Has Microsoft eased off exclusives?

I was compiling a list of great (and potentially great) games for a holiday gift guide and was surprised to find that I’d listed 3 games that were PS3 exclusives and only 2 that were Xbox exclusive. That’s not enough of a difference to make a big deal about, but it did get me thinking about PS3 & Xbox 360 exclusives.

The way I see it, there are three types of exclusives:

1) Games developed by 1st and ‘2nd party’ devs (quotes because sometimes the company in question isn’t officially connected but may as well be, from the point of view of the game-buying audience). Examples from my list: Uncharted 2 from Naughty Dog for the PS3 and Forza Motorsport 3 from Turn 10 for the Xbox 360.

2) Games that 3rd party developers choose to only produce for one platform. Example from my list, Atlus’ Demon’s Souls for the PS3 and Bungie’s Halo 3: ODST for the Xbox 360. Bungie is almost a ‘quoted 2nd party’ dev but technically they’re now as independent as Rudolph and Hermey (with Halloween now behind us, let the Christmas references commence!).

3) Games with exclusive extras. Examples: playable Joker in the PS3 version of Batman Arkham Asylum or the exclusive (for a lengthy period at least) DLC for the Xbox 360 version of Fallout 3.

While the number of “Type 1” exclusives has remained steady, it seems like Types 2 and 3 are in decline. In the case of Type 2, presumably the PS3 is finally getting an install base that few 3rd party developers are willing to ignore. In prior years of this console generation, the vast majority of Type 2 exclusives have been Xbox 360 exclusives. Supporting the PS3 must just make financial sense at this point.

What’s really interesting, to me, is Microsoft backing off the Type 3 exclusives, which used to be a specialty of theirs. Drop by a dev’s office with a sack full of money and say “How about you take this and then keep your DLC off the PS3 for 6 months?” They did this with GTA IV, Fallout 3, even Netflix, and it seemed to work. People who owned both systems would naturally go Xbox in order to take advantage of the ‘exclusive’ DLC.

But Dragon Age: Origins and Modern Warfare 2 are launching in the next few weeks on both platforms and in neither case have we heard a peep about exclusive content for either system. Microsoft attended the MW2 event in LA (?) a month or so back as if it was a parent company, and they’re rolling out a MW2-branded Xbox 360, but as far as the game and following content goes, both platforms will get the same stuff.

Dragon Age: Origins, with its plans for years of DLC, seems like a perfect fit for Microsoft’s DLC lock-down strategy, but nope…nothing.

So I’m wondering why this is. Has Microsoft just decided that their market share is so dominant they don’t have to spend the money any more (and it’d be hard to argue with that logic). Or maybe there just aren’t enough dual-console owners to make it worth while? Or are the developers not willing to alienate PS3 owners in exchange for Microsoft’s offerings?

Whatever the reason, it’s good news for gamers, and particularly for PS3 owners, who used to so often be left on the outside looking in. But on the other hand, without exclusives, why do we need competing consoles? Are the 1st & 2nd party devs enough to make one system stand out over the other? Or is it the overall ecosystem (Xbox Live vs Playstation Network) enough? Reliability? Design?

4 thoughts on “Has Microsoft eased off exclusives?

  1. I have been wondering the same thing now for the last few months. There have been some Sony exclusives that I wouldn’t mind playing, but it was Uncharted 2 that helped me make up my mind to finally purchase a PS3 here really soon.

    I’ve actually toyed with the idea of just getting rid of my 360 because I can just get the same games on the PS3 as well. The only reason I may not is because I don’t want to spend the money buying the PS3 version of a few games I bought recently.

  2. Modern Warfare 2 for Xbox 360 is getting a timed exclusive for the first map pack(s). Much like any other timed exclusive, the value of this is debatable.

  3. @SAGExSDX — Is it? Thanks for letting us know. That invalidates a lot of this post, but it almost makes me feel better… I’m back on familiar ground now. 🙂

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