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Rise of the Tomb Raider: The Xbox One's Uncharted 4 Defense

Microsoft is hoping that Rise of the Tomb Raider will blunt the effect of Uncharted 4 in 2015.

Analysis by Mike Williams, .

Lara vs. Mother Nature. The battle continues.

So we've had a week to process the news that Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics' Rise of the Tomb Raider is going to be a timed Xbox One and Xbox 360 exclusive. We're still not sure about the duration of the timed exclusive, but it will be coming to other platforms in some form eventually.

For Crystal Dynamics, they get an additional marketing push from Microsoft, which will probably include television and theater ads, front page time on Xbox Live, and a bit of development help on the Xbox One version. The business incentive for Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix is rather clear: even in the worst case scenario, they wait out the exclusivity period and release Rise of the Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition on PS4 and PC. They say those versions are the game they always wanted to make and everyone walks away happy.

For non-Xbox Tomb Raider fans, it has official become a waiting game with news of the timed exclusive. Rise of the Tomb Raider isn't big enough to pull a ton of consumers to the Xbox One. Xbox One owners will buy it and Microsoft may pick up some additional system sales this holiday, but the game isn't what I'd call a major system-seller. So why grab the exclusive in the first place?

In an interview with our sister site, Eurogamer, Xbox boss Phil Spencer called the deal with Square Enix a "win-win". He compared Rise of the Tomb Raider's exclusivity to other titles like Dead Rising and Ryse (Seriously, what's with Microsoft and the word "rise"?)

"When people look at something like Dead Rising and where it is right now, I would say for the franchise it's been a good partnership," said Spencer. "Now, maybe somebody on PlayStation would say, well no it hasn't, because I haven't played the game. But if I'm Capcom and I think about what that franchise means now... or even like a Titanfall, and our ability to invest with EA to make that launch great. Tomb Raider is no different."

"[Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics] have seen what we've done with certain games out there that aren't ours," he added. "Ryse is another IP. I don't own the Ryse IP, but I was able to invest with Crytek to turn it into a franchise, which isn't easy to do for a studio on their own. I don't own it. They just announced it for PC, and certain people throw stones at me and say, 'you shouldn't let it go out on PC.' I'm like, look, I want Crytek to make money. I want Crytek to be successful. Why would I ever block them from doing something with a game they own?"

In Spencer's defense, Dead Rising 1 and 3 and Ryse are probably better off for having been near-launch exclusives on Xbox platforms. There's an enhanced focus on exclusives early in a console's lifecycle, which can lead to bigger sales numbers, at least on that specific platform; a publisher can probably count on another sales bump when a game transitions out of exclusive status. But Rise of the Tomb Raider isn't coming early in the Xbox One's lifecycle. It's coming in late 2015. A timed exclusive over a year out from the Xbox One's launch seems like a waste.

In fact, it doesn't make much sense at all, until Spencer answers a question about one of Sony's major PlayStation 4 exclusives, Uncharted 4.

Naughty Dog's next is a legitimate threat to the Xbox One.

"I'm a big fan of Uncharted and I wish we had an action adventure game of that ilk," he replied when asked about the comparison between Tomb Raider and Uncharted. "We've started some, and we've looked at them. But we don't have one today of that quality. This is an opportunity."

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End is scheduled to release some time in 2015. Taken as the Xbox One's defensive bulwark against the latest adventure game from Naughty Dog, Rise of the Tomb Raider as a limited exclusive makes sense. It's about Microsoft being able to say, "we've got that, too" during the holiday 2015 shopping season. Rise of the Tomb Raider doesn't have to beat Uncharted 4, it just has to stand next to it in a favorable comparison. Judging by the relative quality of Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, this isn't out of the question. As a spoiler for Uncharted 4, Rise of the Tomb Raider as a six-month Xbox One exclusive makes a lot of sense.

Of course, the deal making sense doesn't help PC or PlayStation 4-based fans of the Tomb Raider series, who have to wait out the next entry in the series. The decision follows Square Enix's odd decision to not release a PC version of the Definitive Edition, which included concrete visual improvements above the original 2013 release. Right now, it just feel like Square Enix wants Tomb Raider fans running in every direction, picking up the series across a number of different platforms. I'd prefer if there were at least some sense of continiuty in these releases. Not having that erodes the trust some fans have in Crystal Dynamics, a studio that does rather exemplary work. While it may be a win-win for Microsoft, Square Enix, and Crystal Dynamics, Rise of the Tomb Raider's exclusivity just feels like a bum deal for the fans.

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Comments 11

  • Avatar for ShadowTheSecond #1 ShadowTheSecond 3 years ago
    Excellent article.

    The uproar over what has been shown to be a timed exclusive is quite silly. If I was both a Tomb Raider fan and only had a PS4, I can understand some mild frustration with the waiting--but it's notably better than something like RE4 where it wasn't immediately clear that it would ever leave the GameCube. Or even GTA III, which took its sweet time coming to Xbox.

