In a recent interview about the future plans for the XBOX One, Phil Spencer indicated that Microsoft is going to focus more heavily on first party exclusives instead of exclusive deals for third party content. He said that paying for third party exclusives isn’t part of their long term strategy, and I think that makes sense considering the current business plan to convert all 360 owners this holiday to close the console sales gap with the PS4. I think the reason for the shift is twofold. First, paying for third party exclusives is really expensive and has no measurable ROI, as I already stated in my post and video about how the timed exclusive for Rise of the Tomb Raider is stupid. Second, after the holiday season of 2015 the focus will shift from selling consoles to delivering content and selling games. The arrival of Gears 4, Halo 5, and backwards compatibility will be the capstone to Microsoft’s plan to fill the market with as many XBOX One consoles as possible, and paying for exclusives was probably part of that plan.
Give us games
More than ever the need for games to play is apparent. We are sitting on the edge of a monsoon that will flood many gamers game libraries and hurt their wallets accordingly. Microsoft knows that with the numerous titles launching this holiday season, gamers may be more selective in their purchases. The best way to ensure you capture sales and satisfy your base is by having quality first party content. Sure, the big cross platform titles like Call of Duty and Destiny pull in massive sales, but those aren’t as alluring or as identity forming as first party titles. In the long run I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft regrets paying for the timed exclusive deal on Rise of the Tomb Raider because in the midst of all the games coming out, it may not be that exciting to have the exclusivity. In a gaming drought, sure, it would have been a solid play, but there are far too many games coming out for it to even register on the scale of relevance.
In the wake of so many gamers calling foul about the timed exclusive deal, it isn’t surprising to see such a quickly made, and I believe strategically made comment about moving away from paying for exclusives. Even though the most frustrated fans were Playstation fans, it can be a good dose of competition to say, “Hey, we aren’t doing this that much going forward”, especially since Sony is doing it left and right with Black Ops 3 and more year-long exclusive loot in Destiny. It can start to look a bit silly to Sony owners, especially in light of how bad the PSN reliability can be at times, to see the company investing money in something that doesn’t change that much for the gamers. Hopefully PS4 owners start to demand better online service and more investment from Sony into that, rather than paying lots of money so they can get a couple of guns a year before everyone else. At the end of the day what affects your gaming experience more? A network that is down or early access to in-game content?
Hopefully both consoles move away from paying for exclusive content and just grow into distinct platforms through first party titles. It is far more exciting to see the competition and growth in the industry rather than artificial identity-forming around this “We get it first” attitude. Many of us want both systems because of the first party titles that look to offer unique and amazing experiences. The consoles need to foster that kind of purchasing rather than a tribalism which leads to more trolling and vitriol that is so arbitrary and unnecessary. If we want a more united gaming community we need the companies driving the culture to start pulling the rug out from under empty arguments and master race myths because we would all be better for it.
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