Does exclusivity really matter? This question has become a hot topic over the past week when two titles that were originally exclusives on Nintendo’s Wii U console, made the move over to multi-platform.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razors Edge was to be the ‘definitive version of Ninja Gaiden 3’, providing gamers with a slew of improvements, though only improving its Metacritic average from 58% to 69%. Providing gamers with bonus playable characters, problems from the original game being repaired, an assortment of new moves and the big change lacking from the original version, the ability to dismember your foes. Razors Edge will now be appearing on all consoles this April, the upcoming version however doesn’t affect the RE version already accessible on the Wii U system, fans still had first opportunity to play the superior version of the final product.
The biggest of the two ‘now’ multi-platform decisions, is undoubtedly Rayman Legends. The Wii U exclusive title, that many gamers including myself were looking to be the console’s killer app, the final push to purchasing Nintendo’s first high definition console. Originally slated to be coming with the consoles launch, it was delayed until February 26, still exclusive to the console. However confirmed over the last few days was not only the fact that Legends was now multi-platform, but the Wii U version would be delayed in order to have a simultaneous release with its other console version counterparts. As you would expect, many Nintendo Wii U early adopters are upset over the entire ordeal. Since it was confirmed the Wii U version of the game was complete and the delay was only made due to these new console SKU’s, however Ubisoft is trying to make it up to fans by offering an “exclusive demo for the Wii U soon”.
The unfortunate news for Nintendo faithful, or even worse those Rayman fans who brought the system just for their beloved, will now have to wait an extra 7 months. But what if they only purchased the Wii U for Rayman Legends? This brings us back to the original question at hand, “Does exclusivity really matter?”. Rayman Origins was an extremely popular title released on almost every console available, fans loved it and nobody had to deal with any exclusivity issues, giving us various options to play the game where we saw fit.
Exclusivity comes in many forms within the gaming industry, with each main player in the home console race having their own strategy when it comes to the term. Some of these exclusives may only be timed, which means the publisher of the game has been given some favourable backing to align themselves with one console over the other. Or in some cases these studios developing the game are owned in-house, known as first party studios. Say for example they are funded by Microsoft, it is more than likely these games will come exclusively to the Xbox 360. Microsoft in their own unique way, sets themselves apart when it comes to exclusivity.
The Xbox 360 system is known for quality, rather than quantity when it comes to exclusive retail experiences. The Halo and Gears of War series have been Microsoft flag-ship franchises since they first appeared in the gaming space, and don’t expect these franchises to be going anywhere else, anytime soon. Microsoft make the release of these exclusives a worldwide event, when a new Gears of Halo comes out, Xbox 360 gamers know about it and even the general consumer who doesn’t purchase a game every month will know. Microsoft also makes sure to secure timed exclusivity on downloadable content, their biggest acquisitions have been Call of Duty map packs and the illusive Skyrim expansion packs. No one could quarrel these are small games, but the money involved to secure these rights, must be fairly substantial. The fact is, does it even matter?
When choosing to buy Skyrim or Call of Duty, was the idea of exclusive DLC really something that made gamers think twice? Think about it, if all your friends are playing Call of Duty on one console that will be your preference, a 30 day wait barely seems worth segregating yourself from your social online community. As for Skyrim, this is a lone ranger type experience and again the originally scheduled 30 day exclusivity might not have swayed many users, though nobody knew this exclusivity would last this long. However this idea of having a few solid hallmark releases that make the industry stop, take notice and think “Wow, that is only on Xbox?”. Has been of great success, with Halo 4 almost selling 4 million copies in its first week. These are impressive numbers for an exclusive console title, making some of Sony’s exclusive renditions poor to say the least. But why does Microsoft avoid flooding the market with exclusives? They clearly sell, there is clearly a market, so what holds them back? Well it has been proven too much choice isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Sony is known for having a vast library of exclusive franchises on the PlayStation 3, with 2012 being another year where Sony gamers were humbled for choice. PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, Starhawk, Twisted Metal and LittleBigPlanet Karting were all released in retail, with actually many originally planned 2012 exclusives being delayed until 2013. We are less than 2 months into 2013 and already PlayStation 3 fans have two massive exclusives under their belt, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Times and Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. So looking at Microsoft’s foray into exclusives, one would assume Sony were showcase strong numbers across the board, however that wasn’t the case.
