If you spent any time in arcades during the mid-1990’s, the chances are good that you crossed paths with Killer Instinct. In an era when gamers would flock to arcades to drop their allowance money on Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct stood out as something unique. With a diverse roster of characters and an addictive “easy to learn, tough to master” control scheme, this was the game that I spent an obscene amount of time (and money) on. Unfortunately, the IP didn’t have the staying power of its contemporaries. The first Killer Instinct hit arcades in 1994, followed by a round of home console ports, and Killer Instinct 2 landed in 1996. Since then, the series has been dormant, despite an enduring fan base. For those people, your first glimmer of hope has arrived.
An official announcement from Microsoft, via their PlayXBLA site, confirmed that the trademark for Killer Instinct has been renewed. Formerly the property of Rareware, Microsoft acquired the trademark in the early 2000’s but has done nothing with it since. The renewal of the trademark will no doubt lead to speculation about what Microsoft has planned; could it be an HD re-release of the classic arcade games, or perhaps a re-vamp akin to what we saw with the 2011 release of Mortal Kombat? Either is possible, however it is too early to speculate either way. Renewing a trademark is merely a move to protect the rights of the franchise, not an implicit guarantee that new content will be forthcoming.
So would another Killer Instinct game fare well in this current gaming climate? While the fighting genre is currently festooned with countless sequels and crossover games, the Mortal Kombat reboot has proven that nostalgia and modernization can exist harmoniously within a single game. Releasing an HD port, with modern tweaks such as online multiplayer and achievements, would definitely reel in the old school fans as well as a few new converts. A completely reboot would probably do equally well. Regardless, all we have for now is the reacquiring of a trademark. It may be a relatively small thing, but for the dedicated series fans, this is definitely big news.