A lot of hardcore gamers in the gaming community already understand why developers sometimes offer Downloadable Content for one console and not the other. This boils down to another business decision which is made between developers and console manufacturers. What these deals and DLC allow, is for manufacturers such as Microsoft, Sony and/or Nintendo to achieve exclusivity with the content in the game, rather than the whole game itself.
This way, consumers are encouraged to buy the game (and the console) from a particular company which will offer the greatest amount of post-sale content and support. That said, this method might not always work – it comes down to the game and the gamer. If you are a loyal fan of the Fallout series, you might purchase an Xbox 360 and Fallout 3 for it because of the DLC which it will offer an addition 4-5 hours of gameplay specifically for that console or, if you own the different from the get-go, or you will pick up the Xbox 360 version of the game on its own because of the planned DLC which will be released later on in the near future (if you already own the different consoles). While this might not be always be in the interest of the consumer, it does allow for greater sales of consoles by the manufacturer, and it provides additional revenue for the developers even after the game has been sold.
While gamers might blame the developer, it is unfortunately just how business is done in the industry and overall, consumers are not getting a different version of the game, it is just that some will be entitled to additional gameplay later on. This all comes down to the agreements made between developers and companies like Microsoft, and Grand Theft Auto IV is a perfect example of this. Microsoft spent $50 million to secure two planned expansion episodes for GTA IV over the lifetime of the game – exclusively for Xbox 360 gamers. Recently we have learned about some of the details about the first episode ‘The Lost and Damned’ which is set for release mid-February, and can be read about further here.
Being one of the most anticipated titles of 2008 (and even being listed as Game of The Year), GTA IV was able help increase sales of the Xbox 360 upon the game’s launch as Microsoft announced that they had secured the exclusive episode deal earlier in the year – which is surprising since Grand Theft Auto was once a Sony-exclusive! GTA IV and Fallout 3 are just a few examples of specific-consoles gaining the rights to exclusive DLC. Other examples include titles like Oblivion and Soul Calibur IV.
Big Name Publishers
There are also instances when large scale publishers such as Activision, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft acquire developers which create ground-breaking titles such as Bioshock, Mass Effect, Project Gotham Racing and many others. It is important to note, that while the producers do not own the developers, they do own the licensing and rights to the game and are able to hand over the rights to another developer upon their request.
In these types of situations, to avoid a lawsuit, the developer and the publisher of the game usually sign an exclusivity contract with the manufacturer such as to keep the game on the console as a trilogy (Halo 3). With some games it might not be such a great deal, but seeing as though Mass Effect and Project Gotham Racing are successful franchises on the Xbox only, it is important that they do not venture to competitors. This was seen in the case of PGR where, even though Activision bought out Bizarre Creations, Microsoft still held onto the rights of the franchise and passed the developing license to Turn10, a development studios under of Microsoft Game Studios.
As implied, timed exclusives refers to an agreement between a developer and a console manufacturer to release a title on one console for a certain period of time before the game is released on others – ultimately to help sales of said console. The period between releases is negotiable. Bioshock is one great example. 2K (the developers behind Bioshock) released the game on the Xbox 360 first without any news of the game being made available on the PS3. From this, approximately 1200+ gamers went out and purchased an Xbox 360 in order to get their hands on this Xbox-exclusive which in turn, resulted in sales of other AAA titles in the Xbox 360 library.
A similar case happened with Unreal Tournament III which was released on the PS3 six months prior to the Xbox 360. In this case, I was one such person who purchased a PS3 console due to exclusivity. One reason for this decision revolved around purchasing MGS4 and also UT3, while the second was from the ability to make unique levels for Unreal Tournament III which would otherwise not be possible on the Xbox 360-version. We witnessed many cases of timed exclusives in 2008 but given the current economic condition, I am thinking that developers will try to play it safe and release their multi-console games at once than risk losing sales in one area only in the hope of gaining them in another. I hope by now you understand what ‘exclusive’ means when used in the context of the gaming industry, and how business and technical decisions impact everything pertaining to them.
There is a few questions which I ask myself, and pose to all the gamers out there. Is exclusivity good for gamers? Is it simply just a business decision for the publisher/developer. Most importantly though, is it good for the gaming industry?
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