    Could Microsoft have phrased some of this better? Of course. But the anger is still overblown.
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  • Avatar for gigantor21 #2 gigantor21 3 years ago
    The main reason this deal makes little sense to me is that I highly, highly doubt Tomb Raider 2 is going to blunt Uncharted 4's sales or it's ability to drive PS4 sales. I'm surprised you see it that way when you don't think TR2 will be much of a system seller, and when most of the TR2013-to-Uncharted comparison I heard weren't exactly kind. Plus PC and Sony gamers know they can just wait out the exclusivity like Dead Rising 3 and Ryse.

    All I see at this point is SE making off like bandits, with MS helping to foot the bill for a game that they don't own and that will end up on competing platforms anyway.Edited 2 times. Last edited August 2014 by gigantor21
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  • Avatar for RorschachCCCLX #3 RorschachCCCLX 3 years ago
    Sony is enjoying some of the sunniest coverage and gamer community support.
    Nintendo doesn't even enjoy this level of brand based adulation. Their marketing team really ought to be commended for turning around the fortunes of a company that suffered slings and arrows of a $600 PS3 launch, a near three month PSN outage and a rather nonchalant attitude towards fans.
    They evaporated (with the help of some boneheaded Microsoft decisions) any and all good will the 360 made as the leader of the last generation and installed themselves as the brand of choice of console gamers.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #4 VotesForCows 3 years ago
    @gigantor21
    I think the point isn't to blunt sales of Uncharted - far from it. The point is to be able to say that they have something similar - so they're not just labelled (again) as the console with racers, shooters and nothing else.
    It doesn't even have to make a difference to XB1 sales (and there's no way of measuring whether it does or not) - it just has to make the shareholders confident.
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  • Avatar for danger.to.others #5 danger.to.others 3 years ago
    I come from the perspective of someone who is done with Microsoft and will never buy an Xbox One, no matter what the price or what game is on it.
    But I am a PS4 player and not having it come out at Xmas 2015 won't matter, since I can only play one game at a time (or one story based game at a time). They just left Uncharted the easy (since it's now the only) choice for that type of game.
    By the time I'm ready for Tomb Raider, it'll be showing up on PS4.

    It might not be official, but I think it being 6 months exclusive is the safe bet.

    Where this helps Xbox is now when it releases, it doesn't have to face the bad press it's been facing with every multi-platform release of not running quite as well as over on PS4.
    While it seems a bit sleazy, morally, to take a multiplatform series and grab that next title to block it from the other consoles (which is NOT the same as making a deal from the beginning for an exclusive game), what do expect from Microsoft? They're desperate and have never been known for being classy.
    But if threads around all the big game sites and twitter are any indication, from what I saw it did backfire. I read countless people who stated they were on the fence to getting a One, or saving up for it and now wanted nothing to do with them, not wanting to support these kind of deals. I'm sure you read the same, it was impossible to miss.
    Fair or not in their thinking, if this is true, future developers, publishers and consoles all might want to think twice in the future if it really made for a positive. All I saw was anger, not praise and excitement to want to get an Xbox One.
    Time will tell.
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  • Avatar for Innocent_Bystander #6 Innocent_Bystander 3 years ago
    The only difference between TR and Uncharted is that the latter is a system seller...
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  • Avatar for SigurdVolsung #7 SigurdVolsung 3 years ago
    I do have to say that if I had not been able to afford a PS4 yet before Uncharted 4 came out, it would cause me to get the system. Even though I already have a PS4. But MS choosing to block off a sequel to a multiplatform game, whether it is as a competitor to Uncharted or to try to catch up some in system sales, either way that makes me unhappy and needing more convincing whether to get the system or not. So basically I have a PS4, and getting a Wii-U in two months, but the decision to buy and Xbox One is getting pushed farther and farther down the road.
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  • Avatar for Vinheimer #8 Vinheimer 3 years ago
    I'll really miss not being able to play Rise of the Tomb Raider when it comes out, but it's certainly not enough to persuade me to get an Xbox One over a PS4. I must. Play. Bloodborne.
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  • Avatar for Nazo #9 Nazo 3 years ago
    I'm not sure him bringing Ryse up is a great comparison given the dismal sales of that game and the subsequent financial problems Crytek have had.
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  • Avatar for rocksteady13 #10 rocksteady13 3 years ago
    First of all no timed exclusive is going to compete against a legitimate well made exclusive like Uncharted. IMO timed exclusives are a waste of money and they are not system sellers. Consumers aren't stupid! They will still buy the better gaming rig and wait for said timed exclusives to hit their system. To me this is MS basically saying, "Well we have nothing to compete against Uncharted so let's just throw money at the problem for a temporary solution".
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