Xbox's Phil Spencer on Killer Instinct: 'We want to continue to do something with KI'

Killer Instinct
Killer Instinct (Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • Killer Instinct is a fighting game franchise owned by Microsoft, originally created by Rare.
  • In a recent podcast, Phil Spencer of Xbox discussed reviving the IP.]
  • He said "we want to continue to do something with KI," and more.

One of the Xbox One's standout launch titles was Killer Instinct, a free-to-play fighting game based on the classic Rare franchise of the 90s. Killer Instinct is a combo-heavy fighter with an eclectic cast of characters, including martial aritsts, demons, werecreatures, and undead entities. It also has a range of cross-franchise characters in its newest incarnation, including the Arbiter from Halo and RAAM from Gears of War.

Killer Instinct didn't enjoy the same traction as some of its contemporaries, but it has a passionate community stewarded by popular streamers like fighting game expert Maximillian on Twitch. Killer Instinct's unique gameplay features, highly-accessible design, and nostalgic value has kept it in the minds of the community for some time, despite the game being largely abandoned by Microsoft. According to Xbox lead Phil Spencer, however, it's not due to a lack of desire for the franchise.

In a podcast with Dropped Frames, Spencer elaborated Microsoft's feelings about Killer Instinct, noting that they do have an intention to continue the franchise, if the right studio comes along.

"There are so many good games in our catalogue that we'd love to visit. The response when we redid KI at the launch of Xbox One was fantastic. Not everybody inside of the org saw what that game could become. I will just say Matt [Booty, Xbox Game Studios lead] and I have discussed many times "KI" and where we would like to go with it and it's not out of our minds — it might be out of our minds — but it's in our hearts and in our minds that we want to continue to do something with KI.""It is about finding the right team and the right opportunity. It is not due to any kind of lack of desire on our part that we're not doing more with KI, because we love the franchise and the community response."

Killer Instinct has a vast amount of potential given the game's legacy, although it does seem to be relatively tough for smaller fighting games to cut through into the mainstream these days, competing for mindshare with the likes of Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and Super Smash Bros.

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

In previous comments, Spencer joked with Mortal Kombat lead Ed Boon about the possibility of a Killer Instinct x Mortal Kombat crossover. Rumors about Mortal Kombat's NetherRealm potentially being part of a sale following Warner Bros' restructures have led to further rumors about Microsoft being interested in acquiring the studio for some time. Whether or not that could be the path back to a revived Killer Instinct remains unclear, but who knows? I certainly didn't expect to be writing "Microsoft has acquired Bethesda" this time last year either ...

Killer Instinct is available now for free with a rotating character, or for $40 as part of the definitive edition, which includes all fighters. It's also available on Xbox Game Pass for console, PC, and cloud, complete with touch controls.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • Good, great game and franchise. Hope they find the right team and get it done!
  • Biggest of all moods
  • @BriangStanley Totally! Have great memories from Ki and Mace on the N64 just to name two lol. Speaking of Mace, I wonder what happened to that IP.
  • Tbh even if they keep the game alive as it is with updates people will be happy. This game was supported for so long for me this is how all fighting, and sports games should be though a gen.
  • The way I see it, there are four studios that could bring Killer Instinct back.
    1. Rare - The original creators of the game. They're owned by Microsoft but I don't think they want to work on the franchise or they would've done it already.
    2. Nether Realm - They can't do it because they're owned by WB Games, otherwise it would be perfect and they could release a new KI every three years, alternating with Injustice and Mortal Kombat.
    3. Double Helix - Brought the game back when it launched on the One but they were acquired by Amazon. Since Amazon's games division has been all but shutdown, I have no idea if they were closed down or if they're an independent studio again.
    4. Iron Galaxy - Brought out later seasons of the game for the One. As far as I know, they're still independent and the studio head said in an interview that they would love to work on the game again.
    Outside of these studios, Microsoft Studios could just hire the right people and build an internal team like they did with 343 (Halo) and The Coalition (Gears). Regardless of what happens, I'm sure Phil will make the right decision.