Console Exclusives Aren't Dead; They've Changed

High-profile exclusives may be going the way of the dodo, but that makes way for greater diversity of experiences.

Article by Pete Davison, .

Yesterday, my esteemed colleague and good friend Mr Mike Williams argued that console exclusives are dead.

Despite the headline to this piece, I actually sort of agree with him. System-selling, high-profile console exclusives -- particularly from third parties -- are very much on the decline, as big publishers like EA and Ubisoft are eager to spread their new titles across as many platforms as possible for maximum profit. Towards the latter part of this generation in particular, it's seemingly become little more than a matter of preference when it comes to choosing a console -- do you prefer the DualShock 3 or the Xbox controller? The Xbox Dashboard or the XMB? And do you care about exclusive DLC?

However, with all that said, if you look below the "triple-A" tier, you'll see that the exclusives market is still very much intact, and very much helps to distinguish the 360 and the PS3 in particular from one another -- restrict your view to "big games" alone, however, and it's easy to see them as much of a muchness. Nintendo, too, has been quietly doing a nice line in "games you can't get anywhere else" throughout the entire Wii era, though it remains to be seen if it can keep that up with the Wii U -- that platform, as we well know, is on very unsteady ground at present.

So far as 360 and PS3 go, though, I don't see myself getting rid of either any time soon, simply because both have just enough exclusive titles on hand to justify me keeping them around. Since my love for Japanese games in particular has grown exponentially in the last few years, the PlayStation 3 and its handheld siblings have really come into their own as specialist publishers like Xseed, NIS America and Atlus consistently provide me with the sort of games I want to play on a regular basis. Meanwhile, my Xbox 360 is getting considerably less use than it once did, but the healthy crop of bullet hell shooters I've acquired over the system's lifetime justifies keeping it around -- along with "evergreen" titles like Geometry Wars and Project Gotham Racing.

I'm happy that games like Tales of Xillia are system exclusives; they give me reasons to seek out more unique experiences on each platform.

Whether or not this situation will continue with the next generation remains to be seen, of course, but I actually feel reasonably confident that it will. Microsoft's presentation at Gamescom this morning made it abundantly clear that it is prioritizing the Call of Duty and sports game crowds and that's absolutely fine; Sony, meanwhile, has plenty of its own spectacular triple-A offerings, many of which we'll doubtless see later today at its Gamescom press conference, but I'm more interested to see what comes from the tiers below triple-A: primarily, from my perspective, niche Japanese games and super-creative indie titles, and historically Sony platforms proven themselves to be a good home for "art games" like Flower and Journey, too.

I have no particular objection to console exclusives. In fact, I'd go so far as to say I'm a fan of them. Without them, there's honestly very little to distinguish between similar platforms such as the PS3 and 360; with them, there's a reason to keep both systems around, and the ability to have distinctive -- even unique -- experiences on each. If you find yourself interested in experiences on both platforms, that's not especially friendly to the pursestrings, of course, but I honestly appreciate the fact that, today, I can think of my PS3 as "the JRPG machine" and the 360 as "the shooter machine" -- and plenty more things besides for each platform.

I sincerely hope that the next generation of consoles continue to provide us with unique experiences on each platform, and early indications seem to suggest that will be the case. What's also worth noting is that whenever big shows like E3 or Gamescom come around, the things that get shown off in the high-profile press conferences aren't the only things that are coming to these platforms. More often than not, the most interesting games -- the ones that will, in some cases, quietly sell systems to niche audiences without anyone shouting about them -- are the ones tucked away in a corner of the show floor.

Will we see anything like that come out of Gamescom? Difficult to say at this early stage, but one thing's for sure, regardless of your platform(s) of choice: it's definitely an exciting time for the industry.

This article may contain links to online retail stores. If you click on one and buy the product we may receive a small commission. For more information, go here.

Comments 16

  • Avatar for Pombar #1 Pombar 4 years ago
    Your PS3 is the JRPG machine? Portables, surely! But even those aside, as someone who hasn't touched his 360 in years, the 360 has more exclusive JRPGs than I can recall for PS3 - they're just all from around 2006-2009.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for RedSwirl #2 RedSwirl 4 years ago
    Most platform exclusives these days seem to be the Japanese middle-budget games. For some reason Japanese devs have never really put a priority on multi-platform development -- preferring to develop each game for a specific platform. Most western developers on the other hand, especially indies, seem to make games first, then put them on platforms.

