Do Exclusives Still Matter?
Uncharted 3, Halo 4, Gran Turismo 6,039: do these games still shift consoles, or has the age of multiplatform gaming rendered them a relic?
Do exclusives still matter? Yes.
Oh, you want more words? Ok then, fine. Exclusives still matter, although not to the extent, or in the same way, as they did before.
Some schools of thought suggest that, due to the fact that the biggest games in the world are generally multiplat, that exclusives are meaningless. In a sense this might be true, in that (leaving Wii out of this conversation for the time being) if you want to play COD or FIFA or GTA you can pretty much buy it on anything, day and date with other versions, so price rather than potential becomes more of an issue. If I have no console and I want to play FIFA, I buy the cheapest console, yes? Maybe. Hold that thought.
Platform parity exists, and developers and publishers want to create experiences that are, in a lot of ways (although not every way, a crucial point we’ll get to in a moment) identical across consoles. This isn’t the old days where if you wanted sports games you bought a Mega Drive and if you wanted RPGs you got a SNES, and both consoles got different versions of what was apparently the same game: youtube the MD versions of Aladdin, Alien3 or Robocop vs The Terminator for example. (And yes, the MD version of Alien3 is better than the SNES one. Let’s put that to bed now).
Content creators want you to be able to experience their game everywhere. They don’t want inferior versions floating around, because that damages the brand. By and large, multiplats will always be the same across consoles now. It also means that multiplat games, especially in the early days of a console, aren’t going to push the machine as much as an exclusive. That’s just the cost of doing business.
So, as we mentioned earlier, are people going to just buy the cheapest console and be done with it? Yes and no. Because although certain gamer groups will do exactly that, it’s here where exclusives matter because they can be a clear differentiator between one console and the next, technically at least.
If you can get exactly the same experience across both platforms, exclusives matter in a buying decision because they give you something you can’t get elsewhere. In a game as tribalist as this one, that will continue to be important.
As will the increasingly service-led nature of the biz. Again, in ye olden days games machines played games. Now, Sony doesn’t like it when you call PS3 a console: it prefers ‘entertainment system’. Xbox Live and PSN are key differentiators: ‘exclusives’ in all but name. Especially when you throw in DLC.
Ah, DLC. Remember when you paid £40 for Call of Duty Elite and still had to wait for the new maps because MS has got Activision on lock? Yeah. Try telling those players who have to wait it out that exclusives don’t matter. They do, it’s just the game has changed and so has the concept. Uncharted is a big selling point: free online gaming and a Blu-ray player is bigger.
Exclusives matter because they now not give players a glimpse of the future potential of a machine in terms of grunt (which also then sells units to the core) but they can also demonstrate the services, and as such the ongoing worth, available to the player. The key is to have the game that demonstrates the service in the best possible way, and if that game and service are exclusive to you: bingo. LittleBigPlanet, anyone? Ass Creed Rev taking advantage of Blu-ray to include the original game for free on the disc? Tekken Hybrid putting game and movie in one package?
Publishers don’t want to create games, they want universes for you to explore/keep paying towards, and platform holders better make sure they give you the tools to explore. Now, if only Sega could get Aliens included on the Blu-ray alongside Colonial Marines…