Daily Reaction: Next Gen to Respawn Exclusive Deals, PS4 and Xbox 720 Industry Pains

The next generation is almost here, but with both the PS4 and the next Xbox thought to release within weeks of each other, every exclusive will count. The Daily Reaction duo of Seb and Dan discuss which console will receive more launch exclusives, why Microsoft is pursuing 3rd party exclusives and why that hurts everyone.

Seb: If the PS4 and Xbox 720/Infinity launch is really so close together, we should see both Sony and Microsoft bringing their A-game right out the gate. Let’s start with Sony: we already know some of their exclusive line-up, with titles like Killzone: Shadow Fall, inFamous: Second Son, DriveClub and Knack as likely launch games, along with PSN titles like Primal Carnage and The Witness.

Sony certainly struggles from the fact that none of their IPs are truly massive, with the exception of Gran Turismo (but we’ll get to that later), so they can’t rely on any single game to guarantee sales. But Killzone and inFamous are strong titles, and Killzone’s fantastic visuals will be an incredibly potent weapon in adverts and media coverage.

The lesser IPs and downloadable games won’t be as important, obviously, but the number of them, and the fact that they cover a swathe of popular genres will be an important cumulative factor when it comes to sales.

But, with E3 still to come, it’s almost certain that Sony will announce a few more games for launch and near-launch. Sony Santa Monica are probably the most likely studio to make an E3 splash – while half of the team just finished the last God of War (meaning that it’ll be a few years before the franchise hits PS4), the other half have been working on a new IP from at least April ‘11, probably with Stig Asmussen and magic. It really is about time that we see something from them, and Sony hasn’t got any big new IPs announced for launch.

Zindagi Games, who create 2nd party motion games for PlayStation consoles, listed a 2013 title on a next-gen console, perhaps Sports Champions 3. It won’t be the biggest exclusive ever, but it might help make the expensive camera worth it (don’t hold your breath).

Other developers like Naughty Dog haven’t had enough time with their second studios (at best we may see a Nathan Drake on PS4 tease), while Guerrilla Games’ second studio clearly won’t launch its game against Killzone.

Then there’s Polyphony Digital and Gran Turismo 6, which we’ve discussed in detail here, which bizarrely may be coming to the PS3 instead.

We’ve also got any 2nd party deals to look forward to, which is always hard to predict. In any case, it’s clear that there are a bunch of high profile exclusives on the way from Sony. But what about Microsoft?

Dan: The interesting thing with Microsoft is that they are very similar to Nintendo in some ways, as they both heavily rely on a few set core games to drive the majority of their line-up. The only issue with Microsoft is that, unlike Nintendo, they rely more on the ability of 3rd party developers to drive their core, while Nintendo is able to keep the majority of their success in-house.

Microsoft purchased Rare back in 2002, but since then the company has not been able to produce anything similar to the success it had back when they were developing games on a Nintendo platform. Since then, we have seen Microsoft purchase a fleet of other studios, but again, rarely any were able to push out successful franchises – leading MS to fall back on complex partnerships with studios like Bungie and Epic Games. These partnerships have given MS the current level of success we have seen today, but now we are starting to see the coattails begin to fade as the original minds behind games like Gears of War and Halo are no longer manning the helm. This leads to fundamental changes to their core games and is something that they will have to address as the next-generation of consoles gear up to hit shelves.

This is something that further complicates how MS will handle the launch of the 720/Infinity, as both of their major core franchises (Halo and GeOW) have recently launched titles, and will more than likely not be available for launch (like we stated in a previous DR). Sony, as Seb stated, have a strong 1st party launch window set up already, so that leaves many to wonder just what MS can bring this winter.

This is not to say that MS are in any way ‘in trouble’, but more to show that the biggest factor for their ability to compete in the console market is dependent on developer support, and they know that – so expect them to push very hard for exclusivity and closer developer relationships right out the gate.

