The $59 martial arts game hits store shelves Sept. 9-"Mortal Friday," as dubbed by Acclaim Entertainment in its $10 million marketing campaign themed "Nothing ... nothing can prepare you."
But this year, Nintendo of America is prepared. Its home version of the game faithfully reproduces all the violence of the arcade version, unlike last year when it slightly edited some of the most violent scenes from Mortal Kombat's home version.
Nintendo's efforts last year to appease parents and anti-video-game violence advocates backfired. Instead of deterring bloodlust, it drove more than 1 million action-hungry teen-agers to rival Sega of America's version, which offered the pure violence of the original arcade game.
The move also helped Sega roar past Nintendo to the No. 1 position in the $6.5 billion videogame industry.
This year, both Nintendo and Sega are offering all the violence of MKII's arcade edition in home versions for their 16-bit and handheld systems. As part of a new industry policy urged by Congress, however, both companies have voluntarily added on-package messages warning some content may not be suitable for players under 17.
An official videogame industry ratings system takes effect in November, despite evidence that such warnings sometimes increase sales of violent videogames.
"All the violence is still with us, but it's becoming clear that adults and kids see violence differently and we have many dilemmas to deal with," said LeeAnne McDermott, editor in chief of GamePro, a San Mateo, Calif.-based magazine aimed at videogame players.
Oyster Bay, N.Y.-based Acclaim this week breaks a 30-second network and spot TV commercial featuring eerie live images, haunting music and videogame footage. A 45-second in-theater spot supports along with heavy point-of-purchase retail support in Wal-Mart Stores, Kmart Corp., Toys "R" Us and other videogame software outlets. RDA Advertising, New York, handles.
Last year's Mortal Kombat sold a record 6 million units; this year, Acclaim expects the sequel to sell 2.5 million copies within the first few weeks of release. By yearend, total sales of MKII are expected to top $150 million, more than the forecasts for any of this year's holiday films.
"Whether MKII will sell as many units as the original remains to be seen, but the new game has a high fascination level for kids, and it's definitely going to be another big success," said Lee Isgur, a high tech products analyst for Jefferies & Co., San Francisco.
Overall sales of 16-bit hardware systems have slowed dramatically as videogame players await the next generation of 32- and 64-bit systems due next year from Nintendo, Sega and Sony Corp.
Meanwhile, other videogame marketers offering faster systems are racing to fill the void. Atari Corp. next week breaks a network and spot TV campaign for its Jaguar videogame system touting superior speed and graphics over both Nintendo and Sega systems. New agency Hoffman/Lewis, San Francisco, handles.
And 3DO Co. expects a surge in software sales following last week's latest 20% price cut to $399.99 of the year-old Panasonic Real 3DO Interactive Multiplayer. Originally offered at $699.95, sales of the unit have been slowly increasing, and this year's software sales are expected to pick up significantly.
For computers, the Oct. 10 launch of the $55 Doom II software game for PCs is expected to be a best seller. Marketer GT Interactive, New York, will use a $5 million print and cable TV campaign, created in-house, to support the launch.