Here's how DLC has worked for NetherRealm Studios' previous fighting games — can this help in seeing how much we're getting for Mortal Kombat 11?

NetherRealm have continuously increased the amount of DLC fighters, will Mortal Kombat 11 follow suit?

Posted by Nicholas 'MajinTenshinhan' Taylor • February 23, 2019 at 3:54 p.m. PST

NetherRealm Studios have truly brought their franchises to a new high ever since the release of Mortal Kombat 9 back in 2011.

Since then, we have not only seen the Mortal Kombat franchise grow stronger than ever, but we've also seen the birth of an entirely new fighting game franchise in the DC Comics crossover Injustice, which NetherRealm has made two games of so far.

We've also seen rosters change quite a bit in both of these cases, with some characters being revamped, others disappearing entirely between entries and brand new characters being created and added.

Mortal Kombat 11 seems to be no exception — we've already gotten a look at brand new fighter Geras, and we've seen that some characters who sat out the last installment, such as Baraka, Kabal and Skarlet are now back in the fray.

With the launch roster for Mortal Kombat 11 rumored to be at 25 characters due to the character select screen we've seen in playable builds, that's a fairly robust starting point.

We already know, though, that there's DLC coming, with Ed Boon claiming that people will freak out when you see the picks they have for it, meaning that there's no telling what size the roster will end up at after post-launch support.

What we can do, though, is take a look at the growth we've seen so far in DLC output from NetherRealm Studios in their previous four modern fighting games. It's actually increased with every game — so let's look at how much we got in each title, and how long it took between each release.

Mortal Kombat 9

Release year: April 19th, 2011
Launch roster size: 27
DLC character amount: 5 (including PlayStation 3/Vita exclusive Kratos)

DLC characters

• Kratos — Released at launch on April 19th (on PS3)
• Skarlet — Released June 21st, 2011
• Kenshi — Released July 5th, 2011
• Rain — Released July 19th, 2011
• Freddy Kreuger — Released August 9th, 2011

While 2011 may not seem like it was very long ago, and it really wasn't, it's a whole different world when it comes to video game development, and at this point, 2011 is practically ancient.

Back in 2011, downloadable content definitely existed, and for fighting games as well, but adding characters post-release wasn't the norm at all. Just a year before, we saw Capcom release Super Street Fighter 4 as a new disc, without the possibility of upgrading your game via DLC.

As such, it was actually pretty trailblazing at the time to have such a robust DLC roster, and this was also where they began to introduce the guest character phenomenon to the series, first with Sony-exclusive Kratos, and later with horror movie icon Freddy Kreuger from A Nightmare on Elm Street.

It was pretty clear that these characters (sans Kratos) were worked on in bulk, since they released so closely to each other, in a schedule so tightly knit it's completely unheard of in today's gaming landscape.

Injustice: Gods Among Us

Release date: April 16th, 2013
Launch roster size: 24
DLC character amount: 6

DLC characters

• Lobo — Released May 7th, 2013
• Batgirl — Released May 21st, 2013
• Scorpion — Released June 4th, 2013
• General Zod — Released July 2nd, 2013
• Martian Manhunter — Released July 30th, 2013
• Zatanna — Released August 13th, 2013

Injustice: Gods Among Us followed suit in a similar fashion to what Mortal Kombat 9 did, though by this time DLC characters had become much more commonplace in fighting games, though they were usually done with a "version up" of the game (such as Street Fighter X Tekken v2013 and Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition).

Much like with Mortal Kombat 9, the release schedule was very tightly knit, and it's likely that the whole roster of DLC was decided well beforehand, since they were all completed fairly closely to each other, judging by their release dates.

It was also a point of some controversy that a Mortal Kombat character was added to a DC Comics crossover, though Ed Boon openly stated later on that Scorpion was the best selling DLC they had in Injustice, which showed very clearly in the next Injustice game's DLC lineup.

Mortal Kombat X

Release year: April 14th, 2015
Launch roster size: 24
DLC character amount: 9 (including pre-order bonus Goro)

DLC characters

• Goro — Released at launch on April 14th, 2015 (pre-order bonus)
• Jason Voorhees — Released May 12th, 2015
• Tanya — Released June 2nd, 2015
• Predator — Releaesd July 12th, 2015
• Tremor — Released July 28th, 2015
• Leatherface — Released March 1st, 2016
• Alien — Released March 1st, 2016
• Bo' Rai Cho — Released March 1st, 2016
• Triborg — Released March 1st, 2016

At first, Mortal Kombat X followed suit with its predecessor Mortal Kombat 9 and the prior release from NetherRealm Studios, Injustice: Gods Among Us, with tightly-placed releases a few months after the game's release, as well as bringing another horror icon in the form of Friday The 13th's Jason Voorhees after the success of Freddy Kreuger last game, and surprise addition Predator.

