Discover more from Video Game Ramblings
Limitations of Video Game Exclusivity
Good for corporations; bad for everyone else.
Games with platform exclusivity have existed since the invention of the medium. Back in the old days we had dedicated machines designed and manufactured to play only one game. That is all they did! Of course now, we have powerful machines that can process information at a speed and efficiency that we could not have imagined forty years ago. I love the comparison of a smartphone today having more power than all of NASA did during the Apollo mission. A device we can fit in our pocket can render games with visuals we could not have imagined. General computing is now the norm and there is little reason to have games not be able to run on all major platforms.
Developer tools have improved to the point where cross-platform development on consoles and PCs is an expectation. Similar to smartphone operating systems, with many apps and games being available on both major platforms, iOS and Android. During the “smartphone wars” developers had to decide whether to develop and build their business on one or the other platform just like game developers. To contrast this to today’s situation where many indie developers regularly publish cross platform.
So this is why it bugs me to hear stories about exclusive titles in today’s environment, where it simply exists to funnel customers towards one platform. The situation has been ignored, particularly with Microsoft falling behind in this “generation” of consoles. It was much more difficult to put a finger on either the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, even for me, because each platform had their own fantastic titles.
Sony keeps pumping out high-quality exclusives at a good pace. In 2018 alone we have seen God of War and Spider-Man, games that captured the imagination of millions. Sony has invested monetarily and with trust — offering developers true freedom without worrying too much about budgets and squashing the developer’s desires. For the player, though, committing to any single platform carries a financial investment and very few can, or want to choose to buy more than one console. Smart business strategy? Yes. Secure a customer and reap the rewards through games purchases and subscription for years. But all I see is works of art being held back from much of the population.
Exclusivity can allow for integrated and optimised experiences to fully suit the console, which allows for titles like Uncharted and Kid Icarus to look so stunning on the relatively weak consoles they were designed for. Being able to focus on one platform makes it much easier to create a great experience, you hear some argue. It enables developing for a console and utilising all of the potential. That was a key concern in the last generation of consoles for Sony developers. Whilst the PlayStation 3 used a complex processor designed by IBM that was not well understood until very late in the console’s cycle. Now, the PlayStation 4 utilises a straightforward processing unit similar to that of Microsoft’s counterpart and cross-platform development now is not the monstrous task it used to be and achieving platform parity is easily achievable. The tools developers have at their disposal now are much more friendly yet powerful. Multi-platform releases are the norm now and there is no excuse to limit the player base artificially.
Exclusives provides an edge over the competition: Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Horizon: Zero Dawn without a doubt pushed many to buy Sony and Nintendo consoles. For many, those are titles that do warrant the purchase of a £200-£300. The new Zelda perhaps singlehandedly made the Switch the popular console it is today!
Exclusivity robs us of the choice to play a game on a platform we are most comfortable with. Exclusives are anti-consumer. They limit choice. They limit reach. It is my belief as a proponent of the medium to spread these works of art to be touched by as many people as possible.
The current situation for exclusives has much improved compared to the years prior, though it remains an important issue for me. Whilst not an apt analogy, is is always possible to recommend a film to someone. Every computer or phone can run Netflix and any Blu-Ray player plays Blu-Rays. I want to be able to recommend games without having to worry about the person owning the right console. In today’s age it is difficult enough to tempt people into paying for any game, let alone get them to buy new expensive machines just to try a new shiny game they may not like.
Thank you for reading. As always, reply to the email if you have feedback.