The recent reboot of the Killer Instinct series will be making a surprise move to Steam before the end of the year. The original game was developed by Rare (of Banjo Kazooie and Donkey Kong Country fame) and released on the SNES way back when. Microsoft acquired the rights to the series with their purchase of Rare and made a reboot for the Xbox One and Windows 10 store under the guidance of Ken Lobb, director of the original games.
The base game is free to play allows the use of only one character that rotates weekly. The rest of the characters have to be purchased separately or there is also a definitive edition that contains all characters which is currently $40AUD on the Windows Store. The game had been praised for its gameplay but was criticized for not having much content on release. This has been remedied now with a solid roster of 28 characters and plenty of stages. Developers have even included a couple of Xbox fan favourite characters from the Halo and Gears of Wars series to bolster the roster.
Opinion: It is great that Killer Instinct is coming to a more popular PC outlet in Steam but I think that this marks an interesting point in Microsoft’s PC strategy. For the most part they have prevented their first-party titles to come to the Steam platform, presumably so that they have full control of their games and do not let Valve take a cut of their profits. The first Halo Wars game recently made its way onto the platform but the likes of Gears of War have remained on the Windows Store.
Microsoft has deployed a strange strategy of unifying the Xbox One and Windows 10 which is good in theory as it means PC gamers will be able to play most of the new Microsoft first-party games. The issue is that the Windows 10 store has nowhere near the amount of users as Steam does which limits the playerbases of these games. This is what I suspect has happened with Killer Instinct. Profitability has likely peaked on the Windows store so they are moving it to Steam out of desperation for more players. Fighting games are niche as is and limiting potential players seems like a poor move.
The question now is whether Windows and Steam players will be able to play with each other. There was some controversy last year where Call of Duty Infinite PC players could not play each other which instantly split the community. Hopefully, Microsoft will not repeat that mistake again.