Exclusivity doesn’t exist, but it’s still ruining gaming

Thinking inside the hardware box is neither fun, realistic nor productive, so why do we do it?

By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, March 16, 2010

Here’s Maxime Beland, Creative Director on one of Microsoft’s bigger second quarter “exclusives”, for instance: “I am a firm believer in everything. I don’t believe that the stealth action genre is dead, I don’t think we’re only going to make big blockbuster triple-A games, I think there’s room for all different genres. I think there’s room for games like Metal Gear Solid that have a sh*tload of cinematics, games like Uncharted that have amazing production values in their cinematics – just watching those cinematics in Uncharted 2, I was blown away. So I think there’s room for that, and there’s room for games that have no cinematics.”

If you can't beat them, join them.

If you can't beat them, join them.

Many of those who commented on our God of War 3 review could learn from Beland’s creative agnosticism. Developers have their preferences and prejudices – Valve’s relationship with the PS3 needs no introduction – but few let those leanings interfere with the creation of games they enjoy, or lambast their peers for taking one route or format over another. (Later on in the interview, I asked Beland whether Splinter Cell would ever go multi-platform again. “I don’t see why not,” he said.)

Elsewhere, Capcom UK’s Leo Tan had this to say of Monster Hunter Tri: “I don’t care what machine it’s on as long as it’s that universe, as long as it’s got what I’m looking for – everyone gets together, you go out on a mission, you kill your monster, you get your stuff, you take it back, you improve. That’s all I want. It could be on anything, it could be on a microwave.” When’s the last time you came across a spat between owners of different makes of microwave oven, readers?

Admittedly, the videogame press bears some responsibility for the flame-ridden status quo. We’re complicit in the polarising of our readership, a polarisation that repays us amply in traffic. We pluck incendiary quotes out of our interviews, write prickly opinion pieces like the one you’re reading. Some do it more cunningly than others – Zero Punctuation’s reviews get away with being unduly belligerent because they are, after all, only parodying the belligerence of their viewers, while Digital Foundry’s “Face-Off” comparisons are a masterclass in how to fan flames without cheapening your output – but all toe the battle line.

Oh what a world, etc.

Oh what a world, etc.

At the end of the day, though, the people who decide what gets written are readers. Without you and your predilections, I wouldn’t be typing this sentence. So if you’re comfortable with the present levels of froth and invective, keep giving your clicks to Big Bang headlines. If not, get your teeth into something more nuanced. Either way, our hearts and minds will follow. We’ll have no choice – we’re capitalists too.

“Exclusive” thinking shipwrecks thought. It’s the hallmark of those who want gaming (amongst other things) to be something more (or rather, less) than a source of fun, wonder and inspiration: a stick they can take up against imagined adversaries, a quasi-religious experience with its fair share of punishable heretics. Let’s learn from the example of those who create our favourite titles, instead, and think inclusively.

10 Responses to “Exclusivity doesn’t exist, but it’s still ruining gaming”

  1. Brush says:

    Thing is, at some point the publishers will take over from console holders in terms of delivery of content….or someone like Sky…Onlive

    And we’ll have this no console future where the internet, possibly built into a TV, delivers us the media…the platform holders don’t exist because the internet is the platform.

    I can’t see it however changing ‘human nature’ as you mention, people will still argue over what’s better out of metal gear solid and splinter cell no matter what (and maxine beland himself actually has made a fair few disparaging comments re cinematics, but that’s by the by). There will still be fanboys of call of duty, or halo, or killzone, of EA, Ubi, Activision. Sure it won’t be over hardware, and that will be nice, but it’ll still be petty (you could say everything is), that’s part of the human condition….It’s surely a big positive too, videogames and PC tech exceed Moore’s law, in part due to the human element, the fact we’re emotional, passionate.

    Playstation and Xbox games would not be as good without them going at it like cats and dogs, a great gen before that…Megadrive Vs Snes….these tete a tete’s accelerate progress, Metal gear being number one makes Maxine’s team work their ass off to try and be the best, and it’s not mutual admiration that drives it, it’s ‘we want to be number 1..better than them’ ..Sony’s best teams at the moment such as Naughty dog, speak like absolute fantards, and so they should, that’s the competetive spirit coming out, and surely this is quite significant, especially in a medium where driving technology as well as creativity is so important. (again, hundreds of core systems, and tech side might vanish somewhat, or move to the software side)

    You know, I’d love to play The Last Guardian on my Xbox, I’m sure people would like to play Alan Wake on their PS3, but, do either exist in a hardware free market?… possibly…possibly not.

    Shenmue 3…probably never happen. Why would Sega spend 40mil for 2 – 4 million games sales when Mario and Sonic can be developed for less and sell 6m units?. There is no business reason Sega as a 3rd party should/would ever develop that game in an open market. The only way this can happen, is with closed, competing markets. It represents a coup for Sony or Microsoft to have this content exclusively made for their consoles. Perhaps this is a bad example as it will likely never happen, but the way ‘exclusivity’ and ‘closed walls’ affect the market is not always negative. Fumito Ueda has not sold enough units to be ‘important’ in the overall scheme of things, but factor in that he can provide a platform holder with something unique that the others don’t have, and he is important…you could argue this setup fosters creativity and looking for fresh ideas/expanding the market.

