Actually, We've Always Paid Money For Cheats

By Ian Dransfield on at

Mortal Kombat X is selling 'easy' fatalities - this we know. It's not going down too well with the vocal denizens of the interwebs, but then it was never going to.

It's understandable why - this is NetherRealm/Warner Bros selling something that you would, quite fairly, expect to be a standard option in the game. It's an accessibility setting more than anything, and a cheat that has appeared in Mortal Kombat titles of the past. I went for the one-button fatality setting as fast as I could. Who could be bothered figuring out Sub Zero's second finisher?

But now it's a paid feature. To be clear, you can unlock easy fatalities in MKX via the Krypt. You can get them through a bit of grind and no extra cash down. But it is another example of developers/publishers putting a price-tag on a feature we once took for granted as a freebie.

But why do we take it for granted that we shouldn't pay for cheats? If you look back at the history of cheats in games, you'll see we've almost always paid for them. Maybe not from day one, with the earliest codes being introduced to help playtesters progress through games, but certainly since the very early days.

c64 poke

Long before the Konami Code was invented by Kazuhisa Hashimoto as he worked on the NES port of Gradius, players had been asked to fork out their hard-earned for help with Wizardry. The likes of WizPlus and WizFix allowed players to edit their character stats to whatever they wanted - and all they asked for was around £17 ($25).

Castle Wolfenstein had a similar bit of software, The Great Escape Utility, available for £10 ($15). Obviously programs like this - the early trainers - were on dodgy legal ground, as they injected and modified commercial software and derived profit from doing so.

But while we did see the rise of 'free' cheats, in the form of codes, debug modes and POKEs, the practice of selling cheats, guides and the 'easy' way has always continued.

How many of us owned Action Replay or Game Genie cartridges? They weren't free - they cost money and dicked about with a game's code to do wonderful things no straightforward code could hope to do. Like bring her back.

I actually had an Xplorer cartridge for my PSone - I put down about £20 for the right to slowly, methodically enter a dozen codes for any game I played and, usually inevitably, break the damn thing.

ps1 xplorer

Who of us hasn't at least leafed through a premium guide for a bit of a pointer as to how you can get past a tricky section? I know for a fact people on forums I used to frequent got genuinely excited about the prospect of buying a guide from particular publishing houses.

And yet, when the practice of selling cheats became more formalised this most recent generation, with developers and publishers specifically introducing these features as 'premium', I spat out my tea in surprise just as many others did.

When EA released its many 'shortcut' packs, I could see the benefit for those of us who are time-poor. All the same, it's an imbalancing act, isn't it? And Saints Row bringing out what were once simple cheat codes as paid-for DLC just rubbed me up the wrong way, even though, as I just said above, I paid for cheats in the past.

But that was it - the corner had been turned, a new normal had been settled on: publishers and developers had nothing against cheating, they had always been against someone else profiting from the ability to dick about.

gta 5 strategy guide

So it shouldn't come as a surprise that NetherRealm and Warner Bros are selling an easy way to play. Cheats and the low road in general have always been something of a commodity, bought and sold like everything else in gaming. It's just galling that now we're seeing a cash value slapped on the something that once cost no more than the price of a few deft finger movements. And that feels a bit like we're getting... well, cheated.