A bane of videogames: exclusives

Once again I am discussing an element of videogames that is problematic with the medium. Although unlike the previous example this issue is not found within videogames, rather it is instead about how they are distributed.

I’ll start off by contradicting my own argument (something I have a habit of doing), before I’ve even made it, by stating that exclusives are important. Without exclusives (traditionally) one console is largely the same as another. This was especially the case during the generation of the GameCube, PS2, and Xbox, all had different specifications, but all were largely capable of playing most games, which was why third party games would often be present on all three platforms.

With this being the case when it came to choosing which console to go with largely meant determining which first party exclusives were more appealing. Do you like Nintendo games? Go with the GameCube. Sci-Fi shooters and Western RPG’s – Xbox. JRPG’s, Gran Turismo, and unique non-Nintendo Japanese games – PS2. Whilst this might be oversimplifying things, it was the most efficient and obvious way to decide which console was for you.

Today though thing have changed. Third party developers are largely shunning the WiiU, and the debate that began with the 360 and PS3 over which console was better has continued into this gen, albeit this time the sides have switched. What’s more, whilst one console (usually the PS3) would typically receive the lesser version of a multiplatform game previously, the other console version would not be noticeably hindered as a result of this. Now even though at present developers are finding it easier to get more power out of the PS4, there are some instances where the PS4 version is held back to keep parity with the Xbox One version. Whilst the notable example of whether this is the case with Assassin’s Creed Unity is true or not, it is not unlikely for this to occur with other multiplatform releases.

Interestingly this generation has also seen an increase of third party exclusives. Whilst this was already occurring with many of the smaller independent games that needed the extra funding and security from a console manufacturer, it is now the sizeable AAA developers who are now volunteering their games to be either sole exclusives or timed exclusives. Notable examples of this are the recently released D4 from the same developer of cult hit Deadly Premonition and upcoming Sunset Overdrive from Insomniac Games (creators of Spyro, Ratchet & Clank, and Resistance). Neither games necessarily needed to be exclusive to the Xbox One, but both developers felt that having a working relationship with Microsoft was beneficial to the creation of their games.

In both instances for those who do not have an Xbox One (myself included) these games exclusivity is annoying, but Microsoft is the publisher for these games and have invested their money, so why would they go onto a competing platform. That is not to say they will never go to another platform, as it is possible that the developers own the IP and could ultimately re release the game elsewhere.

Although a similar occurrence has taken place involving Nintendo in which it is publishing the imminent Bayonetta 2. The first game was available on both the Xbox 360 and the PS3, and absent from the Wii. So it was a surprise to many when it was announced that the sequel would be exclusive to the WiiU. Yet the developers, Platinum Games, have come on numerous times stating that without Nintendo the game would not exist at all as the previous publisher Sega did not want to publish the sequel. There are many holding out for an eventual release on other platforms, as Nintendo does not own the IP (the original publisher Sega does), but again Platinum Games defended Nintendo and said that asking them to bring the sequel to other platforms was like asking Nintendo to port a Mario or Zelda game to another console.

When the Bayonetta 2 exclusivity was announced there was much uproar following its announcement, but no where near as much as what accompanied the rigmarole surrounding the exclusivity arrangement regarding the next Tomb Raider game Rise of the Tomb Raider. When it was originally announced at E3 there was no mention that it was to be exclusive to the Xbox One, even though its announcement was during the Microsoft presentation, people had assumed that like the previous title it would be multiplatform. Yet a month later during GamesCom the game was suddenly revealed to be exclusive to Xbox for the 2015 holiday season.

Even with the announcement it wasn’t clear what this actually meant, and Microsoft, Square Enix (the games publisher), and Crystal Dynamics (the developer) were all quiet on the matter. Eventually Microsoft did elaborate stating that they did not own the game, that it was merely a timed exclusive. The rationale behind this decision for Microsoft as it provided them with something to compete with the next extra in Sony’s successful Uncharted series which is being released around the same time and is a series that Tomb Raider has subsequently taken a lot of inspiration from (even though Uncharted itself is influenced by Tomb Raider).

However much damage had been done by this stage. Much confusion had formed before the proper explanation had been provided, many angry at Microsoft for what they saw as having a game stolen from their platform of choice, a game which has always been multiplatform, and one which has had a history with being known for its presence on Sony consoles. Whilst it will ultimately come to the PC and PlayStation the timed exclusivity stung for many and was seen as an attempt by Microsoft to buy better games for its console.

The problem with the current state of exclusives is that they don’t seem to benefit the player. Whilst there are cases where if it wasn’t an exclusive then it wouldn’t exist, but there are many others where it is purely down to how can we make more money in the short run out of this. Although whilst in the past one could just blame videogames for this practise, but unfortunately the same can kind of be said with how film is consumed. Exclusives aren’t going anywhere, so be prepared to dig deeper.

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