The ninth generation of consoles is upon us. Some may even attempt to argue it is already here, with the Nintendo Switch being the first representative out of the gate. Whatever the case, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are nearing the end of their life cycles. The Nintendo 3DS is nearly tuckered out, and the Vita has been out of the game for a long while. Soon, we’ll begin hearing about the next systems. But with that comes a question. Will the next gen focus heavily on exclusive games?
Titles limited to one platform were a big deal in the eighth console generation. One could say it was Sony’s exclusives that kept the PS4 on top this era, thanks to games like Marvel’s Spider-Man, Horizon: Zero Dawn, God of War, Uncharted 4, The Last Guardian, Bloodborne, and Tetris Effect. The only games keeping the Wii U afloat were Nintendo’s first-party titles, like Super Mario 3D World, Super Mario Maker, Tokyo Mirage Sessions, Xenoblade Chronicle X, Pikmin 3, Bayonetta 2, and Super Smash Bros. Microsoft fell behind, because it relied heavily on multiplatform releases and didn’t have so many exclusive titles. Games that were limited to one front really helped drive home sales and, in the case of the Wii U, keep it from being utterly forgotten.
Now, with the next generation, we are starting to see some similar moves to possibly pave the way for important exclusives. Microsoft has racked up a number of major developers and brought them under its wing. It now has InXile, Ninja Theory, Obsidian Entertainment, Compulsion Games, The Coalition, Turn 10, Unea Labs, Rare, 343 Industries, Mojang, and Playground Games. All of these are major companies known for high quality titles, and they all belong to one of the big three now. It feels like it learned from the early faltering in the eighth generation and is prepping for the ninth.
The other companies haven’t made similar moves, but rather seem to be staying the course. Nintendo has been working a lot on exclusive games, either by having companies like Platinum put together things like Astral Chain or confirming major releases like Super Mario Maker 2 and a new Animal Crossing. Sony has been keeping secrets, but in 2019 we already know games like The Last of Us Part II, Death Stranding, and Ghost of Tsushima will keep these streaks going. Staying the course is always viable.
It could prove critical too. After all, the ninth generation will also be the one where the Google Stadia is introduced. That is going to be a major blow for people who will actually have internet capable of using it, since it means not needing a console and being able to play on any computer, tablet, or phone that can handle it. Having exclusives that won’t be playable there, where all you would need to do is pay for a game and use everything you already own, will be what helps keep other systems viable and relevant.
Frankly, it seems like exclusives are going to be a critical lifeline for the ninth console generation. The Nintendo Switch is already a system between two generations, and it is going hard and heavy on games you can only get there. Sony still has some PlayStation 4 games up its sleeves, but is being secretive about the next generation. As for Microsoft, it has been hoarding away incredible game studios, perhaps to make up for the Xbox One and ensure the next Xbox doesn’t have the same first-party slim pickings. If the newest consoles want to stand out, they have to corner the market with exclusive experiences.