance from players.
    Just for the record, I still have my original copy of MK trilogy for the PC in it’s cool fire-colored case.
    Best Christmas present ever!

    1. While you “highly doubt” they never made any money, you don’t provide any evidence disproving it. As for “PS3 and 360 games are probably having the same problems”, it’s widely accepted as fact that piracy is far more rampant on PC than on consoles.

      As far as Minecraft goes, perhaps I should be more clear: fighting games as a whole are much less profitable on PC. There are certain game types that work well for PC, such as FPS, strategy, and MMORPG. Therefore, by comparing Minecraft to Mortal Kombat, you’re comparing apples to oranges.

      1. Maybe this is a reason that WB/NRS will realese MK Arcade Kollection on PC? If this make money they will consider MK KE on PC ? They will have NEW RATINGS :) how MK is selling on Steam. But IF SSF4AE sells well on Steam that means MK KE will also sell well on it. And your argument about HIGH COST b/c of porting is … Wrong. Why? B/c it runs on Unreal Engine and Boon said in Kotaku interview : http://kotaku.com/5618460/mortal-kombats-post+launch-balancing-add+on-character–pc-plans : “We’re definitely considering it,” Boon says. “I’ve thought ‘How many fighting game players are PC guys?’ Apparently there seems to be a market for that in Europe. Since we’re on the Unreal Engine, I guess it’s not that much of a change from the console versions.” LOOK :) 1st QUESTION How many fighting game players = Many b/c SSF4AE ONLINE on Steam show this. And Ed Boon answer your doubts about Will be hard to port it :) : “Since we’re on the Unreal Engine, I guess it’s not that much of a change from the console versions.”
        MK KE will be EASY to port it to PC…and don’t cost a lot…BUT still MK don’t make profit earlier but SF also don’t make profit in the 90’s but NOW this situation changed.

        1. The two words that need to be emphasized in that quote from Ed are “I guess”. That is not a definite. That means he thinks it might not be hard or time-consuming to port it. The thing is, Ed is a manager now, not a hands-on developer. It’s very likely (especially seeing as we haven’t seen the port yet) that after they did the research and crunched the numbers, he ended up being wrong about what it would take to port it.

          Besides, you’ve missed the point I was making about the Street Fighter 4 port: the PC version wasn’t made specifically for the PC gamers. That was just a side effect of the fact that they needed to make a PC port for the arcade version. In other words, before releasing the PC version, they did a lot of the work that NetherRealm would still need to do anyway. Thus, the costs of Capcom releasing a PC version would be significantly lower.

          As for Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection, note that Midway released the original arcade versions before for PC as part of Midway Arcade Treasures Deluxe Edition. It’s safe to assume that the costs of porting the arcade games (which simply run an emulator) are much less than porting a massive game like Mortal Kombat. That’s why they could be included on the Midway Arcade Treasures collections and sold for $5-10 on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network.

          In all, if there were a profit to be made on a PC version, we would see one released. Like I said above, though, it’s pretty apparent that WB and NRS feel that the current demand is not enough to offset the costs of such a port.

          1. But all in all IF MK Arcade Kollection sells well on PC and make some money there is a chance :) But it is not big. When 100 000 people buy this on Steam it will be possible to port MK9 b/c they will have money I see that IT IS DEMAND…We will see soon but WB/NRS must realese MK AK! Pc gamers still must waiting for this which is irritating.

          2. I’m going to hazard you’re either relatively young or have never had any experience in business.

            The fact of the matter is that sales of MKAK are not needed to fund a port of Mortal Kombat. What is needed is enough demand and potential revenue to make a port of Mortal Kombat profitable. Comparing it to MKAK is foolish, as while Mortal Kombat is very large and very complex piece of software that would cost $60 on a platform that historically is not friendly to fighting games, MKAK is a cheap $10 game that essentially emulates three arcade games using existing assets. Just because people will buy the cheap fighting game does not mean they will buy the far more expensive one.

            Warner Bros. is not a charity. It is a business where the products it releases need to have the potential to make money. I’m sorry you can’t understand that while you personally think the game would sell, WB and NRS (who have access to far better data and more experienced analysts) do not agree. At this point, your beliefs are not trumping cold reality.

