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Press Start

Video game news, reviews and commentary with Gazette reporter Jake Magee.

Press Start: Exclusive games need to die already

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Jake Magee
Wednesday, March 29, 2017

When choosing whether to buy a PlayStation 4, Xbox One or Nintendo Switch, there are several things to consider.

What controller do you find most comfortable? What system do your friends have? How do they compare in price? What are their unique features?

Those are all significant questions to ask yourself, but arguably the most important consideration is what exclusive games each console has.

For the unaware, exclusive games are those available for only one gaming system. For instance, the Xbox One has the “Halo” and “Gears of War” franchises; the PlayStation 4 has “God of War” and “Uncharted,” and Nintendo consoles have a ton of exclusives, including “Mario Kart,” “Super Smash Bros.” and “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.”

From a business or fiscal perspective, I totally understand why exclusives exist and always will. Simply put, exclusive games sell systems and make money. But if I had my way, exclusives would become a thing of the past.

Not all exclusives are created equal. There are two main types of games: first-party games and third-party games.

First-party games are published by a console's main company. For example, “Halo” is published by Microsoft, the company that makes Xboxes, while “Uncharted” is published by the PlayStation 4's manufacturer, Sony.

No matter how much I wish otherwise, first-party games will never go away. The big console manufacturers will always have their own publishing capabilities, and they'll never stop pumping out games unique to their systems. First-party games are usually the biggest and most beloved on any system, and it just makes smart business sense to publish them.

Third-party games, however, are games developed and published by companies outside the console manufacturers. Think Square Enix's “Tomb Raider” series or Rockstar's “Grand Theft Auto” franchise.

For the most part, third-party games release on at least two or more gaming systems. This is good for consumers because it means they don't have to own a specific console to play certain third-party games.

However, every once in a while, a third-party game releases on only one console or is available on a certain console for a set period of time before releasing others. “Titanfall” is a third-party game that released only on the Xbox One (though, thankfully, “Titanfall 2” came out for both the Xbox and PS4). “Rise of the Tomb Raider” was available only on Microsoft systems for almost a full year before releasing on the PlayStation 4.

Other games are on several consoles but feature exclusive features on a certain system. “Destiny” is the same base game whether you play on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, but the PlayStation 4 version has bonus missions.

These situations happen when third-party publishers strike deals with first-party studios, and the practice needs to stop.

Head of Xbox Phil Spencer made headway by declaring the Xbox One would step away third-party exclusives. It's the reason “Call of Duty” games have exclusive or timed content on the PlayStation instead of the Xbox as they used to.

All future Xbox One “exclusives” will also release on PC, which is another positive move. I hope other publishers follow the trend.

Again, I understand the business sense of exclusive games and content. Consoles will always have first-party exclusives; I've accepted that. But third-party exclusivity does nothing for the players except punish them.

Consoles, games and the equipment needed to run them are expensive. Gamers often have to choose only one console because affording two or more is often unrealistic. Why punish gamers by further dividing fan bases with third-party exclusive games and content?

Instead, we should be joining both sides. The possibility of cross-platform multiplayer—where gamers can play online together regardless of console choice—is a step in the right direction.

In the meantime, I'm thankful I own both a PS4 and Xbox One, but considering how great “Breath of the Wild” looks, I'll probably need to buy a Nintendo Switch soon, too.

Sigh.


Video game columnist Jake Magee has been with GazetteXtra since 2014. His opinion is not necessarily that of Gazette management. Let him know what you think by emailing jmagee@gazettextra.com, leaving a comment below, or following @jakemmagee on Twitter.


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