However, people were then treated to a surprise when NetherRealm unveiled to the world that they were doing a second round of DLC entitled "Kombat Pack 2", and it was delivered entirely different to any previous DLC they had done, by putting everything out together at the same time, much more similar to the earlier mentioned "version up" type of DLC, and even carried a rebranding from Mortal Kombat X to Mortal Kombat XL.

We also saw even more guest characters be added with Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacare and Alien, obviously to capitalize on the classic Alien vs. Predator theme.

Mortal Kombat X also happened to be the first game from NetherRealm Studios which offered a pre-order bonus character, a practice they have since made their standard. In Mortal Kombat X, Goro was the chosen fighter.

Injustice 2

Release year: May 16th, 2017
Launch roster size: 28
DLC character amount: 10 (including pre-order bonus Darkseid)

DLC characters

• Darkseid — Released at launch on May 16th, 2017 (pre-order bonus)
• Red Hood — Released June 13th, 2017
• Sub-Zero — Released July 11th, 2017
• Starfire — Released August 8th, 2017
• Black Manta — Released September 12th, 2017
• Raiden — Released October 3rd, 2017
• Hellboy — Released November 14th, 2017
• Atom — Released December 12th, 2017
• Enchantress — Released January 9th, 2018
• Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — Released February 13th, 2018

Following suit with the standard set by Mortal Kombat X, Injustice 2 also received a pre-order bonus in the form of highly popular villain character Darkseid, and it was stated before the game's release that DLC would be coming after launch.

This time, though, they refined their approach to DLC and put it much more in line with what consumers expect in today's gaming market, which is a more spaced out, yet steady stream of content.

In this endeavour, we received slow trickles of information, with the characters being revealed in trios for the most part, with the big shocker reveals that each broke the internet at the time being Hellboy and later, even more extravagantly, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

We also saw two Mortal Kombat guests in Sub-Zero and Raiden, harkening back to Boon's statement that Scorpion was their best selling DLC character in Injustice: Gods Among Us.

Since its release, NetherRealm released one character per month, showing the game support and keeping it fresh, for nine whole months post-launch. This also heavily suggests that the development team was kept on the project well after the release of the title, continuously working to improve the title and add more content, rather than moving on to the next project.

What we can discern from this is that NetherRealm Studios' approach to DLC in their fighting games has evolved with the times, and gotten more in line with the current ebb and flow of the gaming industry as time has gone on.

However, there are a few constants I'd like to point out which we can see from each of these titles, and that I think will likely hold true in Mortal Kombat 11's DLC approach as well.

The first one is that each game has received more post-launch content than the one before it. We've been moving for a while now towards an era where fighting games try to sell themselves as platforms that will keep developing with post-launch content. Street Fighter 5 did this in a bolder way than many others, but you can see it in Tekken 7, Dragon Ball FighterZ and BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle as well, where the games keep getting new additions rather than pushing out sequels.

Even though NetherRealm Software have been consistent in releasing a new fighting game every other year, they've also grown their DLC output with each title. I don't think NetherRealm are going to cut down on their game releases, but I do think that we'll continue to see their post-launch services grow accordingly to what the rest of the industry is doing.

A second constant we've been able to see grow with each title is guest characters sell. In short, if your favorite Mortal Kombat character isn't in the launch roster, I'm not saying you should completely give up on them, but you better be prepared that at least half of the DLC will probably be something entirely different than what you might be expecting.

And the final constant I'd like to bring up is that with each title, NetherRealm try to go more bombastic and surprising with their DLC picks. This is further supported for Mortal Kombat 11 with the direct quote from Ed Boon that people will freak out when they see the DLC for Mortal Kombat 11, which is presumably planned specifically to exceed all expectations.

In the end, DLC is still a concept that's always evolving in the gaming industry, but NetherRealm have made it clear that they want post-launch content for their consumers, and consistently make sure that they're able to deliver it, even though the exact way and format may differ between games.

At this point, we don't even know for sure what the launch roster is in Mortal Kombat 11, so it's pointless to speculate on who might be in the DLC. But we are able to get a fairly good idea of what the DLC overall will look like, by judging the patterns from these past titles.

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