Exclusive games are a major selling point for consoles that can push them from mediocre machinery to a worthwhile purchase. Having a certain niche or target audience to cater a console’s games library as a whole to has helped Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony all find their legs in the industry. However, as time goes on, exclusives are becoming less and less of a console-defining feature and more and more of a way for companies to monopolize on games and their fans. This is especially visible this current generation with Microsoft’s exclusive DLC policies and the negative fanfare surrounding Bayonetta 2’s exclusive release on the Nintendo Wii U. Since exclusives have become, well, exclusively a way for companies to monopolize the ideas of third-party developers, isn’t it time to stop supporting them?
There are both positive and negative reasons that games become exclusives. The Bayonetta 2 case is positive, believe it or not–Nintendo was the only publisher willing to lend them a hand in publishing a sequel to their game. However, this did not stop a slew of negative feedback from the franchise’s own fans. Since the game was originally published for the XBOX 360 and Playstation 3–and made no appearance on the Wii or any Nintendo console–making the switch over to the Wii U has forced their customers to purchase yet another console if they want to enjoy the game. Along with that, they probably have very few fans existing in the fanbase Nintendo has built–meaning the move is certainly losing it some fans because of exclusivity alone. At the same time–if the developers did not choose to become a Nintendo exclusive, there would have been no game to publish in the first place. It’s a lose/lose situation for them, but they have chosen to publish their games against the odds.
When Fez developer Polytron tried to fix their game with a patch, they were met with a huge $10,000 price for updating their game, even though it was a simple tweak. Because they had signed over the game as exclusive for at least a six-month period, and because they had already patched the game in the first place, the developers had no means to patch their game or move to another platform to deliver a better game. This is another situation in which developers and gamers alike were hurt by an exclusive policy–and they had to sign it, if they wanted their game to be published on XBLA in the first place. This kind of monopoly has never been identified as such, but it’s about time that we as gamers–as well as developers–start to suspect companies who intend to limit games to their company alone. This is not beneficial to the developer or gamer, and it can restrict games from achieving their full potential.
When companies make it a policy to buy out games as exclusives and hinder their development or publishing rights on other platforms, that’s enough to constitute calling their practices monopolizing. Although I have put Microsoft on the spot here, all of the major game companies have done this in the past. The plain fact of the matter is that if you have to throw money at third-party developers in order for them to make a game exclusive for you, and then hinder their progress on other platforms, you aren’t even trying to do business ethically. Hopefully this is both the first and last generation that we tolerate this kind of behavior from large-scale video game publishers.