During the fall of 2013, Sony and Microsoft ushered in a new generation of gaming by releasing their latest consoles approximately one week apart from each other. Ever since then, gamers and industry insiders alike have been watching both platforms closely while trying to decipher which one has the better exclusives.
While the Xbox One has had more holiday exclusives than Sony for the past two years, none of that has prevented the PlayStation 4 from dominating in sales and gaining ground as the top selling console despite the lack of exclusives. In an effort to stay competitive, both Sony and Microsoft are now relying heavily on third-party exclusivity deals to win over consumers. Here is a brief overview of how both companies are using this strategy and why I think this is a practice that needs to end.
Ever since its E3 2015 presentation, Microsoft has been telling consumers that all of its holiday 2015 releases are part of the greatest games lineup in Xbox history. One of the standout games in this lineup is the highly anticipated sequel to the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider . The current deal in place leaves Rise of The Tomb Raider as an Xbox One and Xbox 360 holiday 2015 exclusive with a full-fledged plan for the game to come to PC and PS4 in 2016.
The main problem with this deal is that it essentially tells the consumer that if you want to play Rise of The Tomb Raider this holiday season, then you need to buy an Xbox One. A third-party developed game should never be exclusive to a console unless that company played an active role in either the publishing or development cycle of the game. Xbox Boss Phil Spencer made a convincing argument that the Xbox brand doesn’t have a unique action-adventure game like this one and therefore the deal makes sense. He also stated recently that his new goal is to do fewer third-party deals and focus more on building up first-party franchises. This is an area that Microsoft definitely needs to improve in because it would expand the Xbox brand further and give new and returning audiences even more gameplay experiences to look forward to.
On the PlayStation side of things, Sony President and CEO Andrew House recently acknowledged that PS4 exclusives would be sparse this year. To counteract these measures, the company has been doing several third party deals with developers to get bonus content on their consoles ahead of Microsoft. One of the biggest deals currently in place is that the upcoming beta and DLC map packs for Call of Duty: Black Ops III are all coming to PlayStation first. Considering that these are the types of deals that Microsoft did with Activision last gen, this certainly confirms a changing of the guard and further cements the theory that Sony is the leading platform right now.
Much like I criticized the Microsoft deal earlier, I’m also not a fan of this bonus content practice because it forces the consumer yet again to make a conscious choice over which console to purchase. Everyone should be free to buy any third-party game that they want on any platform of their choice and be entitled to the exact same content on day one. Truthfully, exclusive deals only serve the purpose of fueling fan wars, and at that point gaming becomes less about having fun and more about getting wrapped up in meaningless debates.
Despite everything I said about third-party exclusivity deals, the fact of the matter is that they will never truly end. Competition is good for business because it forces all parties involved to go out of their way to stay on top. Owning both consoles really is the only true solution to this problem, but that may not necessarily be a realistic option for everyone at this point. Still, though, my hope is that Microsoft and Sony eventually take things easy with these third-party deals in the future and focus more on their own exclusive lineups. Maybe then will we truly see and get the best of what both companies have to offer.