Team Ninja’s Potentially Interesting Experiment At Taking ‘Dead Or Alive’ Free-To-Play

In their latest move to rebrand the 2012 fighter (beyond “complete” releases for the Vita and and another for consoles in the fall), Team Ninja and publisher Tecmo Koei plan to release a four-fighter, free-to-play version of “Dead or Alive Ultimate” to PSN in September.

With four players in the base download, you’d be forgiven for thinking of “Dead Or Alive Ultimate: Core Fighters” as a glorified demo. Well, alright, that’s essentially what it looks like, but it does include all of the fighting game’s stages, and you can fight against all of the characters in the Verus, Time Attack, Survival, and Arcade Modes.

Here’s where Tecmo Koei plans to make its money: if you want to add Zack or Helena to your stable of fighters, you’ll have to purchase them a la carte at $3.99 each (and according to the game’s official page, there are no plans to offer them in sets).

With a total of 15 fighters on top of the initial 4, that comes out to $60 plus tax, and that’s not factoring in the $14.99 if you want to add the cinematics-heavy (and baffling) Story Mode.

First, I actually find the core concept appealing: offer players what’s effectively a beefed-up demo, where they can sample some of the other characters and see which ones they might want to spend money on. I’ve spent almost no time playing as Mariposa, so to not have her included in the cost of my “D.O.A.” experience is actually pretty cool on the face of it. And at $4 a pop, it’s not like they’re exactly extorting players when a game like “Injustice” charges 25% more for its limited roster of downloadable characters.

It’s that for the person who decides they want the total “Ultimate” experience and decide to drop their digital dollars on all of the DLC, they’ll end up spending more than what they would pay for a retail copy of the game at release. On top of which, “Core Fighters”–because it’s based on the “Ultimate” balances and tweaks–isn’t compatible with online play with the retail versions of “Dead Or Alive 5″ or “Dead Or Alive 5 Plus” for the Vita (if crossplay is your thing). While any costumes you’ve unlocked from those versions of the game will carry over to “Core Fighters,” apparently, the new code can only support play between owners of the free-to-play release and September’s “Dead Or Alive 5 Ultimate” retail game.

“Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate: Core Fighters” has a planned release for the PS3 on September 3, but Team Ninja is also investigating a 360 release.

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