[Update: Shoryuken.com caught a bit of the "Killer Instinct" livestream with representatives of Double Helix who clarified how the F2P model is going to work. First, you can buy a full downloadable version of the game with all of the characters and modes, but they'll be offering a trial mode with online functionality enabled and Jago as the starting character. From there, players can purchase additional characters, modes, and features.]
Speaking with Polygon, Microsoft's Torin Rettig revealed that the anticipated followup to the beloved fighting game franchise would not be available at retail and would come loaded with one character--Jago--at launch.
Developer Double Helix confirmed that this would be the approach to the 2D fighter, with additional characters available for download--either a la carte or as part of a season pass.
Explaining the move to Polygon, Rettig offered a real lack of understanding of how people discover fighting games, saying "Some games have anywhere between 30, 40, even 50 characters. And in reality, most players don't play that many characters. You just only have so much time to get good at so many characters. So we wanted to take that into consideration and release the game in a way that took that into consideration and allowed players to get in and play the game at the level that they want to play it."
So in effect, if you want to learn and become proficient with a character, you'll have to buy them blind, a move that both Namco Bandai and Tecmo Koei have been embracing recently. Capcom, please don't follow suit because the free-to-play model for fighting games, at least at this stage, seems pretty dumb.
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