Life After E3: Third Party VS First Party, Which Matters Most?

By Jon Ireson

August 4, 2010

The quality of games shown at this year’s E3 was quite amazing, though the originality overall may be questionable. Many third party and first party titles were shown in detail and had gamers wowed. While seeing the massive amount of third party titles that were looking pretty great at this event, I began to question whether the exclusive was still necessary. Consequently, DualShockers broke out in debate and discussion as to what matters most – Third Party of First Party games / studios? Join us for that discussion and feel free to jump in with your own viewpoints after the break.

Tyler Christensen:

“For me personally, the whole reason why I bought an Xbox 360 was for the exclusive games (Left For Dead and Mass Effect mainly). I enjoy exclusive games more because they really show what that system can offer, especially with a game like Killzone 2 or God of War 3.”

Chad Awkerman:

“While it is true that the whole reason I bought all three of the current gen systems is for exclusive titles (or titles I thought were going to be exclusive), I don’t see it as important these days to have that killer exclusive title. To start with, as much as Sony and Microsoft like saying “Exclusively on [enter badass system here]!”, Nintendo has them all beat on hot exclusives. Secondly, more and more third parties are going multi-platform these days. The one thing that really opened a lot of people’s eyes to this is when Square-Enix announced they were bringing Final Fantasy XIII to the Xbox 360. After that about-face anything is possible.

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All three of the big console developers are always going to have their first-party titles, but as time passes I see more and more third-party developers jumping on the multi-platform bandwagon simply because it is another source of revenue. While in the past they may have been content with a single platform that their games have been on for years, now, with the economy the way it’s been and the seemingly higher cost for developing some of the huge titles, spreading themselves out across at least both the PS3 and Xbox 360 (as well as the PC in some cases) is the smarter move.”

Rob Bateman:

“Exclusives matter – doesn’t matter if they are 1st party or 3rd party but exclusives are what sells consoles and that is why MS is looking silly. Multi-platform games only ever sell any game’s console NOT a particular console, Microsoft’s strategy with DLC baffles me because your average gamer is not going to buy an Xbox on the strength of its DLC coming out a month earlier than the other console. They might buy it because it’s cheaper, or because all their mates have the same, but no way they will buy it for a couple of months of DLC exclusivity.

I had the original Xbox last gen and I got it for one exclusive game – Steel Battalion. I remember DualShockers doing an article on this so I know you know what I’m talking about. It was immense (literally) but it was just one of many exclusives that MS had that were more hardcore than what Sony had at the time.

This gen Microsoft does not have enough decent exclusives (that aren’t on a PC) to make me buy an Xbox 360 so they have lost my business. So to me as a gamer then, exclusives are important and to a company exclusives are important because that’s the only way to guarantee they will get my money.”

Al Zamora:

“I love exclusives but also hate them. Hear me out. The exclusives help feed the flames of fanboys by creating this special game that they only have on their system that is so much better than anyone elses. Great third party games are just great and they do not create tension between gamers. Perhaps if exclusives did not exist there would be no fanboys, or at least less of them and no console wars. I wonder if exclusives created the fanboy.”

Rob Bateman:

“I Disagree Al – fanboys will argue about anything and if it wasn’t exclusives then it would be something else. Exclusives may be at the heart of a lot of fanboy arguments but they aren’t the root cause.

I remember fanboy arguments just as fanatical as what you see today back when I had Super Nintendo except back then it was multi-platforms that people were arguing over. Which console had the best arcade conversion of Street Fighter 2? SNES Mortal Kombat has no blood, lame! And so on…

If it wasn’t exclusives then it would be anything else.”

Jack Palmeri:

“In attempting to answer the question at hand, I endeavor to address it from the perspective of the people I believe should matter most in this discussion: the gamers. Before the hate mail begins to pour in, I acknowledge that this query could have been approached from a number of viewpoints including the casual/hardcore/fanboy gamers, the console makers, publishers, etc. However, let me begin by saying that, first and foremost, we as gamers should support the video game community as a whole. We should encourage new players to jump in at anytime and every stage. Given the financial and political climate we find our beloved games in today, and with people like Roger Ebert ignorantly challenging the artistic merit of games, we cannot afford to be divided amongst ourselves. As Kevin Butler proudly proclaimed at this year’s E3 Sony Press Conference, “because every gamer is a true gamer… and though we may pledge fanboy allegiances to different flags, deep down inside we all serve one master – one king – and his name is gaming. Forever may he reign!”

That being said, non-exclusive titles are more important to gaming. They provide the most exposure to the most gamers, and lend greater support to publishers over the long run allowing them in turn to provide us with more and better games. As companies like Respawn and Bungie assume control of the intellectual properties inherent in their games, it becomes more important that the creative talent have as much support from gamers as possible. NPD Group’s released sales figures for June, 2010 reveal that Red Dead Redemption sold 963,200 copies last month across Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 while Wii’s exclusive Super Mario Galaxy 2 sold 548,400 copies. Though Wii titles did make up 3 of the top 5 sellers in June, collectively they still sold less than RDR. Further, RDR as a cross-platform game sold twice as many copies as any home console sold. Those sales afford us the luxury of expecting another great outing from Rockstar and others the next time they step up to the plate – may the rally never die.”

Francois Chang:

“I believe 1st party exclusives are what keep games…good. The way I see it, exclusives are important because they keep 1st party developers striving to one up their competitors. This would then keep the 3rd party companies and multi-platform games trying hard to outdo the 1st party guys, because they of course want to stay relevant, as well. In a nutshell, exclusives are what keep the market competitive and what keep innovation continuous in gaming. Would Kinect and Move exist without Wii motion controls? The more exclusives, the more we the gamers get.”

