Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Death of Exclusives

There's an interesting editorial today in IGN from Ryan Geddes who ruminates over the announcement that Final Fantasy XIII would be going multiplatform and how it actually stirred him to purchase a PS3

Editorial: Why I Purchased a PS3

"something about a proper new Final Fantasy game appearing on the Xbox 360 felt horribly wrong, like dropping a Ferrari engine into a Buick body. Sure, she'll run, but the soul of the machine would just be off somehow."

This statement in particular got me thinking, especially being a Nintendo fanboy of old, In the older generations especially the 16 and 32/64bit generations console exclusives pretty much defined your choice of system, you weren't going to play Mario anywhere but on a Nintendo machine, you couldn't play the latest Sonic game unless you had the Saturn (BTW did anyone in Australia own a Saturn? I saw one in a shop one time, but it was really invisible throughout the 90s)

Final Fantasy is a game which lived out its formative years (the first 6 games) on Nintendo consoles but when Nintendo locked in a cartridge format for the N64, Square (the makers of Final Fantasy) jumped to Sony to continue their series. I remember this was hhugely controversial at the time and a rift between Nintendo and Square carried on and wouldn't be smoothed over until the GameCube.

Square's issue with the N64 was with the cartridge format, which turned out to be the system's achillies heel, the cartridges had a capacity up to 64MB, by contrast a Compact Disc can hold about 700MB, even DS games can carry about 128MB of information, so the N64 was running new technology on yesterdays medium, Square couldn't make the game they wanted with the memory available.

The recent controversy is over the fact that both Final Fantasy XIII and the latest Metal Gear Solid game will no longer be Playstation Exclusives. Both games are by third party publishers but both have also become synonymous with the Playstation brand (despite the fact that both got their start in the 8-Bit era on the Famicom and MSX respectively)

I can understand why people are annoyed by these storied franchises making appearances on the XBox 360 but this is an irrational feeling, the publishers are only going multiplatform because they want to make money.

The truth is publishers will go where the sales are and any casual reading of sales figures in the past two years will show you that the XBox 360 has a much higher turnout than the PS3 for Multiplatform releases. It's not just the fact that there are slightly more XBox 360's than PS3's in the world (a lot of those could be RRoD replacements!) but the XBox 360 has a phenomenal attach rate (meaning the number of games purchased per system)

I'll be interested to see the sales figures for Final Fantasy XIII in March to see if this trend continues or if the Sony fanboys have got it right with this one!

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