One can certainly see the logic of the current trend of timed-exclusives with the console market the way it is. There’s an assumption, and one that’s definitely based somewhat on reality, that it’s not unlikely for a person to own more than one of the major consoles (or some form of console/PC combination). In a market where that is increasingly the case, the major manufacturers snapping up deals that gives their platform an edge makes business sense (even if it’s a pain for the consumer, though that’s a conversation for another day).
However this recent debacle with Rise of the Tomb Raider took things to a ridiculous degree.
Timed exclusivity on content, such as with Sony’s deal on Destiny, is a mild annoyance but doesn’t affect anyone too harshly. If the plan is to sway players who own, for example, both a PS4 and an XBone toward buying the PS4 version of the game then it’ll be fine. Those who don’t care too much will happily buy the game on their preferred/owned console and not be too pushed about having to a wait a little while for some extra content if needs be. But the Tomb Raider situation is on a far bigger scale and has potentially damaging consequences for Square Enix.
As we all know the internet is a fickle beast and holds lasting grudges. The announcement of Microsoft’s exclusivity for the game was rightly met with anger and disbelief. Not only is the Tomb Raider brand considered a primarily PlayStation (and obviously PC) one, but the previous entry in the series has been released on two separate generations of Sony console in addition to the fact that, despite seemingly very high sales numbers, the game still performed ‘below expectations’ across three different platforms. Relegating it to merely one seemed like a bafflingly self-sabotaging position to take.
As usual, boycotts were called for but in this situation it genuinely seemed less about fanning the flames of the so-called console war, which as we all know is essentially a fiction perpetuated solely by games media at this point, and rather a backlash against the entire industry and the corpulently capitalistic cynicism this decision represented.
This was one of the most nakedly profiteering moves in recent memory. It would seem like a no-brainer that there’s no way to spin this in a positive light to the high numbers of fans it would piss off and yet sure enough they trotted out the press release about how this was good for the franchise etc. This was such a transparent middle finger to gamers, who clearly saw that these corporations not only don’t care about their fans but actively don’t deserve to have any. This was a decision made without any thought for the people who actually play the games, it was driven entirely on the basis of how bottom-lines and quarterly financial forecasts would look.
Then came the final kicker, the game wasn’t even an exclusive. Microsoft only had a timed-exclusivity deal. All the headline-grabbing theatrics of announcing this was a simple publicity stunt, one that backfired monumentally.
If there’s one thing the internet dislikes more than being made righteously angry about something, it’s finding out that said righteous anger was rendered irrelevant. So for the sake of trying to sway what is likely a small portion of the audience (people who own both an XBone and another platform), Microsoft and Square Enix managed to annoy off a huge cross section of gamers, some of whom simply outright won’t buy the game now, some of whom might never have bought the game but will relentlessly bad-mouth the game and the companies because of this.
The fact that the actual release is so far away shows that they may have put some forethought into announcing this so early and they’ll likely hope this is quietly forgotten about by the actual release (or rather, the first stage of this now multi-part release). But the internet holds grudges and often times it can hold a grudge without even remembering why. It would not be unsurprising if from now until release the name ‘Rise of the Tomb Raider’ carries around with it a vague air of negativity that no one can remember the origin of but that everyone remembers they are justified in feeling.
So congratulations Microsoft and Square Enix, you’ve both likely made a quick buck off of this before the game is even released but at the cost on near universal hatred of gamers thanks to your crystal clear contempt for your own customers. And the most amusing thing is that both of those companies probably came around to making this deal in the first place due to how poorly they’ve been doing of late, which itself is because of their dwindling quality, a large aspect of which is attributed to their increasingly anti-consumer measures.
And *that* Alanis Morissette, is irony…probably.