No Good Deed
Over the past couple of days, it has been impossible to traverse the video game world without coming across the new juggernaut from Rockstar Games, Red Dead Redemption II. Taking the world by storm, the game has sold made more than $725 Million in the three days since it’s been released. It’s no surprise considering how well the first game performed, both in terms of critical response and sales. Fans have been clamouring for a sequel since the original Red Dead Redemption released in 2010. However, even though Rockstar Games has released their long-awaited follow-up title, both games still remain missing on the PC platform. The game isn’t exactly an exclusive, but the fact that the games haven’t been released on PC have sparked discussion across the gaming world about the why’s and why not’s of exclusives among the games industry. Many have begged Rockstar Games to give them some information on a possible PC port, but they seem to have remained quiet on the situation, other than some leaked information in the companion app that seemed to point towards a PC version.
This isn’t the first time Rockstar Games has remained rather quiet on whether their titles would come to the PC. Several of their notable games, like L.A Noire and Grand Theft Auto V took a while before they came to PC. The original Red Dead Redemption still hasn’t made an appearance on people’s computers. From games like Halo and Uncharted, console exclusives have been a constant in the gaming world for a long time. There are many reasons behind why those games stay on the XBOX, PC or PS4, some of them reasonable, some of them downright confusing, but all of them interesting. Let’s delve into the world of exclusives, and what they mean to the gaming world.
The characters mentioned above are all protagonists of console exclusive games. Spider-Man was in his titular game, released by Insomniac Games exclusively on PS4. John-117, better known as the Master Chief was (and still technically is) the protagonist of the massively popular Halo series, and Nathan Drake is the wise-cracking, ass-kicking hero of the also popular Uncharted series. All of these games sold very well, yet the argument can be made that they could have sold better if they were included on other consoles. So why didn’t they?
The Halo series was originally produced by Bungie studios, who’ve gone on to make Destiny and Destiny 2 (A full recount of the halo series can be found here). However, in 1998, Bungie weren’t the massive company that they are now. To make a game with the scope and scale of Halo would have required money that they did not possess. So, they cut a deal with Microsoft Studios. Microsoft would lend its considerable expertise and load of cash to Bungie studios, and in exchange, Halo would be under Microsoft’s umbrella. The Uncharted series weren’t very different, with Sony having owned Naughty Dog studios since the early 2000s. It’s no surprise that these games won’t release on different consoles. The owners of the studios want more people to buy their respective consoles, and having their best games be exclusives only encourages customers to buy a PS4, or an XBOX. The developers would of course want their games to be released to as many people as possible, but if they have to take being an exclusive with the security of being under a massive company like Sony, or Microsoft, one wouldn’t be surprised that they’d simply take that hit.
The Master Race
There are other games, however that have remained exclusives on PC for years now, not due to ownership rights, but simply due to how difficult it would be to port the game to consoles. One massive game that has never reached consoles is the MOBA game, League of Legends.
Released in 2009, the game has dominated computers all over the world for years. Their main competitor, DOTA 2 is also a PC exclusive. Both of these games draw millions of people worldwide and have massive esports scenes that have grown at an exponential level. For a while, some people would ask why these games tried to come over the consoles, but the answer is quite simple. One only needs to play the game to realize that anyone using a controller to play League of Legends would be at an obscene disadvantage to anybody on a mouse and keyboard. Furthermore, both of these games aren’t graphically intensive, which means that most people can use any laptop or desktop to play them. Their exclusivity hasn’t really hampered their successes either. League of Legends still remains a juggernaut in the gaming industry, with at least several million players concurrently playing at any given time. DOTA 2 isn’t anything to laugh at either, with their recent esports final, The International 2018, drawing the largest cash pool in esports history at an astounding $25 Million. When you already have a gift horse, why move to another platform?
Of course, the debate on whether console exclusives are good or bad rage on amongst gamers. Some people don’t find a problem with it. People who own PS4’s are happy with their plethora of incredible exclusives like Horizon: Zero Dawn or God of War. XBOX users might be satisfied with Halo, Gears of War, and Forza. PC users enjoy the possibility of increased graphic fidelity on non-exclusives, as well as access to massively popular games like League of Legends or World of Warcraft.
However, there is definitely a group of people that want to experience games that are unfortunately locked behind other consoles. Be it financially difficult or simply unwise to purchase another console for one or two video games, these people just want to experience a brilliant game, yet are unable to due to their choice of console. That is simply a shame. It does boil down to the publishers themselves to weigh the pros and cons of publishing their game on multiple platforms. There are definitely positives to be a console exclusive, as if they’re owned by the parent company they can enjoy move freedom and financial security to reach higher goals, as well as the fact that they don’t need to focus on ensuring that the game can work on multiple platforms. However, there are certainly negatives as well. Publishers are blatantly alienating a significant portion of the population from playing the game, and these consumers would (justifiably) be quite upset that they can’t access a game because they bought and XBOX or a PS4 long before the consequences of their choices hit them. However, it’s hard for developers to independently produce a game without putting a lot of their eggs in one basket. One alternative is timed exclusives, a recent development where on certain consoles, an activity or game would be released first before being released on other platforms.
Destiny 2 is a prime example of the timed exclusive, with some content being exclusive to PS4’s for several months before being rolled out on PC and XBOX. Mentioned in the introduction, GTA V was also first released on consoles before being dropped on PC with more features etc, which points to Rockstar Games needing time to develop the game for the PC. To make a long story short, the debate between console and platform exclusives is complicated. It’s hard for developers to strike out on their own, yet it seems like the publishers could earn even more money if they were released on multiple consoles. For better or for worse though, it seems like exclusives are here to stay.