    Personally, I want to be able to get along buying as few platforms as possible. Owning a PS3 and 360, I really feel like the only reason I own both is because a few games I like are being held hostage on either one. In the future, it's looking like the difference between PlayStation and Xbox is gonna be mostly like the difference between two cable networks, or the difference between Windows and Mac OS -- most of the same content, just a different operating system and a different service.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for n00bsauce #3 n00bsauce 4 years ago
    @Pombar lolz no. Nippon Ichi Software develops almost exclusively for the PS3 (There was Disgaea DS. That alone based on numbers would give PS3 the edge. From Namco (Tales series) there was only one X360 game (Vesperia) and that wasn't even an exclusive well in America it was. But the PS3 has 3 Tales exclusives.

    Xbox 360 will never be a jrpg machine before the PS3
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Pombar #4 Pombar 4 years ago
    @n00bsauce Mistwalker and Vesperia were what I was thinking of for the 360. I guess I kinda see Disgaea as its own thing, since TRPGs are kind of a genre unto themselves at this point.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Stealth20k #5 Stealth20k 4 years ago
    I disagree. Exclusives are still VERY important. You cant be number 1 without them. Things havent changed at allEdited August 2013 by Stealth20k
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for pilum #6 pilum 4 years ago
    I fail to see how platform exclusives have any benefit for gamers. Its fair enough if the game takes advantage of a unique platform control scheme. But with two consoles as similar as PS4 and XB1, its a marketing gimmick that hurts gamers with no compensation.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #7 Captain-Gonru 4 years ago
    I suppose there is a benefit to exclusives, in that it gives you some way to decide which console to buy, or at least buy first. I see more of an issue with exclusive DLC. Arkham Asylum on PS3 had those Joker Challenge maps, for instance. Now, there was no technological reason the 360 couldn't have run them. But, Sony handed over a money hat, and 360 owners missed out.
    Going forward, there should be a discussion about what constitutes an "exclusive". Titanfall was called an exclusive in the previous piece, yet it's available on three platforms. So how is that "exclusive"? Because MS has a hand in each? I'm not trying to be argumentative, just asking a legitimate question.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for n00bsauce #8 n00bsauce 4 years ago
    @Pombar valid point, ya know. I only see TRPGs coming from the East so I put them in that category as well.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for n00bsauce #9 n00bsauce 4 years ago
    @Captain Gonru the ability to port from PC to console (and visa versa) has gone through leaps and bounds since the previous generation. So I think exclusives won't mean as much. I guess it will just matter more on indie development and what piece of hardware do you feel most comfortable with. I know Sony has a strong legacy with RPGs (eastern) and it's my favorite genre, so I sticks with them. Even though KH3 and FFXV has a multiplat release announcement.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Pombar #10 Pombar 4 years ago
    @n00bsauce Shadowrun Returns, X-COM, Banner Saga, Massive Chalice... there's quite a few TRPGs coming from the West these days! But yeah, it's totally fair to put Japanese TRPGs in with JRPGs, I just didn't think of them was all.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for docexe #11 docexe 4 years ago
    If you are a dedicated gamer, from a financial and pragmatic point of view, having to buy multiple machines each generation to play all the games you want is ultimately very inconvenient. And, as someone else mentioned, it is an artificial barrier of marketing.

    Even then, call me nostalgic or irrational if you want, but I can’t say I would like to see console exclusives disappear completely, neither for all gaming platforms to become completely homogeneous. AAA 3rd party exclusives are certainly disappearing and I don’t have any problem with that, but as this article states, I think 1st party games, as well as mid-budget and smaller games, help to give a different personality to every platform. And I think part of the charm of consoles would disappear if they became standardized electronics like VCR’s or DVD/Blu-ray players.

    Besides that, 1st party exclusives help to foster competition and creativity between the platform holders, and those games are usually among the most polished of every generation and the ones that make the best use of their respective hardware.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for abuele #12 abuele 4 years ago
    I consider that above the experiences lived through gaming, comes also tastes of gaming. For me portable gaming is the way to go, and maybe follow on to this coming generation. My tastes in gaming comes in small spurts of entretainment. Portable is the way to go.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #13 Captain-Gonru 4 years ago
    @n00bsauce So, are you thinking that we're entering an age where deciding XBox vs. Sony will be more akin to picking between Dell vs. Gateway? (Please, no one read too much into my PC brands there. I just spit out the first two that came to mind.)
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for n00bsauce #14 n00bsauce 4 years ago
    @Captain Gonru I know what you are saying and yeah. It's basically gonna be like which hardware and deals you like more. I don't see the exclusive rout being as important as last gen
    Sign in to Reply