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Daily Reaction: PS4 and Xbox 720: What the Next Gen Means For Console Exclusives

February 1, 2013 Written by Dan Oravasaari

With the recent news regarding the assumed announcement of the PS4, one Daily Reaction reader asks Seb and Dan: Will console exclusivity be affected by the leap into next gen?

Dan: With the PS4 being so secretly set for announcement soon, the question of what will happen to exclusives is something that many people are concerned about. Yet, realistically, the change in generations should only have a little effect on exclusivity, especially with first party studio development. As with any console, its manufacturer will always want to portray the prowess of their system by developing a title that utilizes everything about the console that makes it unique. This is mainly something presented by first party developers that have access to the minds that developed the architecture of the system, which allows them to code an engine that will maximize the potential of that unique console.

The real question will be what will happen to 3rd party development, as we move across generations. During the PS3 era, we saw most of the studios that were once exclusive to one console or another move development to a multiplatform format. As we sit at the precipice of the PS4, will development be pushed even further away from having console exclusivity? Realistically, unless a console manufacturer like Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo assist in development of a title, there will be little need for a studio to invest in a single console launch. This will be true for most studios, unless they see a unique opportunity in a single piece of hardware, the cost of development will always gear publishers to push for a greater return, and that means multiplatform.

Given the natural rising costs for development, the need for studios to find unique methods to generate profit will cause a rise the prominence of timed exclusives, something we have seen a number of times this generation. As Microsoft has been quite a bit more active in obtaining meaningful timed exclusives than Sony, the chance that we will see the pattern repeat itself, will be more than likely. Sony has tried to pull for exclusives, but almost always seems to miss the mark when it comes to timed exclusives. As with the Battlefield 3 timed DLC exclusives for a whole week, which when compared to the timed DLC exclusives from GTA 4 of a whole year, seems to be an almost comical attempt. Sony really will have to find ways of obtaining more meaningful timed exclusives, if they are really going to try to maintain competitive with Microsoft’s much more aggressive style.

Seb: Ugh, yeah timed exclusives will certainly continue. I’ve talked before about the problems with timed DLC, but it’s an issue with the full games too – they’re exclusives that don’t take advantage of the hardware, defeating the main allure of exclusives. Fanboyisms aside, Microsoft will likely lead the charge with timed exclusives again, simply because they have less core first party studios, more money and have found success with their tactic. But Sony will certainly do it too, albeit to a lesser extent.

Like you said, pretty much all of the 3rd party exclusives of the PS2 gen have gone multiplatform, and that’s caused many publications and pundits to say that ‘exclusives are dead’. Nope. They should say: ‘Free 3rd Party exclusives are dead’. Obviously now that no platform is truly dominant, no publisher is going to make an exclusive unless Sony or Microsoft pays them (this excludes Japan-only games, where the PS3 is dominant). Now that all of the PS2’s 3rd party exclusives have been lost, that visible mass exodus is behind us, and it won’t seem so bad going into the next gen. Plus, we always have first parties.

Sadly, we have seen the closure of several of Sony’s first party studios – Sony Liverpool, Zipper Interactive and Bigbig – but it’s probable that the worst is over. Those closures came as Sony was still reeling from the impact of the expensive PS3 era, and the newly-appointed CEO Kaz Hirai demanded immediate profitability from all of Sony’s different divisions. The studios that weren’t terrifically successful were cut, but luckily places like Naughty Dog and Santa Monica will stay. Another great thing to note is that, while it may seem like Sony has downsized its studios, their successful ones have been hiring heavily and are now working on multiple games in tandem.

I do worry that expensive 2nd party attempts like LightBox, SuperBot and Eat.Sleep.Play may decline, as their games were sales failures. Even Insomniac are breaking away from Sony as Resistance has died. But while that is a cause for concern, there are a few success stories like Heavy Rain from Quantic Dream.

With the PS4 and 720 reported to have similar specs (PS4 slightly ahead), multiplatform games will be identical, which means exclusives will be a vital differentiator and system seller. That’s why Sony has Santa Monica working on a new IP for PS4 (likely along with another GOW), Naughty Dog’s developing Uncharted 4 for PS4 and is describing TLOU as a “franchise” and Guerrilla Games is developing Killzone 4 and a new IP for PS4. Sony is going to try and leverage the power of their existing IP portfolio to bring in fans, while also – promisingly – investing heavily in new IPs that they hope will be system sellers.

Looking further ahead, Cloud gaming may very well be the future. Sony clearly wants to offer it, after having bought Gaikai, and Microsoft is not far behind. That means the two will be offering very similar services across all these devices. How are they going to make their service unique? Exclusives.

What exclusives do you miss from the PS2 era? What games do you think will move to timed exclusivity? Will more DLC become timed? Or less? Let us know what you think in the comments below, or tweet Dan exclusively so he can rub it in Seb’s annoying face.

Also, a special thanks to Mark Vargas for the idea.

Be sure to email DR ideas, podcast comments and exclusive pics to DailyReaction@PlayStationLifeStyle.net.