On June 11th, PlayStation revealed their next console in the PlayStation 5. In doing so, they also inspired me to start a new feature here at VGU where we vent our frustrations on a game, something in the industry, or really anything we feel. What inspired that you ask? If the title wasn’t a dead giveaway…timed exclusives. There were many of them shown during that PlayStation 5 event, and I’m real sick and tired of seeing them year-in and year-out.
Timed exclusivity sucks. It always has and it always will. I think I understand it at the basic business level. Moneyhat some publishers so they give you early access to a game in an attempt to woo people to buy your consoles. We all know how important it is to be in the “here and now” of video games. Part of that discussion of brand new titles. It feels good, as dumb as it kind of is. This timed exclusivity takes advantage of that. If we were all fine waiting a year to play some DLC missions or a full-fledged game and wouldn’t cave on buying a console, this probably wouldn’t happen. But I’m not here to point fingers at the consumer, especially since I don’t have any numbers confirming that these sales tactics actually work. I don’t know if there ARE any numbers to prove that it works.
Before we get any further, let me explain where I draw the line exactly with exclusivity. Indies are a special case for the most part. Funding for them is harder to come by, especially at the expense of their livelihoods. Unlike major publishers, they need all the help they can get. Receiving funds by a platform holder can not only help them finish a game but also market it in a way to truly be noticed. It is a bummer that a game like Cuphead doesn’t release on PlayStation if that’s your central gaming platform, but it could help in seeing future games from that developer on that platform. So with indies, I get it and accept it.
Where I don’t accept it is with major publishers. I’m looking at you Square Enix, Bethesda, and other third-party publishers. These are companies not exactly sweating for funds. I don’t believe for a second that Rise of the Tomb Raider or certain Destiny 2 strikes wouldn’t exist or receive proper marketing allocation without the help of Microsoft or Sony.
Again, I get the business decision here in receiving aid to lower the cost of making or marketing the game. I’m sure it helps. However, it’s also kind of a big middle finger to fans on a “non-preferred” platform. We are being told our money isn’t good enough to buy your game on day 1, but the other platform holders’ money is. At that point, why should I support your game at launch when it does release on the other console? You didn’t feel like I should have access to it in the first place.
Of course, one problem is, we aren’t told the whole story. Games like Street Fighter V and Dead Rising 3 are franchises that have seen other console releases. To fans, they should continue to be supported on multiple platforms. Then companies wonder why people get outraged it doesn’t. We hear made-up or second-hand information about either planned releases on multiple consoles that suddenly change after an E3 meeting or how games are co-published by a platform holder and wouldn’t exist otherwise. We hear all these conflicting stories, no publisher or platform holder will be honest about it, and the end result are some fans being left out from experiencing the game on day 1 or at all.
The other frustration is all these talking heads pretending to be buddy-buddy. Has Phil Spencer ever explained why he is okay with Cuphead or Ori and the Blind Forest releasing on Switch but not PlayStation? Can Sony detail what is “for the players” by having Deathloop or Final Fantasy VII Remake timed exclusives leaving certain players unable to play them? No matter the company, no matter the spokesperson, companies sell a talking point that we matter. However, these types of exclusivity agreements do the opposite. The final sales numbers are irrelevant. At the end of the day, it’s anti-consumer purely based on platform preference. Outside of console war bullshit, nobody should be happy that these type of exclusivity agreements exist.
In regards to any sort of exclusivity deal, timed or otherwise, I’ve often seen the argument – just buy the other console. As if spending several hundred dollars for a walled garden is just the cheapest and hippest thing around to do. I get it’s a hobby, but that doesn’t excuse the practice going on. Imagine how dumb it would be if Disney Plus was only available for Samsung TVs or Roku devices. Or Netflix could only be played on Apple TVs and iPhones. Those types of exclusivity deals would be equally ludicrous. Expecting fans of your product to spend $300 to play a $60 game at launch on a different same-gen console is such a horrible way to go about business. Not everyone can or will drop $1000 for every console out there. Stop treating them like they should.
In the end, what are we supposed to do? I’m a PlayStation fanboy, and as much as I hate timed exclusives…I still played Final Fantasy VII Remake. Deathloop and Little Devil Inside are games I have every intention of playing. I love video games, and I’m part of the problem. I also know not enough people would hold out on buying these to send a message. So the best we can do is scream from the rooftops to stop. There are better ways to support your console than giving money to established third-party publishers for an additional (temporary) checkmark for your system.
Now, I don’t know how much money is used to purchase these exclusivity rights. So just play along here. Would it be possible to fund a new game from an internal studio? Highly doubtful, but maybe some smaller projects at the very least? How about helping out more indie devs with marketing or cushion for making games? Services like PSNow, Games Pass, Games with Gold or PS+ could get additional games added into the mix. Surely there are better ways than paying publishers who don’t need the help to prevent people from experiencing those games for a length of time or at all.
Okay, I think I got it out. The sad thing is, I know nothing will change. Not anytime soon at least. However if this practice bothers you, SPEAK UP. Because it should bother you. It’s dumb. It doesn’t benefit us in the least bit. Nobody should be denied fun because a platform holder and publisher shook hands with cartoon money signs popping out of their eye sockets. I would love for this to change, and if it did, I think the industry would be better for it.