In a keynote at IndieCade’s professional conference, SCEA’s VP of publisher and developer relations Adam Boyes said that while exclusive games do drive console sales, it isn’t a great strategy for both console manufacturers and developers.
The most important part of this statement involved Boyes saying “Right now exclusives are just a way for [console makers] to brag louder,” and continuing that “Nobody gains from exclusivity in perpetuity.”
He then compared the people who make these consoles to car dealers, and independent developers to high-end car mechanics, capable of fine-tuning performance and bringing “real innovation” to the market, though exclusivity didn’t quite fit in here. “Developers now have the option to deliver on a huge number of platforms” he continued, before stating that they “want developers to be successful” and that meant multiplatform publishing was the inevitable option.
I’m not sure where this statement has come from, but it seems very misjudged from someone so high up at Sony; exclusives allow developers to focus on one form of hardware, rather than having to put the extra legwork in and perhaps deliver a product that isn’t fully realised across multiple platforms. As well as that, they’re a massive reason for buying a console: “Oh, The Last of Us looks incredible, but it’s only on PlayStation?” will hardly lead to a person buying an Xbox 360 instead, will it?
Perhaps if he’s just talking about money, then he’s more than likely right, though context would be needed to judge this fully. If, for example, Boyes was discussing how much it costs to make a game vs. how much console manufacturers pay to get an exclusive title on their platform, then yes, his point stands – but saying “nobody gains” is ludicrous, particularly when we’ve seen such stellar, system-selling stuff from developers such as Naughty Dog.
And don’t even get me started on Mario… there’s plenty of room for exclusives – and even a need for exclusives – in the current gaming market if you ask me.
Update: It appears his comment was more based upon independent developers, but even in that case I don’t think his statement is justified. Just look at the PlayStation indies going on to bigger things, such as FuturLab coming from a minis game – Coconut Dodge – to a downloadable PS4 title with Velocity 2X. And then there’s Flower – a game which wouldn’t have worked on competing consoles due to the need for motion controls. There are plenty of successful examples of exclusive indie games.