Friday, April 20, 2007

Exclusively Yours For The Taking

Although it used to be a much bigger deal back in the day, it seems that having exclusive rights to a particular game or franchise still packs quite a punch in terms of how people perceive your relative strength in the console biz. As much as I hate to admit it, even I have fallen under it's spell a time or two. The question is, how much does this really gauge success, and does it doing anything more than stir up the hornet's nest….aka… gaming forums across the world wide web?

Take for instance the fairly recent announcement of Devil May Cry 4 going multiplatform. If you follow video game news at all, I don't even have to begin to tell you about the "big deal" that was. The Capcom boards literally shut down momentarily over it, as rabid fans flipped out over the news. Even more astonishing, it spawned one of those useless internet petitions to boycott Capcom over it, and we all know how much bite those things have.

Before this, there was the big deal over whether or not Sony would lose it's power to leverage the next Grand Theft Auto, over it's enemies. Once again, news came to the forefront that the title was indeed going be shared with Microsoft on the Xbox 360. Now, it seems the Crown Jewel of the Sony brand, Final Fantasy, may be sneaking out for a little Microsoft affair as well. So what does this mean?

Well I'm no analyst ( to my favor, I suppose), but I wonder if it means anything at this point. I say that, since it is more of a reflection of changing times than it is a failure on Sony's part. Now I'm known to take multiple jabs at the PS3 at every opportunity I get, but even their own public relations nightmares (Sorry, Ron Workman, they got you beat on that one) can't be to blame for this new phenomenon of developers who don't know how to stay in their own yard. You see, these days video games are just too expensive to bear the burden of alone, and the grass just might literally be greener in multiple pastures. The costs involved are so great that these guys run the very real risk of losing it all, if enough people don't buy a particular title. Just look at Clover Studios, if you need an example.

Although having a particular game on a single system sounds great for the console maker itself, it's a big disadvantage to the people that sell the game in the first place. That places them in a position in which they have only one outlet to reach customers, when they could go multi-platform and reach a lot more people. If you really stop and think about it, not only does this hurt them directly, but it hurts the console maker who has the exclusivity as well. If the developer can't make a decent profit, your hope of future games is going to go the way of the dodo bird anyway. Not only does this translate into a loss on your end, but gamers can potentially lose the joy of the endless sequels they currently enjoy on their boxes o' fun.

Which brings me to the next point. When games start getting close to the double digits in terms of sequels (Final Fantasy, anyone?), does it even matter as much as news of a potentially new blockbuster game in the making going to the other side of the fence? Sure a loss is a loss, but come on! With the exception of first party titles that pretty much represent a company (Mario), I just don't see this as having as much sting as some would lead us to believe. Maybe I'm wrong; maybe I'm right.

So I guess the question remains. Does it mean as much (or more) to lose the rights to have a game stay on your console, even if it's for a limited amount of time? Much like the ingredients of scrapple, hotdogs, and the mysterious cream filling of a Twinkie, the world may never know.

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