The Problem with Exclusives

Being a gamer since the early 1990s, I’ve been accustomed to the fact that certain consoles will have exclusive games that tend to characterize a face for that company. For example, Nintendo always had Mario, Kirby, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Banjo and Kazooie, and so many more, while Sega had their golden child Sonic and his friends.

Moving into the Xbox x Sony era, we’ve seen the obvious exclusives faces in Masterchief and Marcus Fenix to match Nathan Drake and Cole Macgrath. And this to me is an okay idea. Having faces for your company is a great idea to help with your marketing. When people think Xbox or Playstation, you want them to think of the characters from franchises they love. In fact, a big reason that I bought my Xbox One is because I wanted to play the Halo series more than I wanted to play the Infamous series.

But now we’ve moved into a strange generation where the series that defined those companies are hitting their end, with Uncharted coming to a close this year, and Halo likely coming to an end with their next addition. And with the Ps4 and Xbox One still trying to lure their respective audiences in, more and more typically AAA franchises are either being made completely exclusive to a console, or are at least giving extra content to the consumers on particular consoles.

Initially, this didn’t seem to phase me, since it was involved in games that I didn’t much care if I had an extra costume or early content access (looking at you Call of Duty and Watch Dogs). But now, we’re starting to see the lasting effects of this type of behavior, where content on one console does have an impact, or that exclusivity is now causing a rift between gamers and the games they love.

For example, when Destiny was released, Playstation owners of the game got exclusive guns and missions ahead of time, while Xbox owners had to wait about a full year to get access to the same content, which, in a game like Destiny, actually means something. Also, Rise of the Tomb Raider had an exclusive release early on Xbox One, meaning Playstation owners have to wait a year to get it on their console. The problem with this is two-fold: one, you’re ostracizing your fans from a series they would potentially have gotten at the time and two, we don’t know what’s coming out around the time of its release on Playstation, meaning this game may not get the attention it could have had this exclusivity not been a thing.

I’m a firm believer that each console has its strengths and weaknesses. Xbox has always to me been a place to play first-person games, especially shooters, anything online, being that Xbox Live has long been a more dependable service than Playstation Online, and racing games, since no one even comes close to Forza. Playstation has been the best place for third-person games, fighting games, JRPGs, and even platformers. This is not to say that the other console can’t do the same things, but there’s a level of comfort playing specific genres on specific platforms.

So when these companies start divvying up exclusive content or games that have no connection with the face of their company, I feel like the end result is that gamers lose. And yes, I’m aware that there is a marketing strategy to this to sell consoles. And yes, I understand that the solution is to just buy both if I want to play the games I want to play. But the general market isn’t filled with an overwhelming amount of people who can drop anywhere from $800-1000 on consoles and games.

Inevitably, this system just makes it harder for gamers to find the games they love, since some of them might be hiding on the console they don’t own. I’m all for exclusives when it comes to making a face that your company can use to convey marketing, but when it comes down to games like Street Fighter V, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Dead Rising 3, it just seems like you’re adding into the already annoying division between console snobs.

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