Microsoft and Sony Change Tactics with Exclusivity

Watching the new gameplay trailer for Rise of the Tomb Raider, I was so excited and amazed at how the game looked, but I was still disappointed. The problem: it’s only coming to Xbox One for now.

By this point in console war history, we all know that psychology is the real driving force behind the war rather than the consoles themselves. People are merely rationalizing their time/money investments and are rarely objectively comparing performance and hardware. This was further complicated by game exclusives like Halo or Metal Gear Solid.

Console exclusive games used to help draw the line in the sand for many fans; however, the growth of self-publishing and diminishing importance of hardware makers as software publishers have limited the number of console exclusive games. Now, timed exclusives and console exclusive DLC make up for the lack of those exclusives.

These superficially look like a tepid compromises, but it’s really just Sony and Microsoft using developers against players to gain a slight advantage in the market. The sad part is that the players and developers lose out the most.

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Developers naturally want a huge audience for their game. What’s the point in creating a game that no one plays? In theory, timed exclusivity doesn’t seem that bad. Sure, part of the audience might initially miss out, but they will eventually get to experience the game. The problem is when. Let’s take Rise of the Tomb Raider for example.

PlayStation fans keep getting “reassured” that it’s a timed exclusive on Xbox One, but there is no set release date for PlayStation. This leads me to believe that the end of this time exclusivity might be pretty far out or Crystal Dynamics is legally prevented from talking about other console releases. Let’s be clear, I’m positive Sony would have done the exact same thing, so there is no white knight here.

To address the pitting developers against players comment. Microsoft had to offer Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix a great deal of money for this agreement. There is no possibility that Square Enix or Crystal Dynamics approached Microsoft for this contract considering Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition sold twice as well on PS4 than Xbox One. So essentially, what Microsoft offered was too good to refuse for Crystal Dynamics, leading them to exclude part of their audience.

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Before you start getting on your ethical soapbox, let me remind you that game development is a turbulent industry and that money could mean sustaining their company and employees for another year or game.

It’s just business, but it’s not good business. It’s unnecessary and harms the consumer more than the competitor. I own both consoles, but I’m hardly the typical consumer since most of my spare time is spent on video games. There is little data on how many household own both consoles unfortunately. Even assuming 50% of households own both, a potentially significant portion of the audience may be left out because they don’t own the “right” console. Time exclusivity is money-grabbing at its worst.

Console exclusive DLC is a palatable compromise. Typically, this type of DLC includes extra missions, maps, items, etc available to purchase on a specific console or comes exclusive with preorder on that console. These simply reward owners of those particular consoles without preventing owners of other consoles from enjoying the core of the game. I know die-hard completionists are gearing up to type an angry retort, but that’s the truth. This is, of course, barring DLC that actually should be part of the game, but that’s an entirely different discussion/op-ed piece.

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Final Thoughts

Once again the player is on the losing side of the video game economics. Both companies have turned towards capturing exclusive rights to DLC, characters, and even time. It’s a scrambling tactic that comes off as desperate, but understandable.

Both companies have struggled with their exclusives and Sony even admits their line up is sparse. It’s a little ridiculous considering how the industry is functioning now, but economics are slow to change. Until Wall Street can catch up to how games are actually being made, we will suffer more nonsensical exclusively.

Follow me on Twitter for more gaming news: @lmrome3

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