On Screenshots and Console Exclusivity

1.  There’s never going to be a SFTC YouTube channel, for whatever it’s worth; I simply can’t consume video the way the rest of the gaming community does, and so I’m incredibly ill-equipped to provide it.  For one thing, I just prefer reading as opposed to watching; for another, my day job is not conducive to watching videos (partly because it’s abundantly clear that I’m not working, partly because my office’s internet is kinda terrible), and when I’m home I’d rather be playing.  That being said, I can’t stop taking screenshots.  Yesterday I posted some shots I took from The Last of Us Remastered, and today I’m posting some shots from Mind: Path to Thalamus, a first-person exploration/puzzle game on the PC that is absolutely stunning to behold.  Everything I want to say about it was already said in this Rock Paper Shotgun review; the short version is that it’s staggeringly beautiful, and the puzzles seem to be smart and challenging without being unfair, but the narrative is, sadly, utterly dreadful and is not helped at all by possibly one of the worst voice-over performances I’ve ever heard in my life.  It’s absolutely worth playing, despite the VO, but just be aware that it’s dreadful and that everything else is terrific.  [EDIT:  I just re-read the RPS review and realized that their page features 2 nearly identical screenshots to ones I took and had originally included below.  I removed mine just so there’d be no confusion, but it was kinda neat to see that we were both taken aback by some of the exact same vistas.]

2.  I was away from the internet yesterday, and so I was only dimly aware of Gamescom.  When I started catching up, I found myself warming up to Microsoft’s news, getting excited about their upcoming indie releases, getting intrigued by the Sunset Overdrive bundle… and then the news about Rise of the Tomb Raider‘s exclusivity hit, and I found myself getting irrationally angry.

Look, I get it; I get that Microsoft is feeling desperate, and that it’s a bitter pill to swallow to find yourself in 2nd place after clearly dominating during the last console generation.  Indeed, Sony was in this exact same position with the PS3, as a matter of fact; they were flying high and mighty after the PS2 and totally misread the marketplace.  The difference, though, is that Sony owned up to their problems, displayed genuine humility, and their solution to win over the hearts and minds of the gaming community was to create spectacular first-party software that simply couldn’t be replicated on their competitor’s console.

So I’m sure Microsoft felt that they had to do something big, something that would make the Xbox One appealing to Sony fans and ex-360 fanboys who were reluctant to upgrade (like me), and so snagging exclusive rights to a highly-anticipated title like Tomb Raider was an absolutely necessary thing to get more people invested in the Xbox One.

But it’s clearly a move made of desperation, not out of humility and genuine concern for gamers.  (Not that I’ve ever thought that Microsoft and Sony’s #1 priority is to genuinely care about gamers, but Sony’s been doing a much better job over the last few years of selling that idea as believable.)  Microsoft isn’t investing in their own development studios and making their first-party portfolio more appealing; they’re simply buying exclusivity from a company that shouldn’t be making this deal in the first place.  Square’s already been on record as saying that the first TR didn’t meet their sales projections, and so putting the new TR on the 2nd place console literally makes no sense unless Microsoft made them an offer that they absolutely couldn’t refuse.

That Microsoft was once again unable to see how this decision would anger the gaming community is, sadly, par for the course.  And the fact that it took less than 24 hours for Phil Spencer to admit that the exclusivity period “has a duration” makes the whole thing just sad.  Microsoft wanted to win me back, but instead they’ve just pushed me farther away.

Author: Jeremy Voss

Musician, wanna-be writer, suburban husband and father. I'll occasionally tweet from @couchshouts. You can find me on XBL, PSN and Steam as JervoNYC.

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