Analysis, Business, Companies, Gaming, Microsoft

Timed Exclusives Are The Future of Gaming

With the recent news of Dragon Age: Inquisition’s Jaws of Hakkon DLC being timed exclusive for Xbox One and PC, gamers are once again at the mercy of the strategic business tactic.

And it’s seriously aggravating the community whose paid good money for their games only to be denied content because they don’t own the competitor’s console.

If you play Dragon Age: Inquisition on PS4, then you’ll have to wait an undetermined amount of time before you get the DLC. EA’s (NASDAQ: EA) signed agreement prevents them from even delivering a timeframe, showing just how far these exclusivity deals can go.

Instead of creating their own exclusive games for their respective systems, gaming titans like Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Sony (NYSE: SNE) have taken to a new game: buying out the rights to have multi-platform games and content come to their consoles first.

The unfortunate future of gaming

Timed exclusivity first manifested itself with Bungie’s huge multi-platform hit Destiny. Sony signed a major deal with Activision (NASDAQ: ATVI) that ensured specific content would be exclusive to PlayStation platforms up until a certain timeframe, punishing Xbox gamers to no end.

Rise of the Tomb Raider 11

Rise of the Tomb Raider is a Xbox One timed exclusive, and no one’s sure when it’ll come to PS4.

Microsoft did the same thing with Rise of the Tomb Raider, snagging a deal with Square Enix (TYO: 9684) and Crystal Dynamics that ensured the game would release first on Xbox consoles. We still don’t know when Rise of the Tomb Raider will release on PlayStation 4.

Sony even went so far as to snag a timed-exclusivity deal over No Man’s Sky once it realized how popular the game is in the gaming community.

Then there’s Titanfall 2, which is coming to the PS4 now that Respawn Entertianment is free of the exclusivity deal it signed with Microsoft for the original Titanfall.

It’s a bad and confusing business tactic in terms of consumer relations, as timed exclusivity ultimately alienates your constituency while also building shaky brand loyalty.

So why do it at all?

No Man’s Sky has gained incredible momentum, and remains one of the most anticipated Sony timed exclusives.

Why embrace timed exclusivity?

Console game exclusives don’t have the big payoff they once did. Back in the days of the original Xbox and PlayStation 2, Microsoft and Sony were both able to fire off a ton of first-party exclusives that helped define their brands. And since the games couldn’t be played anywhere else, it worked.

But in today’s industry, multi-platform games reign supreme and exclusives have taken a backseat. The big AAA hits are more accessible than ever, and you often don’t have to have any one system to play them.

Now that multi-platform is a secure bet, publishers are less-inclined to take the risk of developing a game on a single platform, considering they’d be missing out on the revenue streams from sales across all systems.

Sony and Microsoft’s first-party publishers are reticent as well, as they recognize the dynamic shift for cross-platform consumption as a clear threat to their respective regimes.

Every new exclusive is a gamble, and sometimes they can be multi-million dollar bets that don’t pay off, leading to crumbling sales and over-extending projections.

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The new Dragon Age: Inquisition Jaws of Hakkon DLC proves that timed exclusivity isn’t just about the games, it’s also about DLC and other content.

Playing games with our games

With timed exclusivity, both companies found a way to get around that chance gamble.

All they have to do is buy the right to host the game on their console first, which pushes console sales and fuels the “fanboy wars” competition that’s been so good for business thus far.

These partnership deals have proven to be effective motivators for console purchases. One of the most important things to consider when buying a PS4 or Xbox One is their respective games lineup, and an exclusive can help bolster the decision.

The only problem is that these partnerships and deals sometimes come as a surprise. The Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC announcement was a shocker, and who knows what exploitative new announcements await us at this year’s E3 Expo?

Timed exclusivity is good for business and good for the companies, but it isn’t good for consumers. It’s a strange mix of unfamiliar territory that ensures the highly profitable consumer wars continue (Xbox One fans vs. PS4 gamers) at the detriment of gamers themselves, who are locked out of content as a result of business politics that they have no control over.

Games companies are playing a very real game here with timed exclusivity, and if they keep pushing their luck, they might find themselves out of 1up’s eventually.

Bloodborne

Bloodborne represents one of Sony’s big exclusive bets, and it looks to be paying off in dividends.

Exclusives aren’t dead, just fading

It’s also important to remember that console exclusives aren’t dead and that they have a place in this new landscape.

