Editorial: Should Sony Buy Exclusives?
As we all know by now, third-party exclusives appear to be going the way of the dodo. It won't be long before the only platform exclusives left will be from the makers of the platform themselves; i.e., first-party titles. But as evidenced by the likes of Bioshock, it is still possible to buy - at the very least - timed exclusivity. Microsoft clearly has no qualms with this practice, but Sony, as stated by the former big boss of SCEE, Phil Harrison, doesn't believe in it. Now that Mr. Shuhei is in charge, perhaps that viewpoint will change, but then again, it might change simply to suit a more competitive marketplace.
There were rumors (recently shot down by Capcom) that Microsoft has already made a pitch to make Resident Evil 5 a timed exclusive for the Xbox 360. And what's to stop them from pursuing Square-Enix and the likes of Final Fantasy XIII? S-E has already made it abundantly clear that they wish to adopt a new business focus, with the Western gaming audience at its core. Hence, such a move might make perfect sense... So on the one hand, it might be in Sony's best interest to step up and play that game; go toe-to-toe; play tit-for-tat. Now, it may not be as reasonable with FFXIII simply because Square-Enix has been developing the game from the ground up for the PS3, but that's a practice that many third-party developers won't use in the future. Instead, multiplatform simultaneous releases seem to be the name of the day; hopefully, with individually developed efforts on each console. No more ports either way, goddamnit.
So should Sony bite the bullet and start ponying up the cash? Can two wrongs make a right? Is there a right and wrong? Certainly, we understand the publisher's side of this: a game made for more than one platform simply increases the size of the consumer population. More people can play the product. It's that easy. Hence, they would want a hefty sum of money to keep the game on one platform, which would make up for the money they lost by not including other platforms. Really, this is quite logical. But in the long run, does buying temporary (or even permanent) exclusives turn out good for the industry? Is it good for the consumer? In the end, it's a console war, and whoever sells the most hardware wins. In a completely equal world, Sony might buy a few temporary exclusive deals to sell more PS3's and thereby close the gab in certain territories. But nothing is equal in this world.
I just question where all this is going. What's the end result? If Sony tosses their hat into the ring and all-out bidding wars start, doesn't this just mean that Sony would win some of the time and Microsoft would win some of the time? ...what would that prove? It'd all come down the quality of each exclusive title, I guess. Beyond that, you've got two giants trying to best each other in a deep-pockets war, and I'm not even sure it's worth it. Maybe it's best to just stick to first-party exclusives to help push hardware, and the rest can be standard multiplatform releases. One could look at the past to see the kind of role third-party exclusives played, but the industry ain't the same, anymore. It's a tough situation, to be sure, and I'm just kinda thinking out loud. In the end, maybe it's not even that important...
6/20/2008 Ben Dutka