Originally written for Red Bull but adding it here for esports enthusiasts
It has been more than four years since the iconic fighting games franchise, Mortal Kombat, saw a new title released. However, in September 2023 this will change with game developers, NetherRealm, announcing a full reboot of the game: Mortal Kombat. The new game is set to be released on 19 September 2023 on PC, Playstation 5, Xbox Series X & S as well as the Nintendo Switch. We caught up with South African gamers to find out what to expect from the new game.
Mortal Kombat esports players Sheldon “Sheldzable” Holliday and LekkerBroDude alongside fighting games shoutcasters MrChocolatezzz, Appetite and popular local streamer Kaizo_Pengu all shared their views on what the franchise reboot will bring to the table and specifically how the new title will impact South African fans of the game.
What do you think of the new Mortal Kombat title so far?
Sheldzable: The game looks visually stunning with great character models and environments. The combat looks fluid and brutal. I had recently discussed this on an episode of my podcast but there is a great overall mix between the last 3 Mortal Kombat titles. I’m loving the new dynamic loading screen as well. It looks like it’s going to be a great game, and I can’t wait to play it when it releases in September, or August for those of us that pre-ordered and get access to the beta. Here are some specific things that I’m looking forward to: The new character designs. The characters look more realistic and detailed than ever before, and I love the new costumes. The new kombat mechanics. The kombat looks more fluid and dynamic than ever before, and I’m excited to try out the new Kameo system and think it’s going to bring a much-needed refresh to the competitive scene.
LekkerBroDude: I am in love and obsessed with the new MK so far. I wasn’t fortunate enough to get into the closed network test, but all of the gameplay elements are exactly what I’ve been wanting in an MK game for years now.
MrChocolatezzz: It’s looking like some of the older titles, much faster and focusing on aggression and active decision-making.
Appetite: I honestly think it looks amazing. A little more fast paced than 11. I’m really intrigued at how they have brought the Meter system from games like 9 and X as well as the breakaway mechanics from those games back, along with the new addition in Kameos.
Kaizo_Penguin: I’m excited for it. I think it is looking better than ever graphically while the environments and music are great. I want to see what gets added to it as they still haven’t shown everything yet. I got to play the Stress test, which was a little slow in some places during combat, but they have mentioned they are working on that and besides that, it was super fun to play when I wasn’t getting my butt kicked haha. I’m a little sceptical of the new Kameo system, I do see how it opens up more combo potential – which is great for the pros – but I’ve never been a fan of the assist based fighting games so will take some getting used to. After 30 years, taking the story in a new direction is both refreshing but also worrying because keeping up with the lore will be a bit all over the place, more so than it already is in some places.
How have previous Mortal Kombat games been received in South Africa?
Sheldzable: Really well, at least from my perspective. The scene was really growing with MKX when it was released in 2015 and has been ever-growing since with a solid FGC just looking for players who love the games as much as we do. There have been multiple events hosted to promote the games, MKX specifically and MK11 unfortunately struggled offline with COVID arriving only 6 months after its release, but it really helped the online community grow. I’d argue that Street Fighter and Tekken may have a bigger following in the SA FGC due to a bunch of factors. Mortal Kombat doesn’t get as many advertisers/sponsors because of its violence. Sponsors and advertisers help the community grow
LekkerBroDude: Mortal Kombat X had a pretty good scene in SA but MK11 was a lot bigger. There were pretty regular tournaments held by CharlieWolf that had a good amount of entrants each time. The scene isn’t as active anymore due to not getting any new content in a long time, but I think that MK1 is going to really revive the scene in a big way and I’m sure we’ll see a lot of the players return as well as new ones.
MrChocolatezzz: MK11 had a big launch but a lacklustre following, since it happened during the steam regional pricing taking effect, meaning the majority of us paid much less than our American or Japanese friends. Even so, it fell off quite quickly as it did not have the grasp Tekken, Street Fighter or even DragonBall Fighterz did. Previous titles did much better, with Injustice and MKX being some of the most beloved.
Appetite: I’d say they have been received relatively well as the player base for 11 is still quite active.
Kaizo_Penguin: So far it seems like they’ve been very well received. There are a lot of people I’ve met and spoken to through my life who have heard of it, played it, enjoyed it and own at least one of the games in the franchise even from the PlayStation 2 days. It’s a franchise that has been around for a long time so it would be hard not to find people aware of it. You still see at every gaming festival in South Africa at least 1 MK cosplay, if not more, walking around and artwork in the stalls. I did go to a tournament when MK11 was out and even though it wasn’t advertised well, there were still quite a few people there to enter and just play. MK11 as of now has sold around 15 million copies world wide so it has been growing. I’m sure with the next instalment they will sell even more.
