Revisiting the Exclusivity Argument

It was revealed today that Rise of the Tomb Raider is not only coming to the Xbox One first, but is in fact being published by Microsoft outright, which more than likely precludes it from ever coming to the PS4 (though PC is not out of the question).

I went on a big rant about this earlier this year, long before I decided to buy an Xbox One – though if I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that this forthcoming Tomb Raider game was definitely part of my decision to finally get one, even if it’s not coming out until next year.

Of course, Sony went ahead and made Street Fighter 5 a PS4 exclusive just this past weekend, thereby raising the ire of many Xbox One fans who were expecting to play it.

I’m not sure why this needs explaining, but I was misunderstood on Twitter, so I figure I might as well give it a shot:

Every console needs exclusives; otherwise there’s no point in having different machines.  I don’t own a Wii U, nor do I ever intend to (regardless of what others might say), but man – people keep talking about how amazing Bayonetta 2 is, and if I’m ever going to play it, that’s the only place to do it.

Still:  there’s a fundamental difference between first- and second-party exclusives, and third-party games which become exclusive.

Brianna Wu – who is much smarter than me – tweeted this:

The problem is that all the games she cited – GOW (whether you’re talking Gears of War or God of War), Titanfall, Forza or Halo – these are known quantities as console exclusives.  Uncharted has always been a Sony exclusive; Forza will always be a Microsoft exclusive.  I was pissed when Tomb Raider 2 was announced as an Xbox One timed exclusive because I didn’t own or plan on owning an Xbox One at the time, but more to the point – I was expecting it to appear on the PS4.  Tomb Raider HD came out on the PS4 earlier this year, and it was fantastic, and no less an authority than Digital Foundry proclaimed the PS4 version to be superior in terms of performance to the Xbox One version.

I don’t have a dog in the Street Fighter 5 fight; I’m not a big fighting game fan, and in any event I own both consoles now, so it doesn’t directly affect me.  But I can guarantee that if I were a big fighting game fan, and I only owned an Xbox One, I’d be just as pissed about this news as I was about Tomb Raider.

Imagine, if you will, that next year’s Batman Arkham Knight – possibly my most heavily anticipated game of 2015 – was suddenly announced as an Xbox One console exclusive.  Or if part of the delay in developing The Witcher 3 was because it was now coming out as a PS4 exclusive.

Your skin is crawling right now because if you only own one console, you were probably expecting to play at least one of those games next year.  And if it came out on the one you didn’t own, you’d feel cheated.

Third-party exclusives feel like a cheat because, well, they’re bought; they weren’t nurtured in-house, but rather procured to fill a competitive need.  Microsoft came out and said they went after Tomb Raider because they didn’t have a first-party response to Uncharted; so rather than taking the time to develop a response, they simply bought the only available competition.  I don’t see consumers winning in that equation.  If anything, consumers lose the possibility of brand-new IP.

All we can realistically hope for, then, is that by focusing Rise of the Tomb Raider’s development specifically for the Xbox One’s architecture – and by Microsoft giving the developers anything and everything they could possibly need – that the best version of that game gets made.  Swap out Street Fighter 5 and Sony in that sentence and the same sentiment is shared.  I’m not happy about this development, but it seems it’s going to become a bigger issue as the console war continues to heat up.

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