          3. Say this to many people who twitt and comment on each MK Topic:)…They are young or have never had any experience in business? Of course WB is not a charity but this port is not EXPENSIVE, right ? When we see Xbox360 version we can get realativly chaep port of this version. If they are smart they will put this game on Steam and it will make money. Of course maybe 1/10 of Xbox but it is still right move for them b/c means EASY MONEY. MK AK will show how many ppl can buy NRS fighting games. You don’t see that most PC’ers have MAME and play MK1,2,3 for years. If they buy it, it means that they want to support MK project on PC. And every kid in the world or adult know that they have a money to port MK9 to Pc. They will make some money for sure but maybe Pc gamers must wait to time when MK9 stop make profit b/c Console gamers buy this already :) Let’s do some maths :) At least 70% of 60% goes to WB pocket = 42 dollars. Xbox or PS3 don’t have that option some they get maybe 20-30 dollars from each copy…So even if 200 000 people buy this on Steam it means about 350 000 on Xbox for example = Easy money.

          4. I’m going to make three points, and then I’ll leave it at that, as you’re not convincing anyone.

            1) That “60-70%” WB would get from a PC port of Mortal Kombat would not be pure profit. A lot of it would need to go to development costs; despite your assumption that it would be “easy” and “inexpensive”, you still have to pay the employees to port it, pay for the development tools, etc. You may say it’s “easy” and “inexpensive”, but that’s usually an attitude taken by those who have never done programming. Cross-platform porting is a real pain in the ass, as anyone who’s done it can tell you.

            2) Playing any Mortal Kombat game on MAME is in fact illegal unless you own the actual game ROMs. So, thank you for the point that gamers would much rather pirate fighting games on PC than pay for them.

            3) I have to ask, is the email address you submitted for these comments your actual email address? If it isn’t, then you do yourself and your cause no favors by hiding behind anonymity, as it counts against you when weighing demand. If it IS, well… a Google search on that address finds links to pirated materials posted on Usenet. Based on that, I and others seriously question your motives.

            In any event, I’m not going to reply to any more comments. Despite what you might think, you’re not convincing anyone and people with access to far more data and expertise appear to disagree with you. Consider this a lost cause.

          5. Your just funny man. I want to answer you and why I must enter my real e-mail address ?? You just funny. And you discovered America saying MAME is not legal…Really ? Oh wow! I just say that people play on MAME and this is a fact b/c MK Arcade Kollection is not here on market. Many, Many PCers play fighting games on Emulators – that’s the fact. You talking about Usenet – I don’t know what this site is. And 70& of 60$ goes to WB pocket b/c 30% goes to Steam guys. This 42 $ goes strictly to WB and nothing else. On consoles don’t don’t have that option so maybe 30-50% of 60% goes to WB. This is not magic but facts. And this guy who say that SSF4 AE is on 4th place on Steam – that don’t say nothing ? Yes that say there is a market for fighting games on PC and you just can’t deal with this. Maybe you are right WB don’t realese MK on PC but if don’t mean that there are right…They want a lot of money but PC port will give them maybe 1/10 of Xbox – But It’s still EASY MONEY. AND last but not least – You just want to pull sb down with Piracy argument and talking about Usenet. Piracy is everywhere but this don’t mean every PC gamers are a pirate.

          6. And my last comment it this site :) I also don’t reply to you b/c your only argument is Pc gamers are pirates and don’t buy this game. You don’t have selling rates from Capcom and I also don’t have it…But it doesn’t mean that many Pc gamers buy this game. It’s been in top 10 in sales on Steam in 2011 and for sure 4th most playable game on Steam. This means there is market for fighting games. Pc port don’t cost much b/c it uses Unreal Engine – that’s the reason. Of course It cost something but every game cost something :) This don’t mean that it cost MUCH. People like me who twitt Ed Boon, Warner Bros etc. just want this game on every possible platform. That’s why console guys want DIABLO 3 which is pure a Pc game. And even Ed Boon said that there is a market for fighting games on PC and it don’t cost much. Maybe he is not a developer now but I bet he’s know what’s he saying. If SSF4AE don’t sell enough Capcom won’t realese SFxTekken – it’s simple. They will realese it so your arguments can go to trash. Bye bye Pirate ;)))

