One of the Xbox One’s standout launch titles was Killer Instinct, a free-to-play fighting game based on the classic Rare franchise of the 90s. Killer Instinct is a combo-heavy fighter with an eclectic cast of characters, including martial aritsts, demons, werecreatures, and undead entities. It also has a range of cross-franchise characters in its newest incarnation, including the Arbiter from Halo and RAAM from Gears of War.
Killer Instinct didn’t enjoy the same traction as some of its contemporaries, but it has a passionate community stewarded by popular streamers like fighting game expert Maximillian on Twitch. Killer Instinct’s unique gameplay features, highly-accessible design, and nostalgic value has kept it in the minds of the community for some time, despite the game being largely abandoned by Microsoft. According to Xbox lead Phil Spencer, however, it’s not due to a lack of desire for the franchise.
In a podcast with Dropped Frames, Spencer elaborated Microsoft’s feelings about Killer Instinct, noting that they do have an intention to continue the franchise, if the right studio comes along.
“There are so many good games in our catalogue that we’d love to visit. The response when we redid KI at the launch of Xbox One was fantastic. Not everybody inside of the org saw what that game could become. I will just say Matt [Booty, Xbox Game Studios lead] and I have discussed many times “KI” and where we would like to go with it and it’s not out of our minds — it might be out of our minds — but it’s in our hearts and in our minds that we want to continue to do something with KI.”
“It is about finding the right team and the right opportunity. It is not due to any kind of lack of desire on our part that we’re not doing more with KI, because we love the franchise and the community response.”
Killer Instinct has a vast amount of potential given the game’s legacy, although it does seem to be relatively tough for smaller fighting games to cut through into the mainstream these days, competing for mindshare with the likes of Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and Super Smash Bros.
In previous comments, Spencer joked with Mortal Kombat lead Ed Boon about the possibility of a Killer Instinct x Mortal Kombat crossover. Rumors about Mortal Kombat’s NetherRealm potentially being part of a sale following Warner Bros’ restructures have led to further rumors about Microsoft being interested in acquiring the studio for some time. Whether or not that could be the path back to a revived Killer Instinct remains unclear, but who knows? I certainly didn’t expect to be writing “Microsoft has acquired Bethesda” this time last year either …
Killer Instinct is available now for free with a rotating character, or for $40 as part of the definitive edition, which includes all fighters. It’s also available on Xbox Game Pass for console, PC, and cloud, complete with touch controls.
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