The Double Edged Sword of Exclusive Games

Games that are exclusive to certain consoles or platforms have always played a big part in the game industry. Even going back to Super Mario on Nintendo and Sonic the Hedgehog on Genesis. Exclusive games were just something people accepted about the industry. But when Epic Games decided to launch their own store for PC games to compete with Value and Steam by buying up exclusive rights to certain games, the conversation about whether or not exclusive games are good or bad for the industry was ignited. And the conversation has only heated up that much more as Microsoft went on a spree of company purchases, acquiring big companies like Bethesda and Activision Blizzard, to make sure their games would only be releasing on Xbox and PC. But, despite all that, there is still some good when it comes to exclusive games. Enough good that I don’t think they should be done away with just yet. So let’s talk about that!

Let’s start by talking about why exclusive games are made in the first place. Generally they are made to sell certain consoles or platforms. Having an exclusive or unique game will obviously drive people more towards the platform it’s exclusive too, after all, and this is honestly a good thing! The best kinds of exclusives are the ones made with this mentality. By having companies be competitive with their exclusive games, it will drive up the quality of said games that much more. It’s the same idea as competition is always good for the consumer as it means the only way for a company to get the upper hand on their competitor is to have the best product. And we’ve seen this work in practice plenty of times! Look at Halo 3 on the Xbox 360. That was the game to play at the time. If you owned an Xbox 360, you had that game. And if you didn’t own an Xbox 360 you got one just to play Halo 3. Consoles live and die by their exclusives. That’s why the Xbox One failed despite how popular the Xbox 360 was. While it did eventually bounce back well enough with services like Game Pass and backwards compatibility, the Xbox One was struggling for most of it’s life cycle because it never got that one exclusive that managed to get people looking to it. Meanwhile, the PS4 was putting out exclusive after exclusive and getting all the attention, and money, for it! I feel like it all started with Bloodborne, that is what got really got peoples attention and had them looking to the PS4 over the Xbox One. That was then followed by games like Spider-Man, God of War, The Last of Us Part 2, Ghost of Tsushima… Sony proved that to really sell a console you had to make good exclusives. The PS4 is now one of the best selling consoles of all time now. Most people I know own a PS4 as well!

However, there are some people who either can’t afford the newest console or can’t find one, which is the case nowadays. And there are people who don’t want to buy a console just for one game. Depending on the kind of game, people can be very vocal about it not coming to other platforms. Going back to Bloodborne, people are still upset to this day that the game is exclusive to PS4 and never got a PC release. This is mainly because the game was made by From Software, a company that very often does release it’s games to PC meaning they have a pretty big fan base there. And while I generally agree that taking a series that normally sees releases on multiple platforms and making it exclusive to one suddenly is a very bad thing, there are a few cases in particular where this can be unavoidable. To work with a better example, let’s go a little further back and talk about Bayonetta 2 and how it was exclusive to the Wii U at the time. When the exclusivity of Bayonetta 2 was announced people were very outraged. Namely because most people didn’t own a Wii U, or wanted to own one, but also because the original Bayonetta was released on Xbox 360 and PS3, and now the sequel wouldn’t be released to either. It seemed like an extremely odd choice and an insult to fans of the game on those platforms. However, when people figured out the real reason behind the exclusivity, things started to make much more sense.

It came to light that the reason why Bayonetta 2 was exclusive to the Wii U was because Nintendo was the only one willing to fund the game. Platinum Games, the creators of Bayonetta, pitched the sequel to lots of other companies but were apparently turned down every single time. Nintendo was the only one that seemed interested in funding it, which meant that it would obviously be exclusive to their platform. After this came out, a lot of the rage around the Wii U exclusivity died down and rightfully so. As it was clear that if the game wasn’t exclusive to the Wii U then it simply wouldn’t exist. This is the other big part of exclusives that people need to keep in mind when complaining about why they don’t come to other consoles. Many of them wouldn’t exist if they weren’t exclusive in the first place. Bloodborne was a project that Sony specifically wanted to fund to make it an exclusive for the PS4 after the big success of the Dark Souls series. Same thing with Street Fighter V. Despite Street Fight IV coming to Xbox 360 and PS3, the sequel was exclusive to the PS4 and the PC. This was because Sony helped fund the game, meaning they really had every right to make it an exclusive. Because, once again, it wouldn’t have really existed without their help. I guess you could call this the sad reality of a lot of exclusive games. One we kind of have to accept if we want to keep seeing games like this. But now there is a new problem with exclusives, one that is going to affect the entire game industry if something isn’t done about it.

