Home > Gaming Wednesdays > Why Tomb Raider Exclusivity Is Bad For Gamers

Why Tomb Raider Exclusivity Is Bad For Gamers

At Gamescom this week, Microsoft announced that Rise Of The Tomb Raider will be released as an exclusive to Xbox One. As a long-term Tomb Raider fan, this announcement annoyed me immensely. As someone who doesn’t trust Microsoft as a company after many missteps with this console, I refuse to buy the Xbox One on principle. They may have backpedalled on things like locking out used games, online-only DRM, the mandatory use of Kinect and other such unpopular practices, but I still do not feel the company are trustworthy, no matter how much they want to claim they are.

So, being told that I need to buy this console that I have already decided I have no interest in so that I can play my favourite game series is, understandably, not what I wanted to hear.

But this is not fanboyism. The opinions of I, and other TR fans, are not based on spitefulness or whining because we bought the “wrong” console. Hell, I don’t even have a PS4 yet because I’m waiting for the library to grow a little more, but this still upsets me for the reasons I mentioned above.

But let’s remember, system preferences aside, this is not a good business decision, especially not for consumers. Let’s examine why.

Historically, Tomb Raider is a series that has always been multi-platform. The very first game was released on Sega Saturn, PlayStation and PC, and to date there have been no Tomb Raider games exclusive to a single system. Sure, Tomb Raider 2 and 3 were both console-exclusive to the PS1, but they still had PC releases, and the closest rivals to the PS1 were either technologically unsuited to the series or they simply hadn’t sold enough copies to justify a port.

Over the years, however, a pattern has emerged. Tomb Raider has consistently seen a PC and a PlayStation release with every single game except the Game Boy spinoffs that no one ever talks about because they were terrible. A precedent has been set, and the announcement of a Tomb Raider game at E3 came with the unspoken promise that this would continue this trend. There would be a Steam release and a PS4 release. We shouldn’t need to ask.

What’s more, The Rise Of The Tomb Raider is a direct sequel to a game that was released on all systems, so the idea of locking this sequel to a single system smacks of lunacy. Especially as the initial 3.1 million sales in the last game’s first month (across 3 systems with large install bases) was deemed unsatisfactory by Square Enix. At what point does cutting off two-thirds of that audience make that situation better?

What’s more, a partnership with Microsoft doesn’t make sense in this situation. The Xbox One is lagging behind its competitors. The PS4 has sold 10 million units to the Xbox’s 5 million shipped (note: they insist on using the word “shipped” not “sold”), and that’s before we even get to the sizeable PC market, the market that traditionally holds the biggest segment of TR’s fanbase. And the numbers don’t lie either. Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition saw almost 70% of its sales on PS4, not Xbox One, so this decision doesn’t make a single bit of sense.

It also is unlikely to help Microsoft. They’ve certainly stepped in announcing new games for the system in response to their disastrous “TV AND SPORTS” launch debacle, but it’s still not helping them. They are still being overtaken by Sony 2:1, and this shows no signs of stopping any time soon. They hyped the hell out of another third-party exclusive title, and yet that barely made a dent. Titanfall didn’t help shift Xbox Ones, so why do they think that holding a beloved multi-platform release to ransom will help? Build up some studios, snap up some talent and make some new games that are entirely yours, Microsoft. You can’t just rely on Halo alone your whole life.

Sure, there has been talk today of it actually being a timed exclusive, which in itself isn’t a problem. What is a problem is in the insistence of Microsoft, Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics on refusing to just come out and say that. We only know this information thanks to Eurogamer eventually weaselling it out of Phil Spencer admitting the deal has a duration, which still doesn’t confirm a release on the franchise’s more popular systems, even if it’s a few months later.

And this is where the real problem lies. For a series with a multi-platform history, making it exclusive to the system with a smaller install base, most likely for a huge sum of cash, is telling those fans who prefer PS4 to Xbox, or indeed, the sizeable PC market that historically the series has been linked to, to go stuff themselves.

Oh, you think I’m exaggerating? Well, check the official statement from Crystal Dynamics about this and you will see a mess of bad PR speak, conflicting statements, and of course, a completely ludicrous claim that anybody who feels they’re missing out can just buy the previous game. I’m sorry, what?

This kind of attitude needs to stop. This disdain for customers within the gaming industry is what’s going to potentially cause another crash. Darrell Gallagher needs to be fired and replaced with someone who knows how to talk to fans properly. Square Enix need to get their act together and stop being absolutely awful. And Microsoft need to stop consumer-unfriendly backroom deals out of greed and/or desperation, and forcing their staff and partners to participate in obfuscating doublespeak.

There is a way to salvage this situation. Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix need to step forward and be honest. Admit it’s a timed exclusive. Drop the meaningless bad PR speak (something that I as an occasional freelance copywriter intentionally try and avoid) and treat your customers with a degree of respect. And also apologise for the confusing and angering announcement that has resulted in at least 11,000 fans of the series being very upset with you.

And let this be a lesson for other companies on how not to treat your long-term customers. Honesty and straightforwardness go a long way towards building a respected brand.

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  1. August 31, 2014 at 12:35 pm

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