On Exclusivity and Microsoft

GamesCom Bombshell

rise-of-the-tomb-raider Yesterday was the first day of the GamesCom conference in Cologne Germany, and generally speaking during past conferences we have for the most part seen a repeat of what was just announced at E3 a few months before.  This year however we got quite the bomb shell dropped during the Microsoft press conference, in the form that they claim that Rise of the Tomb Raider is going to be an Xbox One exclusive title.  This of course caused a wave of outrage through the community in part because up until this point all signs pointed to this being yet another Square Enix multiplatform title.  In fact during the E3 event, this appeared as part of the Sony PS4 press conference and was not even shown during the Microsoft event.  The outrage that I see so far is far less about Xbone vs PS4 but the fact that at least on initial pass it seemed like it would not be coming to PC either.

If you dissect the message that was delivered you can see something subtle happening.  Every single time they mentioned that this was exclusive they played with the words a bit.  They kept repeating the carefully constructed phrase “coming exclusive for holiday 2015”.  Over and over at least four separate times they used that exact same wording.  So that screams to me that they are putting a lot of hype behind something that may or may not be the case.  There are always a number of 100% platform dependant titles on a console.  The best example of these are the classic titles that you can only get on a Nintendo console like Zelda, Mario, Metroid, Kirby and Kid Icarus to make a few.  Then there are titles that come out first one a given console, but later on ship on every other console.

On Exclusivity and Microsoft

This is after all a card Microsoft has played for years, trumping the supposed exclusivity of a given title that then not only comes out but in part becomes far more famous on another platform.  If you remember both Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect were XBox exclusives, yet in both cases the franchises came out on the PC and with Mass Effect it now exists on all of the consoles and was a massive sales juggernaut.  Similarly even during this generation both Dead Rising 3 and Ryse: Son of Rome were supposedly platform exclusive titles but in both cases they are being released on the PC.  There was even the situation of Ninja Gaiden II that was a platform exclusive, and then later Tecmo released the game as Ninja Gaiden Sigma II so that they could break their exclusivity agreement.  All of this leads me to believe that this is just more marketing chicanery from Microsoft and not actually a platform exclusive title.

Ultimately games are developed to make money, and right now with 5 million Xbox One units being dwarfed by 10 million Playstation 4 units, it simply does not make sense to ignore the larger platform.  Ultimately this was a master stroke on the part of Microsoft however if they manage to pull it off.  I wouldn’t exactly call Rise of the Tomb Raider a platform selling title, but it certainly helps to buff up a console that has floundered a bit in its first year.  A good friend of mine has this rule that he refuses to buy a console before there are five titles that he wants to play on it that he cannot get anywhere else.  I personally have found this to be a pretty good rule so far, and ultimately this lead me to purchase my PS4.  If I reached a point where I had five titles for the Xbox One… I would consider getting one, but for the time being I just don’t have any interest.

Results of Poor Messaging

Microsoft has reached this point out of some phenomenally poor messaging.  When the console was announced they made a series of blunders in trying to guess exactly what their console buyers would want.  All of the touting of its television features really lost me in the process.  I barely watch television, and when I do it tends to be for a specific purpose… to watch one show and then move on to the next thing.  The only channel I watch with any frequency is Cartoon Network, more specifically Adult Swim.  Even then the last time I sat down in front of the television to actually watch television on purpose was well over a week ago.  So the focus on the initial marketing message of the console by demonstrating all of the admittedly interesting things it can do with television…  really landed off in left field.

Since then he has been struggling to out message Sony who has quite frankly dominated the news cycle with some pretty innovative features.  For sake of fairness I personally own right now 2 Xbox 360s, a Playstation 3, a Playstation Vita and a Playstation 4.  So I am not exactly an unbiased observer here.  I have clearly chosen the Sony Platform over the Microsoft one in part because all of these consoles work so well together.  The other thing is that Sony has focused in with laser precision on a very specific message.  “This is a console about video gaming, and we want to provide you an awesome gaming experience.”  So far this message has worked and resounded with folks looking for a next generation gaming console and not necessarily a next generation media pc.

It’s About the Value

The primary reason why I jumped allegiance during the last generation is admittedly just how amazing of a value Playstation Plus is, or more so how disappointing a value Xbox Gold was.  PS Plus is a $50 dollar a year subscription that gives you tons of free content as a result.  I just made a list of titles I have gotten in the two years I have been subscribed to the program.

Dust 514, DC Universe Online, Ratchet and Clank Collection, Dead Nation, Unit 13, Gravity Rush, Wipeout 2048, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Hitman: Absolution, Outlast, Resogun, Pinball Arcade, Infamous 2 , Little Big Planet 2, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One, Malicious, LIttle Big Planet Karting, Uncharted 3, Mod Nation Racers: Road Trip, Thomas Was Alone, Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark, Lone Survivor: The Directors Cut, Zen Pinball 2, Worms: Battle Island, Labrynth Legends, Zombie Tycoon II, Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee HD, Hotline Miami, Grid 2, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Payday 2, Metro: Last Light, Closure, Knytt Underground, Dyad, Bioshock Infinite, Darksiders, Saints Row: The Third, Batman: Arkham City, BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend, Poker Night 2, Joe Danger 2: The Movie, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Borderlands 2, Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny, Tekken 6, Galaga Legions, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, Castle of Illusion, Jet Set Radio, Binary Domain, Vanquish, The Cave, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, Street Fighter X Tekken, Dragon’s Dogman: Dark Arisen, Remember Me, DmC Devil May Cry, Resident Evil Chronicles HD Collection, Mega Man 9&10 Combo, Tomb Raider, Pro Evolution Soccer 2014, Battlefield 3, Sleeping Dogs, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Trine 2, PixelJunk Shooter, PIxelJunk Monsters , Velocity Ultra, Soul Sacrifice, Stick it to the Man, Limbo, Puppeteer, Surge Deluxe, NBA 2K14, Warframe, Flower, Strider, Towerfall Ascension, Doki-Doki Universe, Terraria, Muramasa Rebirth, Vessel, Dead Space 3, Fez, Dragon’s Crown, Metrico, Rogue Legacy, Proteus, Road Not Taken, Crysis 3

