Oh man, here we go. Exclusivity. This subject recently broke through to me after I watched the new trailer for The Last of Us’ new single-player DLC Left Behind. After watching I took the risk and scrolled down to the comments section of the page. One comment in particular made me think. It’s one I’ve seen innumerable times, but this time I thought I’d investigate it a bit more. “Thumbs up if you think this should be on Xbox 360/One!”
For the time being I’ll set aside the profile picture of the user as a kid clearly too young to buy this game; I’ll also set aside the needless cry for ’thumbs up’ and instead look at this subject in a bit more depth. Exclusivity – where a game will come out for some systems but not on others. On a broad level most gamers will come out to combat exclusivity, regardless of platform, with the guise that everyone should be allowed to enjoy awesome games despite the console they own. However, I seek to counter that argument, which I would have happily agreed with until I investigated the subject a bit more. Instead, I’ll be aiming to explain why we have, nay need, exclusivity. To top it off, I’ll be using that favoured school of study, Economics.
Any economist will tell you that competition is generally a good thing. Having competing firms in a market means that we’ll see more innovation as firms desperately try to get the edge, price competition meaning that we (the consumer) ultimately get better prices; it also means no one firm should gain monopolistic power. This type of market is essentially what we have with gaming. One thing that is particularly important for competing firms is to differentiate their products from each other, in console terms this largely boils down to exclusive content. Hence why Microsoft, Sony and, to a lesser extent now, Nintendo seek to strike as many exclusivity deals as they can.
If we didn’t have this system of exclusive titles for different platforms, it would be certainly more difficult for the console manufacturers to make their products stand out. I think this would then cause the industry to be somewhat stunted as firms may see very little benefit to them innovating and expanding as the games will be available for all platforms regardless. Or if things pan out a different way, and one firm begins to claim an advantage over the others, then they could begin to claim too much market dominance. As other firms won’t be able to use exclusive titles to draw in customers, they won’t be able to fight off the dominance of other firms as easily as they can now (comparatively speaking of course). In the end this would impact us most, as there will be less price competition meaning we may end up spending even more than we currently do. Of course this is all hypothetical, who’s to say this is what would happen.
So what am I trying to say? You shouldn’t bother trying to campaign for developers to bring games over to your platform of choice? Absolutely not, I just think that once in a while we should think about why we have exclusive games in the first place and respect that, instead of endlessly complaining that a certain game isn’t out for your console. That’s the risk you take when buying a console early on, you account for exclusive titles on each platform and make your purchase based off that, knowing that there’s gonna be some trade-off there. Of course the ‘technically smart’ thing to do would be to wait until the end of a console’s life cycle and make your judgement retroactively, but seriously who’s gonna do that? We want to play the hot new games on release, not years later.
I’m afraid the simple answer to this issue is that exclusivity is here to stay. Whether you like or not it’s needed (to a certain extent). But hey! Take pride in your console of choice, revel in the exclusive games you get to enjoy and count yourself lucky you own it. And when a hot game comes out on another system just make another note to yourself to check the price of that console until the cost is justified. That’s right I’m looking at you Wii U, your Amazon page is bookmarked especially.