With the recent reveal of a second Rise of the Tomb Raider trailer in preparation for E3 coverage of the game, the conversation about the games exclusivity has once again turned up in full force. Rise of the Tomb Raider, the next game in the rebooted Tomb Raider franchise, was originally announced as a Microsoft exclusive meaning that it will only be released on the Xbox consoles this holiday season. This understandably sparked a lot of debate, anger and general hurt feelings among gamers. Fans of the game who only own PlayStation consoles and/or PC’s are now going to miss out on the release of this exciting new game. Since its original announcement as an exclusive, Microsoft’s Phil Spencer cleared the air and stated that Rise of the Tomb Raider is to be a timed exclusive for Xbox consoles, meaning that other platforms will eventually see the game. Still, that doesn’t help fans of the series who would rather not buy a new console for one game in order to play it when it initially released.
Situations like these always create heated debates centered around whether or not exclusivity of video games is still an acceptable practice, especially with games that are part of a series which previously released on multiple platforms. Tomb Raider isn’t the only series to be made an exclusive, other franchises have been snatched up as well. Street Fighter 5, the next game in the popular fighting game series, was announced as a PlayStation 4 console exclusive. Basically, the game will only be on PC and PlayStation 4 consoles; Xbox owners will not be able to play this game for an indefinite amount of time, if at all. These aren’t games that were previously exclusive to a console such as InFAMOUS Second Son, nor are they brand new IP exclusives like Scalebound. These games both stem from series’ with deep, rich fanbases spanning back to the 1980’s and now a good portion of the fans of both games will not be able to play the newest title in the series (at least not at first, in the case of Tomb Raider fans). It’s also noteworthy than this doesn’t stop at games themselves, the Jaws of Hakkon DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition was released for Xbox One and PC over a month before it was made available to other consoles.
Most everyone can agree that alienating a portion of your game’s fans in order to make a buck from Sony or Microsoft is more than a little negative, but some exclusive deals are more intricate than that. So where do console-based exclusives stand and are they necessary at this point in time? Let’s start by taking a look at the types of exclusives. As mentioned above there are mainly two types of video game exclusives and one is vastly more acceptable than the other. A new IP exclusive, such as The Order: 1886, is an exclusive that is brand new and has never been released elsewhere. It’s not a continuation of a previously established series and thus has no fans upon its announcement, making it something that most people find tolerable. Exclusives that take a new installment of a previously established series, such as Rise of the Tomb Raider, is the type of exclusives that are generally viewed as unacceptable.
This leads to the conversation about whether or not exclusives of any kind are necessary at all. While we all can agree that it’s in poor taste to make a game like Rise of the Tomb Raider a timed exclusive, what about new IP exclusives? On one hand, new IP exclusives and long-term exclusives (ie Uncharted or Halo) help to sell consoles to prospective buyers. Many people look solely at console exclusives when deciding which console they would rather purchase these days, obviously making exclusives a crucial selling point. On the other hand, if a game like Uncharted was suddenly made available (or was always available) to Xbox owners, a lot of them would buy it which would make a lot of money so exclusivity may be hindering sales of the game. Depending on how you look at it, a full argument could be made for both sides.
I myself am in a prestigious position as I own both Sony and Microsoft consoles. I own them so that no exclusive will evade me, but I know for a fact that this option is not available to a lot of people due to financial restrictions. I didn’t get them all back to back, it took time to get the consoles I have and it’s definitely a big financial commitment. I had an Xbox 360 for roughly 2 years before acquiring a PlayStation 3. I had a PlayStation 4 for over a year before buying an Xbox One. I had to save money to buy what I did, given that two of my consoles were gifts. I wont say it’s easy to own all the consoles, because it’s definitely not, but if you are truly dedicated to not missing out on interesting exclusives then it’s an option if you have the money to invest. I have nothing against established console exclusives or new IP exclusives, I think that while they are not particularly necessary they do contribute to healthy competition between Sony and Microsoft as well as among gamers. That being said I think timed exclusives, both for games and DLC, or previously established series’ becoming exclusives for any duration of time to be offensive to gamers and gaming culture as a whole.
That’s a big statement to make, so let me be more clear. To me, virtually spitting in the faces of your game’s fans by making your next title an exclusive of any kind is audacious and generally insulting to consumers. While it may be easy for someone in my position to simply say that I don’t care due to ownership of all the consoles, I find it unreasonable to ever agree with a previously multi-platform series being made exclusive, timed or not. To me it simply shows that these big companies, at times, have little to no consideration for a game’s fans. For them it’s about the money. They want to advertise that Rise of the Tomb Raider is “Only on Xbox” in order to garner more sales of their console. They want people to buy a PlayStation 4 so that they can play Street Fighter 5. It’s not about the game, it’s not about the consumer, it’s about profit and that is something I will always hate about the AAA gaming industry. Too often are gamers wants and needs pushed aside for profit, as if we aren’t the ones choosing to spend our money on their game.
I feel that this type of thing is detrimental to gaming culture as it sparks a grave amount of disdain among gamers. Every time the Tomb Raider or Xbox Facebook pages post something about Rise of the Tomb Raider I peek at the comments to see what people think. Every time, without fail, more than half of the comments are dedicated to bickering between those who are upset about its timed exclusivity and those who own Xbox consoles. It’s not even about the game anymore, it’s not about whether it will be good or bad, it’s about “I’m angry that I can’t play the newest game in a series that I have been playing since I was a kid because I can’t justify purchasing a new console for one game” versus “Get over it, if you really cared about the game you’d buy an Xbox or just suck it up and stop complaining (ie the “I have an Xbox so nah-nah-nah-nah-nah” mentality)”.
On top of that I see all too often the folks who now refuse to buy the game at any time, on any console, simply to boycott this type of thing, which is disheartening considering these people are typically fans of the games but have decided to sacrifice in order to make a bold statement. Making a games like Street Fighter 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider console exclusives at this point does nothing to promote the games or create healthy debate among console gamers, it only seeks to further separate us, hurt the fans and fuel the fires of the needless console war. I hope that situations like this serve as a lesson, that maybe the next time a developer or publisher thinks that making the next game in their series a console exclusive is a good idea that they will think again. Gaming should be about the gamers, they are how you make a profit and doing this to them can only end badly for everyone involved.
*Note: There is no mention of Nintendo consoles in this article as that is a separate discussion in my book, also the majority of their titles are and have always been exclusive to their consoles. PC’s are also rarely brought up as the exclusive content for PC is usually not related to major, AAA games. In order to condense the content and streamline the article I kept the discussion centered on Microsoft and Sony consoles.*