From Software’s mega-hit Bloodborne proves that, as does The Order: 1886 and Halo 5: Guardians. But when it comes to established third-party AAA games we’ll likely see them all go multi-platform and consider some sort of partnership exclusivity deal with either console-maker.

If anything the original exclusives are just fading. It’s important to have games you can’t play anywhere else, but it isn’t always lucrative, so the execs look into better options. Remember, it’s not about serving consumers or even entertaining them–it’s about making money.

Xbox One PS4

Timed exclusives create an atmosphere of unease, aggravation and fuel the dreaded fanboy wars that seem to be so good for business.

Exploiting the players

So far the timed exclusivity has done nothing but piss gamers off while lining the pockets of big-name companies, who are making a killing off of hype, game sales, and now cutting off access to content.

The big problem with the new warped exclusivity is that it fosters and enables an exploitative consumer base where gamers have no power.

No one’s ever sure when timed exclusivity will strike; the Jaws of Hakkon DLC proves that it can happen any time, anywhere. You never know when content in your favorite game will be locked off because you don’t have a specific console.

Even if you own both an Xbox One and PlayStation 4, you can’t get past timed exclusivity without buying the same games across both platforms. And really, that’s what Sony, Microsoft and all of the publishers want you to do, don’t they?

Also imagine buying a Season Pass for a game, then being denied instant access because the DLC is timed exclusive? Could that even happen? Who knows, but I wouldn’t be surprise at this point.

In any case, hopefully publishers, developers and console-makers will improve transparency over timed exclusivity.

Holding back details like this is extremely shady, and gamers hate every second of it. It’s important to tell gamers beforehand if content will be locked or exclusive, so they can make informed decisions before they buy.

This new age of gaming is quite exploitative, and really does strip all power away from consumers. Pre-orders are opened up for games that get delayed twice over, exploitative micro-transactions run rampant, and now we don’t even know if we’ll be locked out of content when we buy a game.

For more on how timed exclusivity is changing the landscape of the gaming industry, check out our coverage of why console exclusivity is fading.

  • John Nemesh

    And once MS admits defeat and exits the console market (soon…very soon), this horrid practice will end entirely!

    • kreator

      Salty much?!

      • John Nemesh

        Not at all. My personal dislike of Microsoft’s practices will have no effect whatsoever on their failure.

        • jacksjus

          Lol!

          You don’t hear this much honesty often.

          • John Nemesh

            The thing is…you keep seeing the same names commenting (mine included) on the video game industry. I would say there are probably 200-300 active users following video game news closely. All of us (or at least most) are extremely biased based on our own preferences and personal views. But it’s essentially all one big “echo chamber”. None of these comments are read by the “average gamer”, and none of these comments (or most blog opinion pieces) will affect sales trajectories in the SLIGHTEST. People are making their own choices out there in the marketplace, based on things that have nothing to do with gaming sites, metacritic scores, or even lists of exclusive titles that are announced. It’s fun to comment here and elsewhere and engage in lively debates about things like timed exclusives…but in the end? None of “this” matters one bit….except to those participating in the conversation.

          • jacksjus

            Agreed. People really believe their opinion is gospel. I don’t mind debates at all, but it irks me to no end when the FACTS are ignored.

          • John Nemesh

            I would suggest sticking to the video games forums then and avoiding political discussions! 🙂

          • Doggystyle

            John Nemish. You have been heard bro. Your points of view are the same as mine and I appreciate your comments, and honesty. Keep talking man. People are reading you bruh.

          • Cel

            You seat in front of your computer and act like you know whats up with the game industry, yet you blame Xbox for timed exclusives, a practice used substantially more by Sony. Also, if you think Microsoft is leaving the console market anytime soon your a clueless fan boy.

          • John Nemesh

            Nope, just reading the writing on the wall…they are moving more and more in the direction of putting Xbox games on Windows, and giving fans little reason to buy the actual console. When sales fail to materialize this fall for them, they will stick a fork in it, just watch.

        • kreator

          Hater’s gonna hate…

    • You Are Flat Out Wrong

      It won’t end till Sony leave since they invented the practice and blocked Sega getting Tomb Raider 2 on the Saturn and Nintendo getting it on the N64 due to a timed deal.

      Sony are equally scum, as are you

  • TwinspectreGaming101

    100% Exclusive > Time Exclusive