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The Price of Exclusivity

May 31, 2008 Written by Azariah Ellington II

The Price of Exclusivity

Sony has been a powerhouse in the video game industry for years. Initially entering the market with the PlayStation and then following it up with the immensely popular Playstation 2. (I love you PS2). What Sony had to offer on these consoles was a variety of exclusive experiences that you could not find anywhere else. Many series that started on the original PlayStation were continued on the PlayStation 2. 3rd Party developers took advantage of the PS architecture and now we have the highest selling console of all time. How did Sony convince these companies to support its platforms? A large user base, amazing technology, and the freedom to bring your masterpiece to the masses.

Of course you all know that competition causes companies to make the necessary moves to be competitive. Microsoft has come into the market and paid for what was once freely given to the PlayStation brand, exclusives. Do I frown on this practice? I cannot say that I do or that I do not. A company has to do what it must to make its product valuable to the consumer. Even if that requires paying a reported 50 million for exclusive downloadable contact for GTA4. Many asked how Sony could sit idly by and allow this to happen. Some said that Sony was a fool to not adopt the same practice. Others said that Sony should continue to win exclusives on the merits of the system and what it has to offer.

So where are we now?

Kaz has recently stated that Sony is willing to reconsider its views on paying for exclusives. I believe this is a good idea. First, a company should always look at its practices to ensure that it is implementing the processes that would make it most profitable and successful. Second, because times and markets change, a company must make changes to ensure that it is not left to go the way of the dinosaur. Does this mean that tomorrow we’ll hear about Sony paying millions for some amazing exclusive? Maybe, but there is also the chance that we may not hear that at all. The decision may have been made to adopt this new practice or to reject it, but we will not know for a while if at all.

A position that some gamers have taken is that Sony should give the money that it would give for exclusives to its own developers. I can understand this position. 1st party development is an important factor to the success of a console. However, without a good percentage of 3rd party support, you’re doomed to seeing a thousand different games from the same franchises over and over again. (No, that is not a dig at Nintendo. Once upon a time I loved Nintendo. The N64 ruined it for me). 3rd party developers help bring new IPs and other advancement in the ways that a technology is used. The lack of this could severely cripple the advancement of how a console’s content offerings are advanced. Could you imagine what the gaming world would be like without titles like Metal Gear Solid or Resident Evil? A sad world indeed.

If Sony does not at least consider paying for the exclusivity of certain titles, it will risk the issue of only having the exclusive rights to 1st and 2nd party titles. I do not have a problem saying that I love knowing that I can only find MGS4 on the PS3. Not because I hate other consoles, but because this means that the developer can focus its efforts on making the greatest title possible using the PS3 architecture and not have to worry about ensuring that the title runs as well on a completely different console. Am I excited for the upcoming Final Fantasy titles? Of course. Can you imagine what Square Enix will be able to create on the PS3? I would gladly smile if Sony passed a few coins their way to keep it exclusive. While they are at it, pay them to remake FFVII too.

The increasing development costs of this generation have gone a long way to influencing companies to go multi-platform. There will always be instances where this will not occur and it will not be because of money issues. Some developers just enjoy working on particular platforms. If a developer does prefer one console over another for genuine reasons, I cannot find fault with them. I do find fault with developers that are accepting money for exclusivity, but merely make it appear as if they have a preference for one architecture or another. Be honest, the consumer deserves that.

Side note:

Many of you would recall the Blu-Ray and HD-DVD slug fest. Remember when Paramount left and it was because of the millions the company received? What was the major gripe of Blu-Ray fans? Why did you leave and say it was because HD-DVD was superior when it was clear that you only left for money?

Back on topic

Clearly consumers want honesty. If Sony was to change its approach to purchasing exclusives, I would have no problem with that. I would actually prefer that they would offer funding assistance instead of outright payment. You will say that that is the same thing and it pretty much is. The major difference is the connotation and the idea behind it. Companies that are already more interested in making the title exclusively for the PS3 could be rewarded with Sony helping the developer by absorbing some of the production costs. Putting a copy of a game in a bundle does not hurt either. Lol. (Yes, I’m saying that could be viewed a myriad of ways by people. I have no problem with MGS4 bundle. I find it to be a wise business move and both consumers and businesses do not view it as negatively, if at all negatively, as a payoff.)

So this is what we have to look forward to in the coming months and years. Thanks for shedding some light on what is likely to be a shift in the approach Sony has had in the video game market. As I have said several times, this is not necessarily a bad thing. I know I will not be complaining on June 12th and I have MGS4 on my PS3. Will you?

What do you think Sony should do? Remain consistent, change its approach slightly, or come right out and start bidding wars for the services of 3rd party developers?