Rise of the Tomb Raider, the sequel to the 2013 reboot of the series, was revealed at Microsoft’s Gamescom press conference this week to be an exclusive for the Xbox One (at least for a while maybe). Here’s why that’s a big pile of steaming bullpoop.
Tomb Raider, as a franchise, has been around for a long time. The original game came out way back in 1996 (last century!) and was released on the PlayStation 1, Sega Saturn, and PC. It’s one of those gaming franchises which has experienced peaks and troughs, with some games feeling like the developer actually tried, and others like they just phoned it in. It even spawned two big screen Hollywood films starring Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft. The films weren’t very good, but it was a testament to the power of the brand that they actually got made at all.
Skipping forward to the most recent release in 2013 which was Crystal Dynamics’ reboot of the series, and by all accounts it was a solid and fun game, and currently holds an 86-87 rating on Metacritic (varying by platform) signalling generally highly positive reviews. The new reboot was released on PC, Mac, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. It apparently did not meet Square Enix’s sales projections (at least not initially), but if anything that’s more an indictment of how certain publishers have wildly unrealistic ideas when it comes to sales projections, especially for a reboot of the entire series as was the case here. Only for Square Enix could over 3 million units sold (at the time – now it’s closer to 7m units) be considered closer to a failure than a success.
Either way, the reboot continued to see strong sales even after its initial release, to the point where the game was deemed “profitable” by Square Enix by the end of 2013, and has since gone on to sell almost 7m units. 7m sales for a reboot of a series which was always one step forward two steps back I would think is pretty damn good, and so it was no surprise to see a sequel officially announced at E3 earlier this year. What was a surprise was the fact that Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix announced that the game would be an Xbox One exclusive, for which Microsoft have certainly paid a pretty penny to pull off.
Essentially, Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics very much appreciate all of the gamers who purchased the game on the PC, Mac, PS3 and PS4, but not enough to not give them the finger as they accept a big pile of cash from Microsoft in order to make this an exclusive for the Xbox One. It’s been confirmed by Microsoft that this is only a timed exclusive, but even so, the first game became a success on the backs of everyone who bought the game, whether they bought it on PS4, Xbox One, PC or anything else. By taking Microsoft’s money in exchange for this period of exclusivity, Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix are showing nothing but contempt for gamers on every other system than the Xbox One. No one is saying that platform exclusives should not happen; I understand that these things are a necessary evil in the gaming industry, and that it helps to differentiate one system from another. Switching systems in the middle of a series though, that is another kettle of fish entirely.
Is the amount of money that Microsoft have paid going to be enough to cover the extremely negative blow-back that Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix are taking over this? Well who knows – you certainly can’t put a price on bad publicity, that much is clear. That Rise of the Tomb Raider will eventually surface on the PS4 and PC is not a certainty, but is pretty damn close to one. Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix have made it clear which system they favour though, and coincidentally it’s the one that gave them a big bag of money to screw over games on other systems. Maybe this is just “business”, but gamers have long memories – ticking off a good 40-50% of your userbase is not good planning for the long-term.