« on: February 15, 2011, 11:05:25 PM »
I don't want to say you guys are just wrong about console exclusivity, but you guys are just wrong about console exclusivity.
From a consumer's standpoint, you're absolutely right. It sucks that I have to three different machines in order to play all the latest and greatest, and then I've also got to have older machines if I want to play classics, plus a computer that can run the PC exclusives. I'd love to have one machine that simply ran everything.
That said, I think you're way off base when talking about the manufacturer's side of things.
Sony's not going to publish games on their competitors' consoles because exclusives are what drives people to buy a PS3. In addition, Microsoft isn't going to allow Sony to publish one or two games on the 360, because 360 owners might defect to the PS3 in search of more Sony titles.
Add to that, the console manufacturers collect licensing fees from the publishers. If Sony starts publishing games on the 360, they have to give a big chunk of change directly to their competition. So, not only are people NOT going to buy a PS3, but Sony is also paying Microsoft for the privilege of driving away potential PS3 customers.
The problem grows larger if Sony publishes cross-platform and Microsoft doesn't. The potential PS3 consumers are gone, leaving only the Sony diehards. The smaller install base means developers focus primarily on the 360, occasionally throwing the PS3 a bone. The Sony diehards buy what they can on PS3, but even they eventually realize that they can get the same content on the 360, shrinking the install base further, and eventually the console dies cold and alone.
Exclusives are what drives customers to a console. Software sells hardware (just like original shows drive HBO subscriptions), and it's the company with the most compelling line of exclusive titles that gets the customer. That's part of why the Wii sold so well. Up until the motion gaming explosion of 2010, EVERY title on the Wii was an exclusive because no other console had motion gaming. The long established exclusive franchises (Mario, Zelda, Metroid) bolstered sales as well.
I haven't talked about PC games yet because the PC is a wildly separate beast. The first thing that gets dropped is the licensing fee of the consoles. Sony can publish DCU Online on the PC because they're not directly giving Microsoft money. In addition, you simply cannot take an MMO to market without considering the PC market. Console versions of MMOs are vastly outstripped by their PC counterparts, and so Sony really has no choice but to create a PC build.
You'll notice that you don't find PS3 exclusives on the PC. Uncharted, MGS4, God of War, Heavy Rain, Team Ico games — they're not on the PC, and won't be for a long time to come. Sony wants to force you to buy a PS3 to play their games. Even Microsoft is reluctant to put their big exclusives on the PC. The last Halo game on the PC was Halo 2, and Microsoft doesn't have the excuse Sony does. Unlike the PS3, which requires vastly different development approaches, developing for the 360 is pretty close to developing for the PC.
The kicker is really in 3rd party developers who choose to go exclusive. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo have pretty clear reasons why they wouldn't cross-develop, but not so much those companies that aren't owned by one of the big three.
This is going to be a big claim that I haven't properly researched, but if you look at 3rd party console exclusives, I think you'll see they fall into two classes. The first is big-name, super titles, the franchises that are so huge they're capable of selling consoles solely on their merits: Metal Gear Solid, Mass Effect, Knights of the Old Republic, Grand Theft Auto (in a way). These are the games that the console manufacturers pay huge money to lock down.
The developers' audience may be limited, but Sony and Microsoft make up for it in cold hard cash, and in massive marketing pushes. These games sell consoles, and the manufacturers need them. How exclusive a game is is really a sign of it's marketing power. I think the fact that the next Metal Gear is going to be cross-platform is a sign that the franchise isn't the draw that it once was. I also think that the huge coup that was GTA4 appearing early (not exclusively) on the 360 is a sign of just how huge that franchise is. Microsoft knew that thousands of people would buy a 360 simply on the merit of being able to play GTA4 a little bit early.
The other side of the coin are the small, usually indie developers. Console development is wildly different across the platforms. That's obvious with the Wii, but while the PS3 and 360 can produce similar looking games, the underlying hardware is utterly different. So a small developer may not be able to afford to create a game for both platforms, and thus has to choose one.
If it's a game with a lot of potential, the developer might get courted (I think this happened with Limbo, and maybe Fat Princess?), otherwise they just have to pick one and go. I think that's why the 360 has a pretty booming downloadable games market. Small developers realize they can only pick one, then look at the consoles' install bases, and go with the larger 360 audience.
This is also why Ghostbusters is one game on the 360, and something completely different on the Wii. The Wii absolutely could not run the 360 game, and 360 players wouldn't tolerate the Wii game's content. Dragon Age is a matter of audience, where Bioware seemed to feel (wrongly, in my opinion) that 360 gamers wouldn't sit still for slow-paced, almost-turn-based combat, but they felt the PC audience would. Whether that's good or bad for games and gamers is the topic of a different novel, though.
TLDR: I agree that console exclusives are goddamn annoying, but they're not bad for the industry, the developers, or the manufacturers. You'll never see them go away, so long as there's more than one game console on the market.