Friday, November 30, 2012

Editorial: Why Console Exclusives Must Change

Every system has exclusive titles, whether it's Halo, Little Big Planet, or Mario. Companies bid each other out for new titles, series continuations, and future downloadable content. They do this to increase the sales of their products. To increase the profits for IP's they own. And while this can mean quite a turn in console sales, it also hurts the industry.

Console exclusives don't just create revenue. They also create friction between players, often leading to forum-based console wars. There are many hardcore PlayStation gamers that would love to see the Halo series or Gears of War come to the PS4 (because let's face it, there's no way this will change with the current systems), or Xbox Gamers to enjoy Ratchet and Clank or the newer game The Last Guardian. What makes the exclusive so much better than a cross platform game? Multiple platforms may mean a bit more development time, but wouldn't the revenue on the game be bigger?

Of course, developers have to consider the loss of an exclusive rights bonus. These bonuses can sometimes make or break a title, or even a company. What if the game is a flop? Then the console developer takes a bath, not us. These are the voices inside the heads of every company out there. Fear of shutting down is high, even when the economy is booming, which is most definitely not the case right now. Most companies don't last more than a single title. Maybe they get out two if they're lucky. Most get bought out and brought into the fold of larger companies as they expand.

Players are another hurdle to tackle. The console wars have been around for a generation. Literally. I was raised with multiple consoles out there and now I have children who are gaming. Fans have their choices when it comes to consoles, whether it be controls, technical aspects, and especially, exclusive content. There are many players who do not want to lose the exclusive aspect of their consoles, which they use to increase their standing in the Internet forum wars. They argue everything from arcade titles to online memberships. Sony fans bring out the "Free" artillery while Microsoft fans target their bombs on Sony's "lack of security" that they feel their memberships pay for. Both stances are correct, but neither side wants to admit it. Even gamers who own all consoles, PlayStation, Xbox & Wii (and recently the Wii U), have their favorites. It's impossible not to. The differences is what attracts us as well as drive us apart.

But we've also seen titles that pull us together. Cross platform games, like the Call of Duty series, always outsell exclusive titles, and that's the reason why. They are accessible. Here's some rundowns of popular titles and the numbers they've gotten over the years:
  • Halo series (Xbox 360). 4 titles, 5 years, 31.54 million units.
  • Gears of War series (Xbox 360). 6 years, 3 titles, 18.16 million units.
  • COD (Xbox 360). 5 years, 5 titles, 66.69 million units
  • COD (PS3). 5 years, 5 titles, 35.01 million units
  • ACIII (Xbox 360). 4 weeks, 1 title, 2.29 million units
  • ACIII (PS3). 4 weeks, 1 title, 2.37 million units
You can see that Xbox dominates in the numbers with 118.68 million units between  those 4 series. However, it also adds 37.38 million units to the total on just 2 games. That's over 37 million units that would never have sold. That is a huge impact. Imagine what the Halo or Gears series would have sold if they had been cross platform. As big of a lead that Xbox has over Playstation, what would the numbers for a PS exclusive like God of War have looked like? Skyrim would have lost well over 6 million units if it had been restricted to Xbox instead of allowing PS3 and PC.

Console developers don't like it because it evens out the sales, rather than increasing them to their side. Gamers have never liked restrictions. We play in worlds that push the boundaries of morality, mortality, physics. Even time itself is not an obstacle to us.

Exclusives have always left a bad taste in our mouths. Whether it's pre-order exclusives, DLC exclusives, or console exclusives, gamers are on the edge of revolt. And with next-gen consoles due to launch within the next year, companies are already snapping up exclusives. The future of gaming is going to be about merging the bases, not separating them further. Collaboration is how work gets done. Just think, if companies pooled their resources, how long would it take to hit virtual reality gaming? Just something to think about.

No comments:

Post a Comment