    I’m probably taking the argument too far, but 2010 is mid console spat…and how good is it turning out…the new way hinted at by Onlive might not produce this. Where it’s really negative is people being rude to each other, and drawing lines in the sand dictated by hardware not software. Admittedly though i am saying all this as a non PS3 owner, i can see their games like MGS4 and Uncharted are incredible, i just feel i have enough choice as is, and admittedly am human :o )…if microwaves were this exciting people would have arguments ove them..

    • “these tete a tete’s accelerate progress, Metal gear being number one makes Maxine’s team work their ass off to try and be the best, and it’s not mutual admiration that drives it, it’s ‘we want to be number 1..better than them’”

      True, this is the major flaw in my argument for me. But then I think there are such things as “sportsmanlike” and “unsportsmanlike” competition – it’s possible to explicitly pit yourself against another developer without treating them like the scum of the Earth. What I object to isn’t competition per se but the way people transform it into something “deeper”, drawing lines in the sand as you put it. In this I may simply be reacting against the internet’s misleadingly vocal population of blinkered idiots, of course… :p

  2. Brush says:

    Edwin, you also need a text limit! :O)

  3. Brush says:

    Also, you’re not entirely capitalist Edwin, you are people with a hobby, a passion…human, that’s why this site is about videogames not hardcore porn (which gets more clicks, and so it should).

    erm, that’s a disagreement & compliment btw (a hug and a slap), this site is becoming a regular source of interesting articles imo, 2nd to xvideos.com

    • Heh, I’m going to try this line on my landlord next time the rent’s due ;)

      Glad you’re enjoying this stuff – you’re one of our few regular posters at the mo, and I’d like to keep you on-board! That Anne Robinson porn page you requested will be live momentarily.

  4. Brush Nr 2 says:

    As an aside..

    I think the crusty old hardware walls protect consumers too..you get publishers running the show, and gaming will change from ‘ownership of’ to ‘access to’ in a flash, micropayments, subs, you name it. The hardware manufacturers limit this a bit, perhaps unwittingly, but publishers like the Onlive type concept because it basically hands the power over to them. Leo’s company, great as they are (they don’t come better than capcom) certainly don’t worry if you play Monster hunter on a microwave, but i’m sure they’d like you to pay for it via whatever system brings in the most money (subs in Japan on this one obviously), and i’m sure they wouldn’t have a problem with you not owning it at any stage. Hardware, the way it is…limits this a bit.

    Things will change, but I think we’ll find Publishers will no better at holding the keys to the city than hardware makers.

    If it ain’t broke, it doesn’t need fixing. The current system might be pretty shitty in some respects, but the arguments et al are part of being human I think. We live in a society where we ‘democratically’ elect people to ‘govern’ us, and that sort of works, despite being completely mad. Gaming’s exclusivity sort of works too.

    If that doesn’t make a lot of sense…erm…well…my argument ties together….or not….rambling…fin

    • Yeah, very good point – rather the devil you know than the devil you don’t know. Imagine if Ubisoft were free to enforce its latest DRM across the entire market?

  5. TEXT WALL ;)

    I’ve just signed back into the site after around 5-6 hours of public transport (travelling back to the family ranch for dad’s birthday). Cheers for these very lengthy thoughts, will do my best to read and reply properly soon!

  6. name says:

    that makes absolutely no sense what so ever!
    how is exclusivity ruining games?
    if we did not have exclusive games than we would never see the high quality titles like uncharted 2 or GOW3.
    the fact of the matter is developing games is a expensive job,it would cost far too much for a company to create a multiplatform game catered to each of the consoles.
    maybe theres a reason why only the industries largest companies are doing that?
    crytek, ID, there not exactly 2 dollar studios so they can afford it but most cant, nor do they want to put the effort in.

    ever wonder why games that are PC, ps3 and 360 are not that impressive, and the PC port is normally crappy?
    also PC and 360 only games the PC version is always impressive example metro 2033 or splinter cell conviction.
    its because developing for the PC than modifying the game to work on consoles would be a waste of time and a waste of money.

    If it was not for exclustivity than we would be stuck with the avatars and rouge warriors of the gaming world, instead of the GOWs.
    not saying multiplatform games cant be good or visually impressive because assassins creed 2 or many others prove otherwise, but there definitely at a disadvantage.

    i for one im extremely glad we do have exclusives, if we did not we would not be getting the good games we are, wed be getting crappy games.
    i dont know about you but i will take god of war 3 over rouge warrior any day!

  7. Brush says:

    They’re not at a disadvantage…Mod Warfare 2 brought in over a billion dollars, and it took it about a month, none of the exclusives you cite will bring that money in, and therefore next round, not have as much as Acti to reinvest making the next title better (more likely it will go on a new Yacht for Bobby, but still, you can generate more money to make better games in a more open mkt).

    But, i’d agree that the current system is working, and in some ways makes the platform holders look for unique selling points rather than purely chasing sales numbers, and that is good, Mr Ueda of ICO team, wouldn’t get the same budget if he was not making console selling games.

    I guess it’s the difference between ‘big sellers’ and ‘console sellers’, the current market works for both, which is nice.


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