Kenneth Richardson:

“Exclusive games are the secret weapons of the console war. You have to think about it. I don’t know anyone who has purchased a next-gen console to play a multi-platform game. I doubt there are many of these people in the world. Exclusive games are the only reason you need to own multiple consoles to enjoy the best gaming. However, this is not to say that multi-platform games cannot be used as weapons. I mean, just look at what MS is planning to do with Call of Duty. Anybody who is a big fan of Call of Duty and owns both the Xbox and PlayStation know that they should own the title on Xbox as to not wait all the extra time to get the additional content. So, all things considered, multi-platforms can be treated like exclusives and I really think we will see a lot of this in the coming years, particularly in the next console generation…

I read somewhere that “First party exclusivity is dying” and for me personally this is not very hard to believe.”

Joel Taveras:

“I want to say that 1st party titles are the ones that carry the most weight, because of their high level of quality they can be used as a means of drawing new customers as well retaining existing ones to a particular platform. As a consumer I feel that 1st party titles offer that level of quality that merits 60 of my hard earned dollars, where as the multi-platform titles are a dime a dozen.

However, from a business side of things, in both the shoes of the publisher of a prospective title as well as the console manufacturer, third party is where it’s at. Not to start any fanboy flamewars but let’s take a look at Microsoft and how they handle the situation, most importantly the way they market 3rd party titles.

There are so many commercials for third party games (that MS paid for) that end with the words “Jump In” with Microsoft’s logo swirling on the screen. While we as core gamers, are aware that these titles are 3rd party, the average person who sees a Rock Band 3 commercial during the World Series that ends with an Xbox Logo will make the connection in their minds that this game is for the 360, therefore if they want to play it, that’s what they will play it on. Does it sound stupid? Yes. Does it happen all the time? Yes, Without a doubt it.

With both Sony and MS entering the motion gaming arena, I’m sure we will be seeing some multi-platform Move and Kinect titles (probably next year) however I feel that if Sony wants to keep their momentum from 2010 then they better get Kevin Butler ready to unleash the beast because I get the feeling that MS will throw so much money into advertising (those multi-platform motion titles) that the average consumer won’t even know that the Move exists.”

Yaris Gutierrez:

“I’ll have to agree with Joel on this.

Although third parties’ titles provide more exposure to gamers across multiple platforms, it is the first party titles that define more of a console’s worth due to the nature of their quality. Third party titles, if you have noticed, haven’t always been the greatest of games when compared to the first party behemoths that have shown face this generation. Of course, we have third party titles like Modern Warfare that say different, but when you compare the overall quality of a third party title to that of a first party title, the first party title usually has more in the sense of caliber.

Still, though, I believe that a console’s success with a third party title all depends on how they campaign the game. Without a doubt Microsoft tends to outsell their competitors in the third party field because they advertise the game as if it was exclusively theirs. When a game receives that much exposure someone who owns a 360 is bound to pick up the advertised game. Advertising is the key to a company’s success, as Sony learned. Now, when compared to 2006, Sony is lashing out with amazing advertisements – the only difference? They’re selling their first party titles and not promoting what you can get on the competitor’s console. This instills a strong sense of self-esteem and shows that they’re comfortable and sure of the quality of their games – first party exclusives.

I personally feel that a console’s success isn’t based on the amount of third party titles they are able to sell. I believe that their first party titles are what set them apart from their competitors. Aside from having certain features (e.g. free online, etc.) that the other console doesn’t have, gamers tend to flock to exclusive (first party) games because it is an experience that they feel they won’t get to have on the other company’s console. First party games are the heart and soul of consoles – it is the fruit that establishes their ability to produce distinct, yet excellent, games while using the console’s full technological potential, without having to sacrifice quality due to porting, as seen in most games.

Although third party titles do exist that offer the aforementioned qualities on both consoles, I believe that a first party title tends to aggregate more attention due to the quality of production that tends to go into them. It is this unique feeling of “this is only available here” that establishes a sense of pride amongst console owners, especially when the game has become a critical success. I respect third party games for the sole reason that it gets “shared” amongst the community – everyone gets to experience it. However, to me, first party titles set the bar for quality. When one company sees that the other has produced something amazing, they tend to bump up their competitiveness and try to outdo them with their next first party title. This, in turn, perpetuates the increasing quality of first party games – a method that, in the long run, is great for gamers.”

Jon Ireson:

“The way I feel is that consoles and multi-platform titles are both great, but there can only be innovation at the most ideal levels through exclusive titles. I would like to believe that a great game can be made that works on both systems, and it can, but the fact of the matter is that no two systems are the same. Given the budget and time constraints major triple A titles face these days, I just can’t see publishers / developers optimizing a game for more than one system as much as they could if they just focused on one. Personally, I believe that certain design concepts such as branching storylines are still in their infancy and that the exclusive in future generations will be the only hope for these concepts to evolve unconstrained. It is becoming harder and harder for concepts to work with the limitations of technology and the ever-increasing demands of us gamers, the only answer to this is bigger and better technology each generation and the complete optimization of games for each set of specs we see.

Whether you want extremely realistic graphics / branching experiences with multiple possibilities or massive amounts of features, environments, characters, and game-play creativity, it all comes from the same place; horsepower provided by these systems we love so much and if we don’t have a focus on maximizing their potential then we will not have a focus on maximizing the potential of the game design concepts we love so much either. Long live the exclusive, but of course there will always be greed so there will never be death to the multi-platform!”

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Jon Ireson

Jon is a gamer above all else. He plays all types of games. You can find him mostly in War games. He is very passionate and a hard worker and it shows through his writing. Favorite Games: Warhawk, Soldier of Fortune 2: Double Helix, Final Fantasy 6

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