I thought we were beyond this. I thought that as games became this bigger (and pricier) spectacle, console exclusives would become a thing of the past. I was ‘OK’ with that since I understand how video games can be a rather costly gamble. So costly that nearly all third party publishers and developers were done with piecing together exclusives for console manufacturers.
Yet during the Microsoft press conference, one of the biggest titles shown (not published by Microsoft) would be announced as exclusive to the upcoming Xbox One. It was non other than the Respawn Entertainment developed and Electronic Arts published Titanfall.
But, that was 10 hours before Sony took the stage at the Los Angeles Sports Coliseum. That was before the announcement of “yes” to used games. Before we found out about a $399 PlayStation 4.
Before everything we thought we knew about the next generation of consoles changed at the blink of an eye.
After Sony’s PR impression of the Game of Thrones Frey Wedding (see: massacre), we learned that even companies like Electronic Arts had no idea how the Sony press conference would go down and, like Microsft, found themselves calculating their next steps and carefully answering questions about the situation during E3. When asked about Sony’s decision to stick with used games and avoid always online, Peter Moore, EA’s Chief Operating Officer explained to Polygon, “They [Sony] reserve the right, and rightly so, that they will do what they need to do.”
I don’t believe it’s too much of a reach to think that kind of response from Moore doesn’t exactly come off as someone who was pleased with the news that they received at the Sony conference, now does it?
The thing is, for a company like EA especially, locking down a flagship title to one particular system is much easier when — for the consumer — it was a matter of choosing between two evils. Remember, before E3, the idea was being tossed around that Sony would also adhere to an always online policy and a system to block used games of some sort, placing gamers in a catch 22 scenario. Then, following the Sony’s announcements, that scenario was no more.
Looking at the situation objectively, if both systems at E3 had a similar “always online” policy in place, both blocked used games, and it came down to the exclusives, despite the higher price the Xbox One would have come out on top based on their showing. Eight exclusive titles on Xbox One compared to five (none of which are developed outside of Sony’s walls) on the PlayStation 4. Gamers looking for a value based on the unique would likely stand on the Xbox One side of the fence, higher price and all.
Now that the E3 dust has settled, and we’re seeing votes and pre-order sales numbers from retailers around the world, it is apparent that Sony’s brazen PR stunt of not going “always online” or blocking used games clearly paid off. Although sales charts on Amazon.com show the Xbox One launch console in 1st place, a handful of PS4 bundles are dominating the rest of the top ten. When all of those PS4 bundles are added together the disparity in sales between the two consoles is almost laughable as the numbers are heavily in favor of Sony’s upcoming console.
With all of that said, the PS4 is most likely the choice of early adopters, for now. With that instant install base being established so quickly, what 3rd party publisher in their right mind would remain exclusive to either console? That has to be the question Electronic Arts is asking itself right now in regards to Titanfall.
It was reported as recent as today that the reason Titanfall is exclusive to the Xbox One and PC is because of the “power of the cloud.” That is a statement that sounds loaded with so much PR spin that it might as well be printed on the game’s box. I wonder if the “power of the cloud” will help a game like Titanfall sell enough games to be considered a success? Something that Respawn Entertainment and especially Electronic Arts are counting on.
It begs the question, how long will 3rd party exclusives like Titanfall ignore the potential install base of the PS4? Now that we know both systems share a similar architecture, we know that porting games between the two will likely be the easiest that it has been in past console generations; why would a 3rd party publisher limit the sales potential of a marquee title?
Electronic Arts picked their horse and placed their bets. Unfortunately for them it’s looking like that horse (Xbox One) won’t be as quick out of the gate as the competition. Lucky for them the race hasn’t started yet and there’s still some time for them to buy some insurance. Now we wait and see if EA is wise enough to do exactly that.