E3 2011 is officially over and we did our best to provide you all with live coverage of the conferences and trailer montages, but obviously there was only so much we could do without physically being in Los Angeles. Something happened at this year’s show that sparked my curiosity. It’s something that all of us have talked about since 2005, exclusives and what they mean for the industry as a whole. This generation has seen the term ‘exclusive’ change to ‘timed exclusive,’ which is a kind way of saying ‘we got this before you.’ That’s not exactly exclusive is it?
When I started reading through all the different E3 2011 news and watching far too many trailers for games I shouldn’t be spending money on, I realized something maybe making first party titles isn’t such a bad idea after all. Do you remember when Sony first unveiled the PlayStation 3? The media was saying Sony was crazy for not securing Grand Theft Auto, Assassin’s Creed, etc. What none of us know, and likely will never know, is was this really ever a viable option. Exactly what would it have taken to keep GTA exclusive to the Sony platform? For that matter, what would it have taken Microsoft to keep the Mass Effect series on 360 or BioShock? This then brings up the next logical question; did Sony make the right move by focusing its resources on creating the Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios? As it stands now the studio is comprised of the largest number of developers in the world.
All one has to do is look at the past few E3s to get your answer, and I’m starting to think the answer to this question is a resounding yes; it most certainly was the smart move. Nintendo has done this since day one. They focus all their efforts on their software; they even make the platform based on games they want to develop. It’s a little different with Sony and MS, but that’s not the point of this article. We’re just talking exclusives. Ask anyone who bought a Wii which games they own for it, and nine out of ten times they will own more Nintendo-made games than third party offerings. With the PS3 and 360 it gets more complex because of the sheer number of third party software available, and AAA software at that. The importance of exclusive remains the same though.
This year alone Sony has the following exclusives lined up for the PlayStation 3, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, God of War Origins Collection, ICE & Shadow of the Colossus HD Collection, Starhawk, Twisted Metal and Resistance 3. We also know of two big games for next year including Sly Cooper 4, and The Last Guardian. That’s a lot of exclusive software, not including the hundreds of third party games also hitting the platform. Microsoft will also put a lot of their effort into their Kinect offerings like Kinect Sports 2 and adding Kinect modes to virtually every game they make and asking third party developers to do the same. This ensures the experience on the 360 is exclusive to that platform through Kinect game modes or enhanced gameplay. You can expect Microsoft to put more and more emphasis on first party games moving forward. Do you know how many copies of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary they’re going to sell? Couple that with next year’s exclusive Halo 4 and it’s pretty obvious how important exclusives are to Microsoft as well.
It’s funny that so many people used to think Nintendo’s strategy was backwards, but today their strategy is considered ideal. All three major console developers are adopting the same first party focus, and that will only continue as we move forward. Look at Sony’s unveiling of the PS Vita, how many first party games were shown? Oh that’s right, virtually everything shown was made by SCE Worldwide Studios. By doing this they know right out of the gate to depend on themselves to push the hardware and use third parties to keep players coming back for more. Who wouldn’t want Uncharted: Golden Abyss as their launch title?
To end off, I think how we perceive exclusives has changed and the future of the gaming industry will only continue this trend. We’re now at a point where exclusives are more important than ever and by created world-class first party titles one can ensure their console continues to move hardware because they can offer an experience no one else can take away. Now that’s what an exclusive is all about, isn’t it?