Article : Do Exclusives Still Matter?

On the eve of E3, what are you most excited to see? What console or developer conference are you wanting to pay the most attention to? Something that you’re going to see console makers do, is tout their “system only exclusives”. Many gamers will get really excited with what they hear and see. Many outlets will report that MS, Sony or Nintendo “won” the conference, and that their exclusives played a major role in doing so. I wanted to share some ideas on this, mainly in how it may be a positive for many, but can also limit our experiences in gaming unintentionally.

Let’s look at a couple of recent E3 announcements. Remember Death Stranding at E3 2016? Hideo Kojima came out excited and Sony went out their way to mention that this relationship between them would be something to behold. A teaser trailer was shared and fans rejoiced. The sad part though, is that the game didn’t even start full development until 2017. How about the Final Fantasy 7 remake? This was a massive drop mic moment in 2015 when the teaser trailer was shown at E3 and it received a standing ovation. News outlets were amazed and people were screaming in joy. So where are we today? We still have seen no gameplay and only a few screenshots. This is another game that didn’t start full development until later in 2016 and has now been rumored to release in fall of 2018 or later. Lets talk about Nintendo briefly. Remember when Breath of the Wild was announced? It was 2013, and we didn’t see a teaser trailer until E3 of 2014. The game was supposed to be the biggest release for the Wii U, to entice players to finally buy the console. But after numerous delays, rumors surrounded its development and that it wouldn’t release anytime soon. Rumors began about the Nintendo NX, what would eventually become the Switch. On the day of the Switch announcement from Nintendo, Zelda finally got a firm release date to coincide with its release. Many PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Wii U/Switch owners buy their console solely for these games. Do these still matter and do the sales point to them having a massive impact?

It really depends on what sort of gamer you are and if you’re going to be buying, or have bought, a current console due to the exclusivity of software.

I’ve always put “hardcore” gamers into 3 very distinct brackets:

  • Gamers that support all consoles AND software, looking for the best of what each has to offer.
  • Gamers that stick to one primary console. They may potentially buy another console(s). However, they focus only exclusives for their secondary consoles.
  • Gamers that stick to one console and don’t really look to other consoles for different experiences.

Removing one’s self from how you digest games, you’d be surprised that most gamers are casual gamers. Based on sales alone it’s easy to point out that in the Sony and MS world, exclusives don’t really matter as much as you’d think. Casual gamers don’t worry how well Sony or MS did at E3, TGS or any game conference. Console makers have approached exclusive software for regional reasons, but not as much as they used to in the past. Microsoft did it with Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey specifically to entice the Japananese audience with JRPG’s during the PS3 and 360 era. But as much as many love them, they aren’t exactly system sellers or best sellers for their console. Many developers have moved to the cross-platform model to broaden their reach in the market. Games like Final Fantasy 15 and Metal Gear Solid 5 can now be played on both major consoles. Lets look at some sales data to make a few observations solely with regard to exclusives.

PS4 Exclusive Comparison Top 10 (1 Exclusive Title)
Nintendo Wii U Top 10 (all Exclusives)
Xbox One Top 10 (2 Exclusives)
Best selling exclusive JRPG’s

When watching a conference like E3, listen closely for the launch date, and if a game is actually exclusive to a specific console. I’d like to the coin the term “announcement to release”. After a game is announced, how long until it’s actually released? Third party developers have actually moved closer to timed exclusive content. This can come in the form of DLC or an extra mission or level to try to sway the consumer. Sony did this with Destiny and the COD series. Some games are now timed exclusives. For example, Microsoft had a 1 year exclusivity deal for Rise of the Tomb Raider.

The Mario series of games, Gears of War and Uncharted will forever stay on their respective consoles until console makers, like Sega, move from console development to software sales. First party software may introduce gamers to a console, but do they usually keep hardcore and casual gamers entertained in the long run? The console gaming market is currently flooded with AAA experiences from a number of different developers.  If you have the option, don’t skip consoles or software as we may be witnessing one of the greatest times ever to be a gamer. Enjoy the conferences for what’s coming, get excited, let your friends know what’s coming, but don’t forget to pay close attention to if it truly is an exclusive and how long it will be until you can get your hands on that new software.

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By Bert Saenz (TREBM3)

Gaming since the Atari 2600 and owning about every console stateside since. AKA Mr. Amiibo and resident Nintendo fanboy.

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