Seb: Well here’s the thing – they may actually be in trouble. Kotaku, who, while we’ve made our thoughts on the site clear previously, have a solid track record with next-gen rumors, and they’ve brought out a rather interesting claim. Apparently, “a reliable source [says] that Microsoft is as much as six months behind in producing content for the new console, despite an expected late-2013 launch… Microsoft recently cancelled several internal next-gen projects because they were not coming together as hoped. These sources have told us that, comparatively, Sony is in better shape and further along with hardware and software development for PlayStation 4.” In a follow up post published today, Kotaku add that “the games aren’t where they need to be” and compare the launch to that of the lackluster Wii U.

That’s a huge, huge claim, and, if true, has fundamental implications for the launch of the next Xbox, and even the PS4. First off, it could mean that the Black Tusk Studios project that we talked about last time is having issues, and second, it means that there is going to be a huge gap in Microsoft’s line-up.

Apparently, their plan is quite an obvious one – suddenly without major games, they’ve been forced to open up their checkbook and buy themselves some 3rd party exclusives (possibly timed) in lieu of honest-to-goodness 1st party exclusives.

Kotaku asserts that one of the exclusives is the Respawn Entertainment (the ex-Infinity Ward folks) shooter. Apparently it’s called something along the lines of Titan and features heavily-armed foot soldiers versus mech-style exoskeletons (and it’s, regrettably, always online).

While it’s a new IP, something that combines the hype of the Infinity Ward team and the marketing talent/pockets of EA and Microsoft should be feared by any rival, so Sony can’t be pleased.

This ‘news’ is bad for Microsoft as they’re probably paying through the teeth, bad for Respawn as they’ve just halved their market, and bad for Sony as they’ve potentially lost a big title. That’s why it’s a good thing that Sony have so many 1st party exclusives no one can take away (well, apart from Sony themselves), so, if the 720 really has a Wii U-like launch, the opportunity is there for the PS4 to have the best launch around.

Dan: Yeah, the rumors of MS having issues with new content is far from good for anyone who is in their camp, but given their strength has always been more on utilizing 3rd party development, it’s not too surprising.

As some of the biggest titles to have launched this generation have been developed by studios who are not owned by a console manufacturer (Nintendo excluded), the ability to be backed by them could be a determining factor come the PS4/720 launch. This generation, MS have been far from coy about their willingness to cut a check to secure exclusivity, whether timed or console, leaving many developers ready to put on that much beloved Xbox green ‘money-hat’.

What this means is that fans will once again be on the losing end of the deal as ‘war’ once again rages. This is a sad issue as, for the first time, both the PS4 and the rumored 720/Infinity hardware will be closer in terms of development than any system in the past. This means that the problems that the PS3 had during its launch with compatibility and development nightmares will no longer push development to one side and give developers a reason to wear the hat without looking greedy.

Luckily, as this generation has come to a close, we have begun to see console exclusivity as archaic and almost detrimental to a studio’s success. This is why we are now seeing the growth of DLC exclusivity, which is more logical as a platform holder is more likely to have funded the extra development and the full product is still available to both sides. But it’s still an issue, especially as DLC becomes a bigger portion of a product’s lifecycle, which has been shown by games like GTA4, Skyrim and Fallout. This means that gamers who have backed the ‘wrong’ console are the ones that will really lose out, and the industry will once again be pushed back and forth between the two gaming giants, no matter the collateral. We’ll probably see Xbox DLC exclusivity with Call of Duty: Ghosts, just as Sony grabbed DLC exclusivity for Assassin’s Creed: IV Black Flag and Watch Dogs.

So, while the information from Kotaku is still a rumor, it is hard to say just what is meant by exclusivity these days, just that the biggest thing to know about it is that it is probably going to hurt more gamers than it is going to help.

What do you think? Will 3rd party exclusives ruin it for everyone, or are you happy enough with all the 1st party exclusives? Let us know in the comments below, email us at [email protected] and follow our launches at Seb and Dan on Twitter.