Are Console Exclusive Games Hurting the Gaming Industry?
Revenue from the video game industry continues to outpace the likes of movies, television, and music. While the collective success is impressive, many leaders are starting to wonder how the industry could improve. Perhaps the most divisive argument is the topic of console exclusive games. In a recent Xbox Live speech, Phil Spencer shared his candid thoughts on console exclusivity and how third-party developers were harming the industry. Let’s dive in.
A War for Supremacy
Console owners have a long history of protecting internally developed intellectual properties. While Nintendo has a rich history of first-party franchises, Sony and Microsoft employ a different approach. Instead of founding new studios, the two console giants create exclusivity through mergers and acquisitions. But in a recent speech, Xbox executive Phil Spencer raised concerns about the industry’s approach to console exclusive games.
As a player, you are the center of our strategy. Our device is not the center of our strategy, [and] our game is not the center of the strategy. We want to enable you to play the games you want to play, with the friends you want to play with, on any device.Phil Spencer
Spencer’s quote and the corresponding Microsoft strategy is curious. Instead of building a community of players through first-party exclusives, Xbox recognizes the importance of improving the entire industry. By increasing the number of players, every console owner wins. But this approach can be more arduous than anticipated. In fact, Sony and Nintendo’s approach is entirely contrary. So why is sharing so hard?
What’s Mine is Yours
As consoles continues to be the gateway to video game software, platform holders are engaged in a battle to entice players. While gaming remains a predominantly social form of entertainment, Spencer makes a good point by explaining the damages of console exclusivity.
Gaming is about entertainment and community and diversion and learning new stories and new perspectives. And I find it completely counter to what gaming is about to say that part of that is to lock people away from being able to experience those games. Or to force someone to buy my specific device on the day that I want them to go buy it, in order to partake in what gaming is about.Phil Spencer
Players care about games and not hardware. Releasing a popular game on multiple platforms benefits the player, which also improves the entire video game industry. In recent years, Xbox has set a worthy example by releasing multiple first-party titles on other platforms. Players can now enjoy Minecraft, Ori, and Cuphead on a myriad of devices. Furthermore, Xbox has transitioned a number of its most valuable franchises to PC, which include Halo, Sea of Thieves, Gears of War, and others. But what about the other platform owners?
What’s Mine is Still Mine
Although Sony is slowly releasing games on PC and Nintendo is tinkering with mobile devices, both companies remain steadfast in the defense of first-party titles. As a result, Sony will likely never release God of War or Uncharted on other consoles, and Nintendo will never allow Mario or Zelda to appear next to an Xbox logo. But is this the correct approach?
To answer the question, we must first analyze how Sony and Nintendo can “win” with console exclusivity.
- A large percentage of console owners must purchase first-party titles.
- Console exclusive games must entice a large number of players to buy consoles.
- Console owners must time releases to balance the pendulum between the previous two issues.
With the eight console generation, Sony and Nintendo adopted contrary approaches. Nintendo released a new Mario and Zelda game within the Switch’s first year; however, Sony released its most popular titles in the twilight of the PlayStation 4’s life cycle. Both approaches were resounding successes, but will console exclusivity win the next generation?
Success in the next console generation depends on a number of circumstances. Will players continue to buy hardware as a means of experiencing software? Can popular video game franchises drive console sales? Can mobile phones and other devices replicate the functionality of traditional hardware? Will the Internet and cloud gaming revolutionize the industry? So many questions and even fewer answers. Regardless of the outcome, the lone truth is that companies should follow Phil Spencer and place gamers at the forefront.
But we want to know what you think. Do you believe studios should release games on multiple platforms? What do you think about console owners buying developers? Do you also feel that timed console exclusive games hurt the industry? Let us know in the comments below or the social media links on the right. Also, be sure to check out our other news items on Pokemon, Modern Warfare, Capcom, Blizzard and more.
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