Superbot Entertainment the creators of PlayStation All-Stars recently had their ties severed with Sony, with their title recently releasing in Japan to a sales number on the negative side of 12,000 units, the game didn’t sell. Starhawk developer Lightbox Interactive were closed down and David Jaffee who was behind Twisted Metal, left the company looking for greener pastures. Then we have LittleBigPlanet Karting which was discounted faster than the Flash himself, so sometimes quantity can be a bad thing for not only consumers, but for developers. Nobody is stating these games were terrible, but they didn’t sell anywhere near what Microsoft was able to produce. Was it bad marketing? Did Sony flood the consumers for choice? Do people not have enough money to risk a purchase on games without a number beside the title, or ones that are taking the franchise in a new direction?
Painting a broad picture regarding the necessity of exclusives over Microsoft and Sony, definitely produce extremely different results. You must now be asking, what is Nintendo’s stake in this exclusivity business? Well they my friends are the exception of the rule.
Nintendo have so many treasured franchises at their disposal, a large array of back catalogue games to produce extremely popular remakes (Ocarina of Time, Windwaker, Star Fox 64) and have gaming mascots that are legendary throughout the world, not just the gaming industry. Gaming fans (myself included) buy Nintendo products to play Nintendo games, we know that exclusives may be far apart and in these low periods our consoles may lay dormant, but when those exclusives arrive we will be given an experience that we can trust will be a memorable one. Nintendo may have stated that the Wii U will be the console that brings back third party support, bringing quality iterations of multi-platform games to the system, which the original Wii lacked. But in hindsight, even if they don’t produce the same amount of third party content that their rivals do, in the end they have the first party line-up that no one can deny will sell consoles.
Ubisoft are not the only company looking to extend their reach to the consumer, with other major studios in the industry also looking to extend their console viability. Insomniac Games have their first multi-platform title, FUSE releasing later this year after being PlayStation exclusive for many years. Developing the Ratchet and Clank series, yet their other exclusive franchise Resistance has been shelved due to lacklustre sales of the third game. ThatGameCompany was a successful Sony exclusive studio, that has opened its mind to new ideas for new platforms, which Jenova Chen has stated could include “PC, browser, mobile, tablet”. Even the creator of Halo, Bungie Studios now has a publishing deal with Activision. With their upcoming releases coming exclusively to Microsoft for a certain time, before going to other consoles. With even games we never thought we would see, like the Microsoft published Mass Effect 1 going multi-platform, exclusivity is becoming more irrelevant as the years pass by.
I feel companies looking to secure their financial future and make sure their games reach as many consumers as possible, to be definitely a fair decision on their part. In the end, more people getting access to amazing gaming products and studios gaining a larger margin for profit, can only be good for the industry. If Starhawk was made multi-platform, could Lightbox still be alive today? These are questions that we ask ourselves, that only make exclusivity seem like a poor choice for most companies. With Sony’s record for not producing quality sales for their top class exclusive titles, maybe the idea of going multi-platform isn’t a bad idea.
However this new Rayman Legends ordeal is a unique case altogether, I can completely understand Ubisoft wanting to send their game multi-platform , with many fans of the original already waiting with open wallets. Though that doesn’t justify delaying a completed project, to satisfy your companies goals, when fans are excited for your game that was stated to release in two weeks. This might be Ubisoft’s game in the end and they can do what they will, but it isn’t the sour taste you want to leave in the mouth of early adopters who might be there because of your exclusive title.
Does exclusivity really matter? After looking at an array of examples, from every major player on the market, it’s hard to define an answer. It seems putting the big budget quality exposure behind a small amount of exclusives is the superior way, since oversaturation of the market doesn’t seem to garner strong results. But on the other hand you have Nintendo, doing what Nintendo does, giving gamers a main reason to own their hardware. With Nintendo fans having no other choice, but to invest in their latest consoles if they want to play the exclusive titles they adore.
Exclusivity isn’t the biggest selling point these days as it used to be, sure some hunt down their current consoles opposition to open the door to an array of interesting adventures. But do exclusives really justify your purchase? Well sadly I cannot answer this with a definitive answer and until then big dollars are going to continue to be thrown around to gather exclusive content, some will succeed and some will sadly pay the price to attaching themselves to a smaller audience. However with the possible upcoming announcements of PlayStation 4 coming on February 20, we will be given an insight into how much exclusivity will matter in the next generation and personally, my body is ready.