Tomb Raider And A Post-Exclusives Console War

Honestly it feels a bit strange to see people arguing over exclusives on game consoles in 2014. I just feel like the market has evolved so much since the days when people argued over whether Mega Man was better than Sonic, so angry reactions over Microsoft’s deal for Tomb Raider exclusivity sound overblown, but the deal itself feels like an antiquated strategy to me.

Microsoft probably hopes having timed exclusivity over Rise of Tomb Raider for fall 2015 will sell some Xbox Ones. I’m honestly not so sure it won’t just limit sales of the game. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been too hyped over Tomb Raider, but I don’t see a whole lot of people crossing over just for that game. People have also argued this deal will help Square Enix, whether Microsoft’s resources will go towards helping fund development or marketing for the game. I say if Square Enix needs it that bad then there’s something wrong with the whole direction of production for the franchise.

I agree with a point John Davison made in last week’s John & Garnett podcast. I believe I said it a while ago too: the production of the 2013 Tomb Raider was probably over-budgeted to meet impossible expectations. Davison speculates Square Enix published Tomb Raider Definitive Edition on PS4 and Xbox One to make up for the initial release failing to meet its first month sales goals. If that’s true then the same probably goes for Sleeping Dogs and its upcoming remastered edition. Around three million copies in the first month is probably what Square Enix should have expected for any kind of Tomb Raider game whether or not they put a $60 million budget on it. I wouldn’t be surprised if we also got a remastered edition of Hitman: Absolution. If Square Enix really did accept Microsoft’s proposal for resources like development and marketing money, that indicates they haven’t really solved their budget problem with the franchise. That’s getting into a whole other discussion though.

Rise of Tomb Raider obviously isn’t the only third party exclusive deal going on right now, but I feel like it is the most artificial. It’s literally just Microsoft buying exclusives. Some people got mad over Bayonetta 2 being a Wii U exclusive, but that game literally wouldn’t exist without Nintendo — no one else was willing to publish it or fund its development. Titanfall is also a bit different because prior to Microsoft’s deal it actually wasn’t going to be released on Xbox One. Bloodborne is exclusive to PS4 because Sony is publishing and co-developing the game. Rise of Tomb Raider on the other hand was initially revealed as being planned for PC and PlayStation as well as Xbox. I think it’s also worth noting every single Tomb Raider game ever so far has at least debuted on Windows and PlayStation.

Back in the day when a game was exclusive to one console or another it was often for a technology-related reason. Japanese developers very often deliberately made a game for a specific platform and that was it (they often still do today). Today budgets have forced things to be multiplatform, and western developers have a greater tendency to simply develop software, then release it on platforms. This is moving us to an environment where third party exclusives don’t really exist anymore, and I’m fine with that.

I don’t believe in different consoles having “personalities” based on what unique software they have. Nobody really get’s worked up over what exclusive software iOS or Android have. Yet, some people choose one or the other for various reasons. That’s sort of what I see PlayStation and Xbox as today — two competing operating systems (that are each locked to one piece of hardware) that run most of the same software. The competition now is really about the features of each operating system and service offered by each company.

Xbox Live’s features were the real reason the Xbox 360 succeeded over the PS3 — features like party chat and how much more smoothly the system installed software. First party software is virtually the only truly exclusive software these days. Even supposed exclusives like Dead Rising 3 and Ryse eventually end up making it to Windows. The main reason the PS3 even caught up to the 360 in hardware sales is because it sold better in regions like Japan and continental Europe. A big factor in that was how weak Xbox’s software feature set is in Europe compared to North America. Most Xbox Live media apps either didn’t work or still don’t work in Europe, decreasing the value of a Gold subscription over there. The Xbox One’s software feature set seems to be repeating the pattern with a lot of features that only make sense to Americans. If Apple or Google were in Microsoft’s situation they would probably try to regain the initiative in terms of platform-level software features, not try to buy the timed exclusivity of one piece of third party software.

BULLETS:

  • This is an interesting scenario if the game industry is just going to keep doing post-apocalyptic settings: http://t.co/KoDBcW7DdM
  • Ancient Mayan cities discovered deep in Mexican jungle: http://t.co/4ttQ7LsMuN
  • Pretty good scope of the protest issues going on in Ferguson. http://t.co/jhqz0ZyUR8
  • Yet another exciting anime is planned for Blu-Ray — Moribitohttp://t.co/BpCgFNjzl4
  • Oh, and a Princess Mononoke art book. http://t.co/PVRSUPuUzX
  • I didn’t even realize Sony was closing down PlayStation Home in Japan. For a while it was far superior to its western counterpart, with areas and obtainable items you couldn’t get on American PS Home.
  • We might get a SHODAN announcer pack for DOTA 2http://t.co/94pHTzMTRa
  • I think I’m sold on The Vanishing of Ethan Carterhttp://t.co/Z2asRrXhlG
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