While I was working tonight, I thought back to the SNES era of gaming. I remembered owning a NES, SNES, Genesis, Turbo Grafx 16, and I think one other console, so I could have access to all the gaming I wanted. Now, sure, we all have our glory days from the early ages of gaming. But for the life of me, I couldn't think of one reason why any of the games I played back then, NEEDED to be on just one console. Granted, it would have been hard to recode a game from cartridge to disc to HuCard. But most consoles then, had worked to six buttons and a D-pad, with Start and Select. And the visuals weren't noticably different from each other.
Fast forward to today, and the situation is even stranger. Now, studios build their own engines or buy one, all the relevant tech is equalized for the most part, there's few interface options except for S-video or HDMI, and controllers are so interchangeable, that a few hours with a dev kit, could have you playing PS 4 games, with an X-1 controller. Financially, it's even wilder. The last Tomb Raider for example, needed to sell five million copies to be successful according to CD/Squenix. What if that game was an exclusive on one console? How could they EVER expect to hit that mark, short of going out and buying five million PS3 or 360s, bundling their game in free with them, and giving them away at the same price point as the console?
All of this leads me to ask; Does exclusivity still matter? And who does it matter to? With video game sales taking a downward turn, mobile devices increasingly going up against pure consoles and handhelds, I would think now is the WORST time to try and back one specific horse in this race. I'll break this into the four groups directly affected by exclusivity: The Gamer, The Device Maker, The Game Maker, and The Game Seller.
The Gamer - Frankly, we are on the far end of the getting screwed stick, but we do get a proper poking. Exclusivity really does nothing for us. It only feeds the fanboyism between consoles and devices, and makes the worst of our community, stand up and shout for attention. A game that sells for $60 on a PS4, is gonna sell at $60 on an X-1, a WiiU, or anything else it comes out on. Likewise, games that require special controllers, aren't going to make us run out and buy a whole new console, plus a new controler, PLUS a game for that controller, to be satisfied.
The Device Maker - This group, I see living in a fantasy world. It doesn't matter which console or device you back, their creators all think the same thing: "We can sell more than our competition, if we have exclusive rights to a title" So, they shell out mucho dinero for those rights, don't think about whether or not the GAME is gonna be fun, and are shocked and shaken when no one buys it, or the console it's now prison-chained to. Even worse, the Device Makers, often endlessly tout the graphics and special effects of these exclusives, which are often the LEAST important part of a game. We've proven recently, that you don't need FSAA and Organic Bloom, to have a fun, graphically appealing game.
The Game Maker - If anyone is severely hampered by exclusivity, I think it's the game makers themselves. Yes, it's nice to get a pile of cash upfront for your game because some console or handheld maker, wants it for themselves. But in doing so, you automatically cap whatever sales you can expect, to the maximum number of sales that device has made. It's impossible to exceed that number, and that's assuming ALL those devices are still active, and ALL the people owning them, buy a copy of the game. Even worse, if you have a runaway hit, you've REALLY shortchanged yourself. I can't think of any game that has been exclusive in the past five years, that couldn't have made MORE money, had it been available on more than one platform.
The Game Seller - This is the only group that profits from Exclusivity in any form, and by god are they looking to chop even more off for themselves. At first, the profit was largely small. Because retailers like Gamestop and Bust Buy can track who bought what system in their stores' area, they can ship and distribute exclusive games accordingly. You don't need two thousand copies of Gears of War 3 in a Gamestop where there's been just 200 sales of x-360s. But as time progressed, they managed to jump in on the bandwagon, with "in-store exclusive bonuses" Even with multiplatform games, retailers are trying to carve up who gets what first, to their benefit alone. And recently, Gamestop said they were going to be working with game makers, at the DEVELOPMENT level, to facilitate in-store bonus content. So even MORE of the game will be hacked off and served to Gamestop first, before they birdy-feed us the rest.
As an old fart of a gamer(I'd use another term that starts with F, but Gamespot won't let me. :-) ) I just see exclusives as a pissing contest between a bunch of drunk frat boys at a party. It serves no purpose, demeans the worst of us, costs us all money for the extra kegs, and ends in a haphazard debate of quality over quantity.