That is 94 individual titles that I have gotten for free through either the console itself or the Playstation Plus service.  In many cases those titles are available on multiple platforms and as a result I get a copy for every platform it is avaialble for.  This is a huge deal for me, and not only do most of the titles have what Sony calls “cross buy” where if you buy a copy for any platform you get it on ALL platforms… you also get “cross save” on the newer games.  Lately I have been playing quite a bit of Rogue Legacy, and I can start a game on my Vita and then pick it up later upstairs on my Playstation 4.  On top of that if I have a game I want to play on my PS4 I can pick up the Vita and use it as a remote screen and even play it remotely.  Admittedly playing from your PS4 while not on the same network is a bit laggy, but the simple fact that it exists is mind boggling to me.

Now I realize that “Games With Gold” is a thing that exists now and they have been fighting to catch up, but at this point there have been 35 titles to Playstation Plus that has released 148 PS3 titles, 14 PS4 titles, 48 PS Vita titles and 87 psp/psone/minis titles.  I am admittedly bitter however for having paid for years of Xbox Gold subscription for what amounted to the permission to play games online and watch Netflix.  Since then they have reversed this decision and made Netflix a free software, but when I initially got my Xbox 360 you had to have the full gold subscription to use it.  Sony is just as much of a corporate monstrosity as Microsoft, but they have been doing a much better job of disguising that fact and giving me warm fuzzies along the way.  Since I still have all three of their most recent platforms, and even a PSP if we want to go back that far…  they are doing an awesome job of giving me reasons to care about each and every platform and more specifically the interoperability between them.

Share Play

Hands down the most interesting thing to come out of GamesCom for me was the announcement of Share Play.  The Playstation Now game streaming service has been announced for some time, and it is currently happening playable in beta, but for the time being it just is a poor value.  What Share Play does is take that same game streaming technology but flip it around to make it extremely useful.  Right now if you want to play with a friend, you both have to own the same game and log into it at the same time to meet up and play.  What Share Play proposes is that you can be sitting on your couch and your friend on theirs, but be virtually playing the same copy of the game together.  The idea is that you send your PlayStation network friend an invite to join your current game session.  At this point the game is then streamed to their console and you are playing together in the same session.

I have no clue what the ramifications of this technology will be and what sort of internet connection you will need to make it work.  Thankfully however most of my friends that I hang out with on a nightly basis also have some pretty beefy internet connections.  So I can see us getting a lot of play out of this feature.  Want to try out a new game, awesome… pop in my game and play with me and see if you like it.  Want to work together on some achievement, awesome…  let me send you an invite and we will work on it together.  That is the thing I like the best about the PS4 experience so far is that it feels very socially connected as I am constantly able to see what my friends are playing and especially during the Destiny betas we have been able to pop around freely.  The only negative I have so far is that the voice chat system is horrible, and as a result I still prefer to use teamspeak.

Wrapping Up

I realize that I am not an unbiased voice about the whole Microsoft versus Sony debate.  In truth there really isn’t much of a debate to be had in either direction.  Buy whatever console has the games you want to play on it and ignore everyone that is spouting off about your choice.  I made my choice based on the fact that it had more games that I wanted to play on it, and with the Playstation Plus service from the day I brought my PS4 home I already had a half dozen titles to play on it that night.  PS Plus and all the other consoles do an amazing job justifying the purchase of MORE Sony Consoles.  As far as Rise of the Tomb Raider, I am taking a wait and see attitude.  I think right now that this exclusive agreement is just a carefully marketed and cleverly worded announcement.  Will it ship on Xbox One first?  More than likely… but will it be followed up within six months to a year on every other platform?  Almost assuredly so, because so far if it is popular and demanded enough most Xbox titles see a PC release…  I am looking at your KOTOR, Mass Effect, Fable, Dead Rising and I imagine every other blockbuster that gets released for a Microsoft Console.

#XboxOne #PS4 #RiseoftheTombRaider

4 thoughts on “On Exclusivity and Microsoft

  1. Having both consoles is honestly an eye opener. Both Microsoft and Sony engage in the “Exclusive” thing. Sony sometimes gets exclusive first “No Mans Sky” or they make deals for exclusive content and access “Destiny”. Microsoft now gets Tomb Raider exclusively for an unannounced period of time. Its all the same old same old.

    Where I find the real strangeness is in how in terms of social connectivity Sony came out swinging with their “share” button and playstation live app. Yet just 9 months out the gate Xbox One is a far better platform for streaming games and sharing that experience (dedicated Youtube, and twitch apps that can be streamed to live.) Sony has a better games so far but they really really need to focus on their poor UI and poor media support (external HDD, mp3, DLNA support). They are losing that battle and the battle over how they communicate with their customers.

    Microsoft made some serious problems for themselves in their launch, yet Sony seems to honestly be complacent with how they are simply ignoring many requests for the PS4 system software. That is where Microsoft has shined since the Xbox One launch. They have provided monthly updates and monthly questionnaires asking the user base what they want to see in the Xbox One. From Sony all I ever expect from an update is “some added stability” and I only get that maybe once every two or three months. 

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