If the start of 2017 has proven anything, it's that platform exclusives have been a major focus in the industry during the first few months of the year. Nioh, Horizon Zero Dawn, and the most recent masterpiece, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, have been the only games anyone is talking about. I don't know if it is the exclusive games that always ignite the topic, but so many people around me have been debating whether or not console exclusives matter, and do they actually help shift console sales?
With this question in mind, let's discuss some rather important aspects to a console exclusive, and whether or not they matter at all.
Potentially stronger games
While third-party, cross-platform games are great, often these titles are ported across each console. We have the developer creating the game for consoles, and porting it to PC, or vice versa. There is a cap to quality here as the engine the game is built on, is limited to say the power of the Xbox One, or the preset rendering a “high” setting on PC. We have seen this in the past with games like Batman Arkham Knight, that had a terrible PC launch plagued with bugs, and a list of issues across the board. That is because the PC version took the back seat behind the console versions of the game, due to prioritization in sales.
Believe it or not, but console sales are much higher than PC sale, and often this leads to a stronger focus on console titles over PC. What is the importance of this regarding exclusives you ask? Well if we look at a game like Horizon Zero Dawn, with Sony at the helm of the game, and no platform limitations due to cross platform porting, the game's engine, visuals, and sheer power was pushed to the max. Guerrilla Games did not have to worry about hardware, and optimizing the game to run on any other platform but PS4. The proof is in the pudding here as the game's open world and magnificent engine is unlike anything we have ever seen.
The same goes for Xbox One exclusives, as they too have broken beyond the limitations of third party titles. If Project CARS could not run in 1080p on Xbox One, why would a game like Forza Horizon 3 be able to? Again, it comes down to the developer and the publisher backing the game with enhancements, and optimizations, to push the game further. Knowing your hardware, and being able to work hand-in-hand with it, is one of the most important parts of an exclusive title, which we can see in the final result most of the time.
Many may argue that it is not “fair” that PS4 owners get to play Uncharted, and Xbox owners get Halo, but think of these titles more as experiences than just games. Knowing that the Horizon experience is only on PS4, is a major selling point for a console, and that you can only experience the Halo story on Xbox, is a hardware mover.
Passion and love go into game design, and I believe that there has to be a very strong emphasis on these two emotions, to create something so unique that you only want PS4 owners or Xbox One owners to experience it. You love your fans and want them to know this, so you build a game that rivals every other game before and make it exclusive to a console. That experience is what you want to buy the console for.
If I look at The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it makes complete sense. Nintendo knew that fans have been waiting for years to play the latest adventure, so what better way to sell your new console than to have it launch on the same day? It was a very smart move, and although the launch day titles are lacking in some sense, it is enough to know that you could get the best Zelda ever made if you buy that console to play it on. To add to this, you will be able to play the game on a whole new type of hardware. It is a win-win for Nintendo, and fans of the series.
Potential future releases
While buying a Nintendo Switch is all good, and the Legend of Zelda is a stellar experience, and it all comes down to owning a gaming platform for its specific experience. I know that Mario Kart 8, Arms, and Super Mario Odyssey, will also add to the console's exclusive library in the future, so the potential is there for new exclusive games. Knowing I could play past Uncharted titles, and look forward to playing the Last of Us sequel on PS4, should be reason enough to invest in the console.
Yes we are all gamers, and we all love playing games, but there has to be this divide in the industry that allows developers to create experiences that only a certain group of owners can have. It is important for investors to see that the console will sell because Halo is on it, and now that we have Horizon on PS4, to think that it might be a new series for PlayStation owners, makes everyone happy.
That feeling you get when you cannot play something because you don't own the platform, is why exclusives are made, to push you to buy the console. Exclusives are an awesome aspect of the industry. They help sell consoles, and they help us experience unique adventures only on that platform
A second opinion
While those are my thoughts on this topic, Wessel too gave us some input as a long-time PC gamer for years. He just invested in a PS4 and Xbox One recently and did it for the games he could not play on PC.
In December 2016, I bought my first modern console, the Xbox One, then wrote a piece about it, explaining why a long-time PC gamer switched to console. Having been a PC gamer for over two decades, purchasing a console was a difficult decision, but there was one thing that tipped the scales for me: the exclusives. Since then, I’ve bought a PS4 as well, simply because I wanted to experience more exclusives, specifically The Last of Us and Bloodborne.
I’ve been thinking a lot about “console sellers”, exclusive games that make people want to purchase a specific console. The biggest console seller for me wasn’t actually a current-gen game, but rather an Xbox 360 and PS3 title, Red Dead Redemption. Since 2011 I have wanted to experience the game, to the point where I strongly considered purchasing a second-hand PS3 just to play it. PC gamers miss out on so much, and they know it. There have been multiple petitions to bring the first Red Dead Redemption to PC and when Red Dead Redemption 2 was officially revealed for Xbox One and PS4, a petition to bring the sequel to PC was almost instantly started.
The image below shows my Xbox One with Red Dead Redemption running in the background. That was one of the first times my console was on, and I didn’t even open the admittedly brilliant Gears of War 4 at that time.
But do consoles really need exclusives? Yes, in my opinion, they do, as exclusives do sell systems, it is as simple as that. If you think about it, does a bit of a power difference between two consoles really matter, or is it the games you can play on it. Halo fans will obviously purchase an Xbox One, even though the standard PS4 is more powerful than the standard Xbox One. For PC gamers wanting to purchase their first console, the amount of known upcoming exclusives is also a very big deal, and at the moment, Sony is absolutely destroying the competition.
They have already announced a new Uncharted spin-off, The Last of Us 2 and more. Further, the recently released Nioh is astoundingly good. Yes, I purchased an Xbox One first to play Red Dead Redemption via the Backwards Compatibility program, but If I was thinking of purchasing one console for the first time right now, the PS4 would be my pick, because exclusives…
Some might purchase a console for only one game, then fall in love with the system, while others could compare the overall number of exclusives on each console and then pick one with the most appealing line-up.
So there you have our input on the debate. What do you think about this whole console exclusive matter? Let us know in the comments below.