Why do you love Mortal Kombat?
Sheldzable: Where to begin? I’ve been playing Mortal Kombat since UMK3 all the way till MK11. When my cousin and I lived together we used to play MK9 to decide who was doing the chores for that evening. It was that comradery and fun when putting it all on the line in a 1v1 match that made me love it. Nothing worse than losing to a brutality and having to do the dishes after. Nothing sweeter than winning and walking away with a Fatality going on in the background!
LekkerBroDude: I love Mortal Kombat because I played the hell out of Mortal Kombat 2011 with my friends back in High-School, we’d discuss the lore and the different fatalities. Then with Mortal Kombat X, it was the first fighting game that made me go “hang on, I want to find out what actually makes a good fighting game player” – that was my first introduction to the competitive scene and the local fighting game community.
MrChocolatezzz: It’s a visceral, pulse-pounding action that’s nothing short of breathtaking.
Appetite: ? It was one of the first fighting games I got my hands on and I was able to learn it with my brothers so it will always hold a special place with me.
Kaizo_Penguin: The Martial arts and Mysticism for sure. What drew me to Mortal Kombat first off was back in the Arcade days with MKII. The Photo scanned characters, their designs and the environments pulled my interest straight away and the fatalities didn’t hurt either, even though I was probably too young for it at the time. After that I ended up getting MK3 on PC and since then each one after that.. Except Special Forces but that was bad so I think I saved my money. What kept my interest with the series has to be the lore and ideas of the game. It heavily references movies in both Western and Eastern cinema like Bloodsport, Big Trouble in Little China, Ninja in the Dragons Den, 36 th Chamber of Shaolin and many more. These are movies I love and so a game series which paid homage to them only made my love for it grow. I’ve enjoyed all the movies and TV shows, even though some are a little camp and bad. I still enjoy rewatching it to this day and do so every time I’m hyping myself up for New MK media. Hell, I’m rewatching Mortal Kombat: Conquest now. The story of all the realms and characters along with their designs will always have that X factor for me, an itch that Streetfighter and Tekken don’t seem to scratch.
Is there a competitive scene for Mortal Kombat locally?
Sheldzable: Yes, as mentioned before. Myself and multiple other FGC members started a small Whatsapp group called “FGC Africa” and another for PC players called “Steam FGC” back in 2015, where we spent the majority of our time getting players involved and finding a platform to show off the African talent. What started as just Southern Africa has grown to include the North as well now 8.5 years later – boasting over 350+ members. We have hosted multiple events with the coveted crown of “Kahn of Africa” being put back up for grabs when MK1 comes out. You can find all of that content on our Youtube, Discord and Twitter: @FGC_Africa
LekkerBroDude: Charliewolf ran a number of online tournaments during the days of MK11. It was a pretty active scene and we had a lot of great players. There’s also a WhatsApp group where MK players from the entire African continent organise games and play.
MrChocolatezzz: Yes, it isn’t as big or prominent as SF or T7, but it exists. Multiple WhatsApp groups, discords, and tournaments happening often at the grassroots level. I’ve personally seen many players in that field, and I am sure they will pull up when the opportunity arises.
Appetite: There have been some tournaments for MK11 in the past, some of which I know were run by CharlieWolfGaming.
Kaizo_Penguin: I definitely think there is a scene for it, but as there are not that many tournaments that happen or the ones that are aren’t heavily advertised so most people seem to just play online. I do know that the violence may be off putting for brands and such to sponsor tournaments so that could be a reason but I’m not sure. I feel like it’s a situation of “If you build it, they will come”. If you have a Mortal Kombat tournament with an awesome prize, well-advertised and a bit of flair in the production, people will be more inclined to come and try their luck and show off their skills or even watch it live streamed. These things do cost money though and I guess that’s where one of the main hurdles is.
Do you think the new title will see more players try their hand at competitive events?
Sheldzable: Definitely. Mortal Kombat is a really fun game and I feel with all these new mechanics, as well as the breaker mechanic returning, It can be very inviting for new members. Also, our FGC is super friendly and that always helps when players join and see that there are players out there looking to help improve others.
LekkerBroDude: Absolutely! I think the FGC as a whole has grown a lot in the past few years. The new game also seems to be promoting the idea of “player freedom”. I think those two elements combined are going to create a really healthy scene for MK1 when it comes out.
