As many of you are now aware, the biggest topic to come out of Gamescom yesterday (except maybe the Silent Hill reboot) was that Rise of the Tomb Raider was going to be released “Holiday 2015 – Exclusively on Xbox”. Of course, today, that message was clarified a little, with the news that the game is not a full exclusive, just that it’s timed. How long for, nobody’s sure yet, but it’s had some pretty shady wording thrown about that instilled a lot of confusion.
Firstly, as much as it would have been annoying as someone who owns a PS4 and a PC right now, it doesn’t bother me all that much that Rise of the Tomb Raider was going to be an Xbox One exclusive. I’ve said I’ll pick one up when there’s games I want to play on it, and this could have been one of those games. The thing that annoyed me about yesterday is the deliberately obtuse and outright deceitful way in which the game was being spoken about.
Of course, consoles need exclusive games. Otherwise they’d just be two separate boxes playing the exact same stuff. It’s what helps us choose the console we buy, it’s what helps define what the console is known for. But the rise in “timed” exclusivity has jumped dramatically since the launch of the Xbox 360 and PS3, particularly with DLC. Third party exclusives are getting more and more rare as development costs spiral up and up, and it’s going to take a huge investment from one of the manufacturers to take on board the development costs and maybe even publish it, similar to what Nintendo’s doing with Bayonetta 2. What took many back yesterday was the apparent news that Tomb Raider, a franchise that found its footing on the PlayStation, was seemingly “Jumping ship” to a platform that was outsold 3-to-1 by the PS4 with its most recent release.
After yesterday’s announcement, the methods for announcing timed exclusives for Microsoft and Sony seem to be worlds apart. Everything that Sony has had in terms of a timed exclusive has been announced as either “A timed exclusive”, “First on Playstation”, or “Having its exclusive console debut”. Whilst I’m not a big fan of the last one (which basically says “This is on PC, but it’s on PS first”), they’re all fairly straightforward. Microsoft’s “Coming Holiday 2015 – Exclusive to Xbox” is, to my mind, extremely poor wording at best, and at worst, it’s a sleazy way to boost console sales under a false pretense. The impression given off by the stream was that ROTTR would ONLY be coming to Xbox platforms, and that is precisely the impression Microsoft wanted people to have. Following the conference, the messaging wasn’t helped by the seemingly deliberate attempts to muddy the waters in interviews, or when people were pushed. The worst thing was that it was increasingly obvious that the game would be coming to other platforms as time went on.
I honestly don’t know how long Microsoft thought they could keep up the illusion that ROTTR was a bona fide exclusive. But the confusing and deceitful way it was announced cast shadows across what has been an extremely good turnaround since the unveiling of the console last year. It’s slowly clawing back a reputation that’s been horribly marred since the “TVTVTV” announcement. It’s a real shame that the slightly sleazy messaging has come at this time, particularly as it’s less than 24 hours since the reveal and we now know it’s going to come to other platforms after the Xbox release. Was it worth it? Time will tell. But given some of the reactions I saw yesterday, I think there will be a lot of people waiting until 2016 to play Crystal Dynamics’ next big outing for young Lara.
*See Microsoft, this is what exclusive means. This post isn’t appearing anywhere else. Unless some unscrupulous little shit copies and pastes it elsewhere.