Ever since the 8-bit era of video games, we have had wars over “exclusive” games—those specific to only one gaming platform. Were players going to go for the classic simplicity of Mario or the speed of Sonic? Are people willing to abandon their old franchises for a humanoid bandicoot? Would gamers choose the first person space saga of “Halo” or the cinematic action of “Uncharted”?
However, these questions seem to have gotten out of hand lately as the word “exclusive” gains more and more nuances in meaning. For example, the game “Ryse: Son of Rome” was an Xbox One launch title marketed as an exclusive until the game came to PC several months later. Games like “Secret Ponchos” are also shown as “console exclusive” or “first to console” on the PlayStation 4, even though those games are already available on PC.
More recently, these terms have led more people to question how valid the word “exclusive” is. The best example came from Gamescom 2014, when it was announced that “Rise of the Tomb Raider”, the sequel to 2013’s “Tomb Raider,” would be exclusive to the Xbox One. With “Tomb Raider” being on all platforms, people began asking if the announced exclusivity would only last for a time or if it was a “true exclusive.” Mixed messaging outraged many gamers who felt cheated that a title previously not exclusive became exclusive—even though, in truth, it was coming out on other platforms later.
Even additional content in games has become exclusive. This has been happening since the 16-bit era—the original “Mortal Kombat” had blood on the Sega Genesis but not on the Super Nintendo. However, the practice has become more prevalent and marketable. Games like “Watch_Dogs” and “Destiny” have boasted that the PlayStation 4 would have exclusive content like more story missions and costumes. The Call of Duty franchise has had an agreement with Microsoft allowing DLC to be bought and downloaded on the Xbox 360 and Xbox One before other platforms.
It is obvious that this practice is not new, but should it continue? Is this practice harmless in the gaming industry, or will it tear the community apart? My belief is that we could use less of it, but it is not going to destroy gaming as we know it.
First, let us look at the different levels of exclusivity. To start out, we have true exclusives: games or content made by studios that the platforms own. This includes most of Nintendo properties like Mario and Zelda, Sony franchises such as “Uncharted” and “inFAMOUS”, and Microsoft’s “Halo” series. These are games that have almost no chance of being on other platforms. Simply put, people will not see “Pokemon” on their Xbox.
These exclusives are beyond harmless. Without these games, the consoles would be without most of their selling points. People most likely didn’t buy the Genesis because of the hardware inside the console but rather the games on the system like “Sonic the Hedgehog.” Without games like “Halo: Combat Evolved,” the original Xbox would have most likely been a dead console. In this light, these games are a necessity to keep a competitive edge in the console market.
Next we have timed exclusives or “first to console” games. These are usually independent titles that have had success on PC and would like to expand into consoles. While these are not as marketable as the larger releases, they are still shown off in trailers if the game is large enough. For example, Hello Games’s upcoming “No Man’s Sky” is coming to the PlayStation 4 before any other platform in 2015. Due to the awards given to its presence at showcases like E3, trailers for this timed exclusive have been appearing across the internet.
These are also not bad, as this can give consoles another competitive edge without abandoning an audience. People who want to play “No Man’s Sky” on PC will be able to do so, just after the PlayStation 4 owners will be able to. Games and content that are timed exclusives can be great only if they are labeled as such. As with the “Rise of the Tomb Raider” situation above, people will react less harshly if the exclusive is given a time limit rather than completely abandoning owners of other consoles.
The worst type of exclusive in many eyes, including mine, are full exclusive games or content that should be multiplatform. This includes additional story missions being exclusive on one platform without anything of the sort on other platforms. There are exceptions to this rule; “Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes” had exclusive missions for consoles, but the PlayStation 4 version had one exclusive mission where players could take control of “Classic Snake,” while the Xbox One version had a mission where gamers took the role of Raiden to kill body snatchers. “Bayonetta 2,” a sequel to the multiplatform game “Bayonetta,” is exclusive to Nintendo and, even though this caused fans of the series to cry out against Nintendo, this is reasonable since Nintendo paid to have the game made. Without Nintendo’s intervention, “Bayonetta 2” would not exist.
However, if a game or content was platform exclusive, it should be released on other platforms. Having an extra hour or two of story missions for “Destiny” on the PlayStation 4 should also be on the Xbox One. DLC for games like “Call of Duty” should be shared with all platforms. If this is the case, it should be marketed clearly. A game that is a timed exclusive should be shown as such. Having a commercial calling first-to-console content “exclusive” is misleading.
If anything is going to ruin gaming as we know it, it will be mixed marketing and exclusive content that should be multiplatform. Are exclusives evil? Simply put, no. However, the ramifications and restrictions of such labelling definitely deserves to be considered.