  2. I highly doubt that the PC versions “never made any money”. I dislike the fact that PC is incresingly associated with piracy when in fact PS3 and 360 games are probably having the same problems.
    Look at Minecraft, it’s making a lot of money, and it hasn’t even been officially released!
    Services like Steam and OnLive are also getting great acceptance from players.
    Just for the record, I still have my original copy of MK trilogy for the PC in it’s cool fire-colored case.
    Best Christmas present ever!

  3. I appreciate the addressing of the relevant arguments, but there are some points that need to be expanded upon:

    Firstly, I agree. Online petitions mean nothing. Even a petition with 50 billion signatures is only relevant to the extent that it generates free advertising, should a PC version be developed.

    Secondly, Regarding piracy, the link I believe the author is referring to is here: http://www.eventhubs.com/news/2012/jan/14/pc-version-ssf4-ae-vanilla-make-top-10-list-most-played/

    While Capcom keeps their sales figures secret, and so only a representative of the company would be able to give exact information, it is worthwhile to note that these are not people playing the game, but rather people playing the game on Games For Windows Live, each of whom has a unique CD Key which serves the same purpose as MK’s Online Pass. I am unaware of any instance of success in playing online on GFWL with pirated software. It is still possible to pirate the game and play it single-player or LAN only, however these copies of the game are not included in the figures cited. To answer one of the author’s anecdote’s, pirated copies of Street Fighter IV are sometimes used in tournaments because they do not require the constant internet access needed by GFWL enabled versions. Several single-player only games, such as Skyrim and Batman: Arkham City, have had wide success on the PC despite piracy concerns, even though as single-player only games, they should be much more attractive to pirates and more difficult to protect because they do not require the user to sign into an online server.

    Thirdly, as to the point on relative easy of porting Street Fighter vs Mortal Kombat: Mortal Kombat runs on the Unreal Tournament 3 engine, which should make a port comparatively cheap and easy.

    Fourthly, Mortal Kombat has more of a European audience than Street Fighter, whose sales center in Japan and America. While distribution has been a barrier in the past, online retailers allow global sales, allowing a port to reach its market anywhere in the world, with the added bonus of higher revenue share for developers and built-in DRM and Marketing in services such as Steam. The option of a digital only release wasn’t possible in the days of MK5, and platforms such as Steam, Amazon Downloads, Impulse, and Gamers Gate allow publishers to skip the costs and logistics of physical packaging and distribution. The risk for publishers for introducing a game into a new market is now substantially less than it ever has been, so even if the port is an unmitigated failure, the loss to Warner Bros for the attempt is only the cost of the port and whatever marketing monies they choose to expend on the project. Capcom’s success in bringing Street Fighter to the PC indicates that there is a PC market for fighting games. If Warner Bros decides to enter the PC market place, they would not only be generating revenue from immediate sales of Mortal Kombat, but also seeding the market with demand for sequels, in the same way that Capcom has concerning successive iterations of its Street Fighter franchise.

    Warner Bros will not release the numbers they have crunched, nor their marketing strategies, and Capcom is unlikely to release their sales figures. However, given the above considerations, I personally judge it highly unlikely that a PC port of Mortal Kombat would be a financial failure if online distribution was utilized. Above all however, Mortal Kombat is simply a great game, and I would like for everyone possible to be able to play the series that has delighted gamers for the past 20 years, and find out why we fans are so passionate about being able to play this game.

    1. Yes, the link you have provided is the one I was referring to.

      While you correctly state that the game runs on Unreal Engine 3, you say it “should” be relatively cheap to port. The problem is that you still need to devote resources to port it, and it’s not always a non-trivial amount. As I stated, Capcom could get away with it because they had to develop a Windows version anyway for their arcade release, so they would have less to do for a port than NetherRealm would be required to.

