E3 rumors and leaks are always a funny thing. Most of them are completely unfounded and hilarious in retrospect. You know the ones: those super top-secret “conference schedules” that by all means shouldn’t be real. Still, we grip every last one of these dubious leaks with a stranglehold, because as gamers, our hype is a dangerous thing. Even more amusing is when, despite all odds, a big leak happens to be true. This is exactly what happened with Killer Queen Black.
Back on May 31st, Kotaku shared a leaked image that was supposedly part of “E3 showroom display planning.” As you can see below, it contained logos forDragon Ball FighterZ, Fortnite, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, FIFA 19, Starlink: Battle for Atlas, Paladins, Overcooked 2, Mario Tennis Aces, and, of course, Killer Queen Black. The craziest part? The games on this list that hadn’t previously been announced all turned out to be very, very real. Because this is an arcade-centric blog, I think we’ll look at Killer Queen Black in particular.
Call it hindsight bias if you want, but I think most of us were fairly certain this leaked image was legitimate when we all saw it two weeks ago. (I know I was.) The games made sense; nothing was too off-the-wall crazy. And in the case of Killer Queen Black, it just had to be true. Who would go through all the trouble of finding some obscure indie arcade game and constructing a fake leak for it? The black imagery on the official Killer Queen Twitter page was also especially revealing. This was a game we counted on.
We didn’t know what exactly it would be, but we figured it was coming. Now, as you can so clearly see by this E3 trailer, Killer Queen Black is coming to the Nintendo Switch (and Steam, apparently) through BumbleBear Games and Liquidbit.
Along with the excellent trailer, we also got some meaty information from the official website to mule over. Unlike the arcade version ten-player setup, the home version only supports eight simultaneous players, so there is a quantifiable difference in that regard. However, also unlike the arcade version, online play has been introduced. This makes perfect sense in the home market, and luckily, there’s still local multiplayer. Apparently, the game “…has been rebuilt from the ground up and optimized for console.” I’m curious to see what this means, but I’m assuming it has something to do with the new game modes: Quick Match, Ranked, Custom, and Arena. Plus, I’m fairly sure this is some sort of follow-up to the original, based on this line: “Killer Queen Black is the follow (sic) to Killer Queen that fans have been begging for.”
Despite the few changes here and there, Killer Queen Black is basically a home port of the cult arcade game. We saw the trailer; they can’t hide this fact from us. And as exciting this is, it raises quite a few questions. What does the home port of Killer Queen mean for the future of the arcade version?
Before we begin, there are a few things we have to address. I’m not going to be very critical in this article, because I understand some truths about BumbleBear Games. So far, their efforts in the arcade industry have been valiant. BumbleBear is a small indie studio that turned a very unconventional game concept into a strong community. However, I guess they could never survive on Killer Queen alone. KQ can only be found in a little over 40 arcades in the U.S. (link to the official map)—these are paltry numbers compared to what big developers like Raw Thrills can do. And since BumbleBear’s other arcade game, Black Emperor, seems to be stuck in development turmoil, they clearly had to do something to grow. A home port of Killer Queenwas probably the most natural move for them. I can’t fault a small indie studio for wanting to stay afloat (even if the employees look like hipster neckbeard weebs). The only problem with this is that we don’t know how it will affect BumbleBear’s presence in arcades.
As much as we like to glorify the humble indie arcade game developer, it’s hard to deny that Killer Queen never reached phenomenal levels of success. 40-something locations isn’t much, and without a big chain like Dave and Buster’s backing them up, I doubt we would have seen KQ in too many more locations by the end of 2018. Still, we probably would have seen the game in more locations, as far as sheer numbers go. Not many more, but more. Now, with a home port on the way, the growth of Killer Queen in arcades might come to a screeching halt.
In the past few years, it’s become expected that modern arcade games don’t get home ports. Since operators pay thousands of dollars for new games and many younger gamers opt to stay home, developers do everything in their power to keep players in the arcades. With joystick-based games like Killer Queen and most major fighting games, the effect of home ports are particularly crippling. Compared to the simulator-style benefits of racing games and light gun shooters, there aren’t too many compelling reasons to play joystick games in arcades. When the newest fighting game gets a home console release, arcade earnings plummet. This could very well happen with Killer Queen.
BumbleBear Games is an arcade game developer. If players no longer have any reason to leave their homes, could Killer Queen stop making money on location? Would operators stop buying the arcade cabinets out of fear that they wouldn’t make back their investments? These are the hard questions, kiddos. Unfortunately, we won’t have any solid answers for said hard questions until Killer Queen Black comes out later this year.
There is, however, some shining light on the horizon. Killer Queen is as much about the community as it is about the game itself. The dedication of the KQ community is intense. They won’t let their favorite game die. So that raises a few questions. If Killer Queen Black drops on Switch and PC and everyone can play with each other online, will the community abandon the arcades? Or instead, will the community grow exponentially due to exposure a home release can provide? Perhaps more players will pick up the game and seek out the arcade version. Perhaps older players already familiar with the arcade version will continue to meet with their online friends in public to keep the special feeling alive. As of right now, we have no idea how Killer Queen Black will affect Killer Queen Arcade, but I sure am curious to see what happens.
The best-case scenario is that the community grows and Killer Queen’sarcade presence grows alongside it. The worst-case scenario is that Killer Queen Black kills off the arcade community entirely. I talked to Adam Pratt about it on Twitter, and I don’t he’s quite sure either. His words on it were similar to mine: “It's difficult to say, as joystick games often don't make the transition very well. The jump from arcade stick to game controller isn't quite the ‘shock’ like, say, a light-gun or racing wheel. But, this could always buck the trend.” Just like Adam, I can’t help but wonder what will happen. Being the arcade enthusiast I am, I hope the popularity of Killer Queenexplodes and we get to see the game in more locations.
On a less related note, I think it’s time we all start petitioning Dave and Buster’s to purchase Killer Queen Arcade. With a home port on the way, it’s just like having Injustice Arcade or Infinity Blade FX. Essentially the same games as their home counterparts, yes, but flashy enough to leave an impact on players. I’m sure D&B is wary of supporting unproven indie developers with intimidating game concepts, but this could be the push KQ needs to enter the mainstream family entertainment center market. Hey, it’s just a little speculation.
For now, though, I guess there’s not much more to say, Killer Queen Black is coming to Switch and PC with features optimized for home use (and the removal of two player slots). So hey, maybe the two versions can coexist. That’s all we can hope for, right? Above all else, I hope this proves to be the right decision for BumbleBear going forward.
Keep it real, kiddos. I’m out.
(Fun fact: The website for Killer Queen Arcade does not exist at the moment. I am concerned.)
Update 6/17/18: The website is back up and has been massively updated. Check it out!
I swear, if I see one more JoJo reference...