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Error Macro: The Character that Fans Made

Today I want to talk to you about Ermac.

You see, they often say that video games companies (and companies in general) listen to their fans and that fans can shape the market. This statement holds some truth. Let’s see an example.

So, for those of you born after the 90s, back in the day there used to be something called “video game magazines,” which featured news, previews, and tricks about video games. One fateful day in 1992, someone sent a letter (yes, a letter) to Electronic Games Monthly claiming that they had found a secret character, a red ninja named Ermac in the arcade version of the original Mortal Kombat game.

Keep in mind that “Ermac” stands for “error macro,” and it was a setting that would appear in the actual game’s audit menu when booted up. Seeing this mysterious acronym appear on the screen, many fans of the game believed that Ermac might be a secret character in the game, so it makes sense that there was a lot of buzz about this character among the fans. So, for someone to claim that they had encountered this character, that was a big deal.

Of course, no such character existed, but Midway, the company behind the game, took notice of this buzz and decided to include little nods in their next game, Mortal Kombat II, such as random messages saying “Ermac Who?” during gameplay. That added more fuel to the fire, until the release of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 in 1995, in which Ermac was presented as an actual character. And guess what! He was a red ninja, exactly as fans imagined him to be.

Pretty cool, eh? In a way, yes, fan demand managed to lead a company into shaping a character the way fans wanted him. However, one could argue that such fan-pleasing actions occur mainly for reasons of profit and that companies are pretty much using ideas they got from fans as a form of free market research. But that is a discussion for another time…

The header picture is a screenshot taken by Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (released by Midway in 1995)

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