Debate Club: Game Companies Are The “Villians” When They Make An Exclusive Deal, Not The Platform Holders

So you’ve no doubt heard the news recently that the next Tomb Raider is going to be an Xbox One exclusive. Probably. Maybe. Actually no, it’s just a timed exclusive. Anyway, the three hours or so that it was believed to indeed be a true XBone exclusive was, not surprisingly, more than enough time for the internet to lose their minds over the news.

What I kept seeing time and time again, almost universally, was that all of the hate for Lara apparently going steady with Microsoft was aimed solely at Microsoft. Here we go again, big bad Micro$oft, throwing money at their problems and outspending the competition in order to secure an exclusive that has no right to be an exclusive. That was the basic refrain – well, from the PlayStation owners, anyhow. XBone owners, it turns out, seemed perfectly okay with the news.

I didn’t see a single person take Square Enix to task over their part in this deal, which I don’t really understand. Microsoft didn’t twist Square’s arm behind their back until they said “Exclusive!” Obviously we don’t know all of the details about how the deal went down, who approached who, if Square gave Sony a chance to make a timed exclusivity bid of their own, and so on, but that isn’t really important. Square still chose to make the deal. It wasn’t a hostile takeover. They aren’t on the verge of bankruptcy and needed Microsoft to bail them out. They saw what they believed to be a good deal to them, and they accepted it.

It’s a platform holder’s job to try and secure exclusives. At the end of the day, that’s the key factor that separates one console from another. What games do you need Console X for that you can’t get on Console Y, or have to wait an extended period of time to get on Console Y, or don’t get a certain DLC pack or bonus character on Console Y that you get on Console X. These are the things that make people feel they NEED to have your system over or at least in addition to the competing system(s). So Sony, Microsoft, and even sometimes Nintendo try and make deals – which yes, include throwing money at game companies, more than the others are throwing at them – in order to get those exclusives. It’s not evil, it’s not dirty, it’s not greedy, it’s not unethical – it’s business. That’s the way it works. It’s not show friends, it’s show business. I really just don’t see what is so wrong about a company making deals and spending money in order to help them get the edge over their competition.

If you absolutely MUST be angry at somebody, if someone must be the villain whenever a console scores an exclusive of some kind, I say that (dis)honor should belong to the game companies themselves. They are the ones making the decision to accept big payouts at the expense of millions of gamers losing access to their games or certain parts of their games or having to wait longer for their games. They are the ones making that choice that getting a truckload of money upfront is more important than giving all gamers the opportunity to experience their games – a choice which, by the way, is usually out of the actual developers’ hands and often doesn’t sit well with them for that very reason. They want as many people as possible to experience their art. And it isn’t Microsoft’s or Sony’s or Nintendo’s fault when that happens. All they did was ask. The game companies are the ones who said yes. Platform holders have an obvious vested interest in securing exclusives beyond just an extra pile of cash. For game companies, no matter how they spin it, agreeing to an exclusive deal with a specific console maker serves no other higher purpose beyond money.

Let’s not forget that it’s these same game companies who claim to hate Gamestop and the used game market…then turn around and partner with them on “Gamestop exclusive” content for their games. Hmm…