      I do not deny that Steam and OnLive would be the way to go as far as distributing a hypothetical PC version of Mortal Kombat; in fact, Steam is slated to be the distribution platform for Mortal Kombat Arcade Kollection. The problem is, again, the fact that the game being on Steam would not prevent it from being heavily pirated like the Street Fighter 4 games were. One has to measure the likely revenue from a PC version, compared to how much manpower and time used to make the port (just because it’s based on UE3 does not mean it will be an eight hour job). Warner Bros. simply does not see a profit for it, based on their own information.

      I appreciate that you want everyone to play the game, but the core business is to make money. If there’s no money to be made, then there’s no reason to make the port. Otherwise you’re just wasting the developer’s time and money.

      1. Thank you very much for taking the time to read and reply.

        Being on an online verification server system does prevent piracy if the pirates wish to play online. This is exactly the reason Street Fighter IV uses Games for Windows Live, which is often maligned, but does prevent illegitimate copies from playing online. Mortal Kombat does have a substantial single-player offering, unlike Street Fighter, but the figures quoted for the amount that people play Street Fighter (and the revenue that Capcom makes off the game that justify a PC port) are all excluding piracy. It boils down to a simple calculation: Can PC sales can justify the costs of porting Mortal Kombat?

        Absent sales data from Capcom, and cost estimates from NetherRealm, it seems that the only conjecture we can make is of this logical form: Other publishers would not produce console ports if they didn’t make money. Publishers continue to port games to the PC. Therefore PC ports make money.

        The typical counter to this argument is that there is no audience for fighting games on the PC, but I believe Capcom has shown very effectively there is an audience. Cost should be no greater than that of porting similar games, and as MK uses the highly-transferable UT3 engine, may actually be lesser.

      2. I must don’t agree with Mr Bishop. You are missing the fact that Piracy is on X360 also. Many people have 2 consoles – one for online safe play and one for illegal copies. Mortal Kombat leaked 2 weeks before official release.
        On Pc platform Devs dont have to give 10% of the profits to MS or Sony. Steam do not release their sales figures but actually Digital Distribution make up 60% of sales in the USA.
        You can not go wrong with a Steam release …. over 30 million users you cant go wrong!
        Where for e.g. Portal 2 sales better on consoles or Pc ? Much more ppl buy Pc versions that said Valve.
        One more fact is Capcom create some market for fighting games on Pc. They make enough money to continue their journey because their sale this game on Steam. Maybe they don’t have to work so much on the port but porting a game don’t cost very much.
        You miss the point that for e.g. Counter Strike is selling very well on Steam for years and make big money. MK Komplete Edition on Pc will be selling on Steam for another couple years and where gets cheaper (20-30 dollars) then many people would buy this game.
        Your argument about MK never make money on Pc is maybe true but when was it ? 97-98? Where is digital distribution ? Where is online ? Pirates don’t have online so many of them must buy this game.

        1. First off… people, how the hell do you expect me to take you and your arguments seriously if you’re going to misrepresent who the hell you are? People at NetherRealm are the LAST people I expect to reply to my post, simply because I know for a fact that nothing I said is stuff the marketing people will want to discuss publicly.

          That said, two points to make. First, as I stated in an earlier comment, comparing Counter-Strike and Portal 2 to Mortal Kombat is comparing apples to oranges. First-person shooters are the most popular genre for PC, if only because the keyboard/mouse control configuration is much more efficient and practical for those games. On the other hand, fighting games are traditionally one of the weakest (if not THE weakest) genres on PC. NRS simply does not see the current demand as being enough to be worth porting to PC. You say porting a game would not cost very much, but you don’t quantify it. For all we know the cost of porting is more than what sales there would be. It makes sense; WB isn’t shy about releasing games for PC, yet Mortal Kombat hasn’t been ported.

          Secondly, yes, I know console piracy is happening too. You missed MY point that it is FAR more prevalent on PC, and saying “only people who purchased it can play online” is hopeful at best; pirates so far have been able to beat most DRM. If you need a reference, here you go:

          http://www.tweakguides.com/Piracy_4.html

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