After the Xbox One and it’s lack of exclusives led to the console doing so poorly, Microsoft decided to change up strategies. If they couldn’t make better exclusives than the competition, they’ll just buy out the competition instead! This is the darker side to exclusives. As this is less about making a great game for your console and more about making sure your competitor’s console just doesn’t have any games. Sony can’t even really compete with this kind of strategy given the insane amount of money Microsoft is willing to throw around. And while Sony has been buying up more companies as well, they are relatively small companies compared to what Microsoft is going for. Companies like Bungie and Bluepoint, nothing on the scale of Activision Blizzard. Even then though, this is just the first step in what could be a massive problem for the future of games. Soon it won’t be about who can make a great game, it’ll be about who has enough money to buy out a company making a great game.

The official image Microsoft released announcing their deal to buy Activision Blizzard.

This approach to exclusive games really worries me given the impact it’ll have on gaming in general. By buying out massive companies, Microsoft is basically strong arming people to come to the Xbox. And while you could try and argue that that is the point of exclusive games in the first place, there’s a very big difference between making a great game to sell your console and just consuming massive companies to make sure they can’t publish games on your competitor’s platform. Look at a game like Deathloop for example, a console exclusive to PS5. Sony partnered with developer Arkane Studios to bring the game to PS5 first before releasing it on Xbox later down the line. This was a one time deal between Sony and Arkane. Now compare that to Microsoft literally owning Arkane Studios, which is does after it’s purchase of Arkane’s parent company Bethesda. Rather than also partnering with Arkane to develop a game exclusive to the Xbox, they bought the whole thing up to ensure that their games will only come to Xbox from now on. While this may seem like a minor thing when it comes to a smaller studio like Arkane, Microsoft shows no signs of stopping as it continues to gobble up company after company. What seems like a small thing now is only going to get bigger and bigger as they continue this spending spree and buy up more of the gaming industry. They are effectively making a monopoly! So far these purchases haven’t made too much of a stir just yet, but that’s mainly because a lot of the companies Microsoft has purchased haven’t released many games. A lot of the games they are working on are still deep in development. But when they do come out, it’ll become painfully clear how much this harms the game industry as a whole…

This is really what the double edged nature of exclusive games is all about. When exclusive games are made to push a platform they can be some of the best experiences around! They end up being what those platforms are known for. In that sense, I never want exclusive games to stop being a thing. I want exclusives like Halo 3 and Bloodborne to keep coming out and keep pushing the game industry. But on the flip side, when exclusive games are made, or more accurately bought up, just to make sure your competitor doesn’t get them that’s when they start being a problem. Exclusive games are made to make you want to buy the platform they are exclusive to, that will never change. But this should be because the games are actually amazing not because the only way to play them is on that platform. Hopefully we can get back to exclusives being like that. And hopefully before we start seeing massive monopolies formed in the game industry…

But those are just my thoughts! What are some of yours? What are some of your favorite exclusive games? Do you think exclusive games are good or bad for the game industry? I’d love to hear your thoughts so don’t be shy!

And thank you for taking the time to read the post! If you enjoyed it feel free to leave a Like or share the blog with a friend. You can also follow the blog on WordPress or on Twitter if you want to stay up to date on new posts. Also if there’s a topic you’d like me to discuss sometime, go ahead and tell me in the comments! Any interaction is appreciated, even just viewing this post, so thanks again for stopping by.

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