Sega was the # 1, and best first party publisher/manufacture in the world. Nintendo never had the breath of original, and exclusive titles that Sega had. Nintendo got by with rehashing their most popular franchises in Mario, Metroid, and a couple of others. Releasing all matters of genre bending that included their roster. Rarely if ever did they rely on brand new exclusives to drive their console success. To this day Sega still has the largest first party library of exclusives games. Exclusives that were not only ground breaking, but genre redefining, and have set the tone for many games today. Yet, none of the exclusives were enough to stop Sega from becoming a third party publisher. A once mighty manufacturer in the arcades and home gaming lost stature with exclusives. If Sega didn’t win with exclusives, and Microsoft with few exclusives has sold better than Sony with theirs in this current generation, and Mario is not enough to save the Wii U. Then why are fanboy’s and journalists pushing Microsoft to develop more of them?
The whole exclusive games conversation is a wash. A sad sorry smoke screen that allows factions in the media, and gaming to perpetuate a topic of discussion for the sake of having one. The dirty little secret that nobody wants to say out loud is that exclusives do not mean as much as having a well balanced platform where more developers; whom we will call third parties cater titles to a wide audience. Does this mean that exclusives are horrible, and should never be made? No. What it means is that a platform manufacturer should focus on very few exclusives as possible. Exclusives are great ways to benchmark a platform from a technical, gaming, and branding stand point. Taking a deeper look at Sony for instance they have been lauded for having great exclusive games; which is true, to a certain extent, but like any game developed on the face of this earth they are hit or miss games. You see Sony’s first party games account for only 10% of PS3 sales. Michael Pachter mentioned this in his Gametrailer’s show. It’s interesting that the response from most in the audience says, “Who cares how they sell? As long as I enjoy the game that’s all that matters.” or crazy statements like “As a gamer, I don’t give a damn about sales. I just want games”. What kind of warped logic is that? I am sorry, but no company that wants to exist beyond their first game, product or service, can live by that thought process; let alone a game publisher who has to shell out millions of dollars in development, and advertising to get a game to gamers. Yet, you have factions in the gaming industry that push this idea out there without really investigating what is happening. Again, not one of those factions will give you an explanation about Sega as an exclusive developer. They were the best. Did it help or hurt Sega to create exclusives, and do we care about those exclusives today? The unfortunate truth is….No one cares.
Let’s take a look at this deeper. Sony posted a profit for the company, but not from the gaming division. I highly doubt that Sony investors get giddy with delight at the thought of new exclusives game being made by Sony. Sure there have been some ground breaking first party titles by Sony, developers like Naughty Dog have pushed boundaries with titles like “Uncharted”, or even the upcoming “The Last Of Us” the shame of it is that these titles won’t sell like a new Call of Duty title will. Is it sad? Perhaps. It is what is though. You ask any executive in the gaming industry about exclusive games by a manufacturer/publisher, and you’ll get a roll of the eyes, a snort, and a side-eye to exit their office. They count, but their viability is hugely, and in many cases grossly exaggerated.
How does Microsoft fit in? Well Microsoft is in the opposite side of the spectrum. This generation has been really good to them. Microsoft has taken the less is more, quality over quantity as a mantra to exclusive game development. Which is smart, and works for them. They have enjoyed great success financially with many of their exclusives. Halo for example; as a series, and as an exclusive game title has pushed boundaries not only as a game, but as a sales behemoth for ten years across two platforms. Shattering records in not just gaming, but as an entertainment property. Going head to head with box office movies, books, music, etc. Yet, we hear from critics, so-called gamer’s and agenda pushing journalists that Microsoft can’t survive on Halo, and their other few exclusives. Halo 3 alone grossed a US$300 million in its first week in 2007. Being one of the best selling first person shooter on the console outside of the Call of Duty games. How long has Mario been around? How many Gran Turismo, and Ratchet & Clank games have been released since the first Playstation platform? Lots… I say, Microsoft should listen to everyone, and yes make more exclusive titles, because they not only sell well, they have made great franchises. Forza, and Gears of War which is a game literally created in one generation. It has been one of the best titles in any game generation. It’s curious that people are so called “fatigued” by doing great for the Xbox 360. In the case of Gears though Epic Games has a publishing deal with Microsoft that literally brands the game an Xbox platform exclusive. Which may not be in perpetuity, but it’s more likely that there will be a new generation of Gears games with in the new Xbox’s life cycle . What in the world would warrant a company to keep creating something? It works, it’s successful, and people like it. What’s the age old adage say? Oh, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”.
It’s been said that Microsoft has been cancelling games internally for not being up to par in terms of Xbox Next. It’s not doubt they want titles that are high caliber. This is not about one franchise. The thing is that Microsoft should focus more how they want gamer’s to play, and what titles fit with the potential of a genre. Shellfish like any gamer I believe more is better. Again, first party games let you set a standard for your platform, and Microsoft has set a standard for developing great first party titles. It will only hurt Sony more, because Microsoft will have games that actually sell. At the same time continue working with third parties in the way that will given them confidence. Microsoft needs to be more nurturing of developers from indie to third party, because it’s good business. Not fanboy fanaticism, or agenda journalism. XBLA is a fantastic service, and Microsoft should push exclusives on that platform more. In fact open it up a bit for the current Xbox 360. So that there continues to be a library. From reports it seems that every one who has been pushing Microsoft to invest in more first party titles, will get their wish in several weeks. To quiet all of the nonsensical noise, it’ll be interesting to see how the gaming public views Microsoft’s exclusive efforts.