Last week, NetherRealm Studios confirmed the DLC roster for Mortal Kombat 11's Kombat Pack 1. The six characters include classic MK fighters Shang Tsung and Nightwolf, already in the game, followed by Terminator T-800, Sindel, the Joker, and Spawn. This announcement has rubbed fans the wrong way and, as is the status quo for the industry, gamers are up in arms.
Following the announcement trailer, fans are upset about the Mortal Kombat 11 Kombat Pack 1 release dates that are staggered all the way into 2020. T-800 is releasing on October 8, with each subsequent character staggered two months or so, with Sindel on November 24, Joker on January 26, and Spawn on March 17. Players are especially concerned that they will have to wait nearly a year from the time of release for the final character in the first Kombat Pack to be released.
Vocal Reddit users swarmed the Mortal Kombat 11 subreddit to complain about the lack of information prior to this trailer. After promising to "be better" about communicating with the fan base, the reaction to the release dates was still largely negative, especially given the lack of rumored characters like Ash from the Evil Dead franchise.
But the announcement and continued post-release support should indicate NetherRealm is doing what's best for the players and the developers. Considering the history of allegations of crunch at NetherRealm, there is no reason fans should be upset at a consistent, yet staggered release schedule. They should be happy that NetherRealm Studios is adjusting their release schedule to ease the load on their employees.
In April, developers from the Mortal Kombat 11 team spoke out about years of problematic "crunch culture" at NetherRealm during the development of the MK and Injustice games. Former and current employees cited regular 80-100 hour work weeks while working on Mortal Kombat X and Injustice 2. Contract workers, specifically in the QA department, reported communication issues and underpayment as reasons they were needed to work overtime every week simply to make ends meet.
This doesn't mean their is not still crunch at NetherRealm or that the structure of the company has undergone a massive restructuring, but it suggests the studio is finding ways to ease up on killer work days. We can hope this slow rollout of Kombat Pack characters reflects positive change in company culture.
Fans may have to wait longer than expected for a few DLC characters, but that wait is worth it if it means workers have to crunch less. MK 11 is far from stagnant. The team at NetherRealm is still constantly adding content like new skins, DLC Brutalities, and most importantly keeping the game balanced and interesting for continued competitive play. It's a great deal of work to keep a fighting game balanced while holding and promoting events for a community, one new character every two months on top of that should have fans excited about the commitment to the game's longevity.
Mortal Kombat 11 is out now for PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One, with a Stadia version in development.