MrChocolatezzz: Yes, many players have been awaiting a sequel, and have been spending their time honing their skills to show it off in big tournaments. AGCL and other smaller TOs have been waiting patiently for this.
Appetite: I’m pretty confident in the new MK attracting new players and players from different games.
Kaizo_Penguin: Yes and No. I think we’d have to see how the game is received at launch and sometime after. The addition of the Kameos might make things a bit complicated for newer players. Let’s say ’ve been playing the game for a month or so and have gotten used to how to use them and do crazy combos that hit like 43% of the health bar in one go. If my mate who’s never played it comes over and versus me without knowing how to use them, well, it won’t be a fun time for them (if I play seriously) and could potentially turn them off before they even start. Or if a new person jumps online and just gets destroyed it could have the same effect. This isn’t the case for everybody of course but however it still could be something that impacts the newer player from feeling they stand a chance at events and so on. Although if the game is incredibly fun and fluid where the Kameos don’t cause a ridiculous rift in player skill then it might give people the feeling they could enter and win even if they don’t know how to do crazy stuff and just focus on a good natural game. There are a lot of MK fans who just play for fun and the story, but those people are potentially more inclined to watch a tournament than be in one and the viewership of a tournament is still a big part of a tournament that I feel often gets overlooked.
How do we build the fighting games scene in South Africa?
Sheldzable: One step at a time. It takes time and it’s constantly improving every day. Every small FGC scene for each game like Tekken and Street Fighter needs to support each community in any way they can. Join the streams, cheer on the players, and follow all their social media. Go to offline events and hopefully, the sponsors will see what we have, as I know for a fact we can compete against the greats of the rest of the world.
LekkerBroDude: I think the answer to this is more tournaments. If you look at all the strong fighting game regions in the world, they all hold weekly tournaments. Europe has the ICFC, and NA has NLBC. When you have constant weekly tournaments, you get a lot of experience in a competitive environment. This helps with learning to deal with tournament nerves, and also gives you experience playing against a lot of different types of players.
MrChocolatezzz: We need more engagement from our peers. More engagement means better chances for eyes from sponsors which leads to bigger payouts and growth. Having higher engagement also means higher player counts, higher returning player counts and a higher skill floor and ceiling as a result.
Appetite: We can start with running online events however the gold of the FGC is and always has been offline and I think opening a local place where people can meet up any time to play some games offline would be a great start.
Kaizo_Penguin: I don’t have a lot of experience in this area, I’ll be honest, but I’ll give my thoughts. I’m not sure if it’s a controversial take or not, but I feel like you have got to bait the fish. Sure, people will watch people play a fighting game from the comfort of their own home or drive out to a place to participate but it’s not, off the bat, a huge amount of people. The big crowds come with the hype and the scale of the event. Looking at Red Bull Kumite which just happened, they had so much hype and production value behind it, which drew people in. The setup they had as well as the content they posted on socials, with a pixel art theme, was incredible and added a level of quality which makes people take it seriously. A tournament in a shopping mall doesn’t have the same appeal. Obviously an event like Kumite requires an enormous budget and we cannot take the leap straight away. However there are more affordable ways to have a level of production which turns more heads. People play these games and love them. If the tournament or content has a big level of effort in it, more people will return for the next one and tell people about it. It grows from there. The amount of people who play fighting games in the country is a lot bigger than it may seem, so if you can get them invested in events and live streams you can grow that audience and participants from there. Maybe having some more local content creators who focus just on fighting games could help too, in the times where no events are happening. Again this might also need a level of quality to keep interest.
I think if you start small and have lets say a tournament that’s live streamed every so often, which doesn’t only have professional players but also popular streamers or people who can be the underdog (basically people to root for). It has cool transitions, set pieces, hype casters and a prize worth fighting for and possibly a pregame performance or hype video or something it will definitely help keep the viewers attention. I feel like viewers are a huge part of an esports event and sometimes (not always), their engagement gets overlooked in smaller level events. A little drama between players could help add to the stakes of the competition (Like they do with MMA or Boxing) but it’s not really necessary to have a good tournament or increase viewership and the scene. A big question to ask for this is WHY? Why am I watching this? Why am I entering? Why am I rooting for this person to win? Why am I gonna keep coming back? I’m sure there’s already people in the scene already putting in the work and trying to bring it more to the forefront and could make it more popular in the future. I hope they succeed because it would be awesome for it to take off.
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