So, I may have to eat my words. After months and months of insisting that the Playstation 4 would be my first next-gen console, I officially want to buy an Xbox One. While the internal debate over which one I will purchase rages on, I have been swayed. Not by Microsoft’s marketing team, not by the latest firmware update, not by some huge Sony misstep. The only reason I might possibly want an Xbox One over a Playstation 4 is a console exclusive series: Halo. But honestly, that might just be enough. There has been some timed exclusive content this generation, but so far truly exclusive console games have been rare. The Master Chief Collection and Halo 5: Guardians are the first big ones as far as I’m concerned, and they’re talking to my wallet very persuasively.
In the most recent generation of consoles, “timed exclusives” have run rampant. Sometimes, like in the case of the upcoming Tomb Raider, a game will be exclusive for the length of a contract. For other games, like Destiny or Call of Duty, downloadable content will be available to one console before its competitors. Timed exclusives are a hedged bet for third party publishers: major companies like EA and Square Enix don’t want to lose a significant portion of their potential audience by selling on only one console. On the other hand, if Microsoft or Sony comes knocking with a big-money contract, publishers don’t mind making a few bucks to hand out some exclusive content - at least, exclusive for a little while.
The timed console exclusive is a new tactic in the console war, but one that makes good business sense. In the most recent console generation, Microsoft and Sony have struggled to differentiate themselves from one another. The Xbox One and Playstation 4 are attempting to capture the exact same fanbase, and so far they have been attempting to do it with the exact same games. Playstation 4′s most notable console exclusive title is The Last of Us Remastered, a Playstation 3 game ported up to next-gen. Xbox One’s major exclusive is the new Killer Instinct, a game that was released free-to-play with the system. There’s also Titanfall, but it’s also available on PC – gamers don’t have to own an Xbox One to play it. Without their own in-house developers releasing great games, the best way for Sony and Microsoft to get an edge on each other is with timed exclusives from third parties.
While all of these new strategies are being experimented with, history knows the best way to sell systems: true console exclusive games. This has always been the case, and the further back into history one looks the more obvious it becomes. The Xbox brand (and modern console shooters as we know them) might not even exist if not for the original Halo – it was a game so great, so revolutionary, that gamers who were otherwise content with their Playstation 2s were compelled to buy the original Xbox. A generation earlier, Sony broke into the gaming world with exclusives like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro and Final Fantasy VII-IX on the Playstation. The generation before that? Sega faced off against Nintendo, creating Sonic the Hedgehog to rival Mario’s star power. Speaking of Nintendo, the entire company has been living off of console exclusive titles since the beginning of mainstream home consoles in 1985. Without Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Pokemon and all of its other console exclusive franchises Nintendo would be a distant memory, or a third party developer at best. Think about it: how many people bought a Wii U for Mario Kart 8? How many more will for Smash Bros. this winter?
So if I do end up buying an Xbox One for Halo, it won’t be the first time I bought a system based on a console exclusive game. I bought a Gamecube for Super Smash Bros. Melee. I bought a PSP for Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. I bought an Xbox 360 for Halo and Gears of War. I bought a Wii U for all of the Nintendo goodness that comes with it. And when I buy a Playstation 4 or an Xbox One, it won’t be because it’s Microsoft or Sony: it will be for the games that I can’t live without. Just like it always has been.
The views expressed in this article explicitly belong to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of, nor should be attributed to, GameSided as an organization.
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