TSA Debate: Exclusives

As part of the exciting evolution of TSA we are trialling a new feature called “TSA Debate” in which we will be discussing a topic, either with one of our regular readers or amongst ourselves. If you want to get involved you can drop a line to Liam[at]TheSixthAxis[dot]com with “Debate” in the subject line and let him know who you are and what you’d like to discuss. Once you’ve read the discussion you can let us know all about how you think on the matter in the comments below.

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In this TSA Debate I sat down with one of our members (Raen, or Kris from the Second Nature Podcast) who doesn’t own a Playstation 3. In fact he’s currently the proud owner of a rather sick Xbox but don’t hold that against him, as you’ll see, he’s a nice chap who talks sense and doesn’t rise to my fanboy-baiting…

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Peter: I recently bought an Xbox 360 and in the 10-14 months I have before it overheats and melts I’d like to sample the exclusive content.

Kris: It was nice to see you jump over to multi-platform.

Peter: Thanks, if you ever get yours fixed maybe we can join forces in Albion sometime? For the PS3’s best disc-based exclusives I would suggest LittleBigPlanet, Metal Gear Solid 4 and Killzone 2. I’d like to know what you would put forward as the best existing examples of exclusive titles for the 360? We can discuss upcoming exclusives later, if the Xbox has any planned…

Kris: The exclusive content line-up for the PS3 is pretty strong overall, particularly in the digital distribution titles. However for the best exclusives on the 360 side I’d have to go with Mass Effect, Project Gotham Racing 4 and Gears of War 2. I know leaving Halo 3 off that list leaves me open for miles of abuse from any fanboyz, but in all honesty I think the 360 has stronger titles than one core franchise.

Peter: Definitely, I don’t think you have to worry about 360 fanboys here.

Kris: On the XBLA Geometry Wars, Braid and, while I haven’t personally played it, Castle Crashers is meant to be pretty fantastic.

Peter: I’d put forward Flower, Super Stardust HD and Rag Doll Kung Fu as three of the best PSN Store titles. It was the exclusives that prompted me to buy an Xbox, I just don’t like the thought that I’m missing anything.

Kris: I think owning both platforms is the place where everyone would be if they could afford to be in that position.

Peter: As much as I like to poke fun at the failure rate and the terrible heat and noise issues it is a very good console and I think anyone that is a fan of gaming should own one when they can afford it. Back on topic, and ignoring the fact that Mass Effect was only a console exclusive, it appeared on “Games for Windows”, I think it’s interesting that all the disc based exclusives you picked and two of the three I picked are first party published titles.

Kris: Well the first party lineup this generation is getting a lot of attention, and deservedly so. Sony, Microsoft and even Nintendo have really bumped their game up this generation, and while exclusives outside of that area are worthwhile, it just seems that the manufacturers are using the first party titles to really show what they can do. The first party devs are also getting a lot more support as can be seen by the caching mechanic in Halo 3 and the lack of disk installs in Killzone 2.

Peter: Much has been made of Microsoft’s policy of throwing money at the exclusivity issue, primarily around DLC – which doesn’t seem to be working if you believe the sales figures. Do you think that Microsoft’s policy of breaking Sony exclusivity is more sensible than Sony’s policy of focusing on first party titles that can’t be bought out?

Kris: The DLC exclusivity issue was always going to be a gamble. I just don’t think that many gamers have both a PS3 and a 360, given the cost of consoles in this generation. The 360 is getting towards impulse purchase territory now, but I still think that the majority still only have one or the other. So Microsoft pretty much only had a very small number that the DLC was going to convince to buy it on the 360 over the PS3. I just don’t feel that DLC is ever going to be a system seller really.

Peter: I tend to think that the selections we’ve made seem to prove Sony right in their statement that third party exclusives are irrelevant this generation.

Kris: Tekken 6 would have almost certainly sold me a PS3, but that’s the only third party exclusive I can think of that I actually care about. Valkyria Chronicles is really the only other third party exclusive that I can think of, across the whole generation that anyone actually cares about.

Peter: Metal Gear Solid 4?

Kris: Fair enough but my point is that Sony made that statement after having two very high profile games in Tekken 6 and Final Fantasy XIII stolen from under their nose, so it seems worth taking with a pinch of salt. I think the bigger question is will we continue to see third party exclusives? Given the amount of money that having both consoles can add to a publishers bank account is it worth them keeping title exclusive?

Peter: I really don’t think it is worth keeping a third party title exclusive any more. To be honest, unless there is heavy investment from the platform holder, almost to the point where it is a second party title, I just don’t see the financial benefits. Development teams are so big now that coding for two systems, or more commonly porting from one to the other, is not such a big drag as it was in the 8 and 16 bit days.

Kris: That’s pretty much it. Unless they throw money at it, basically taking the Microsoft route, there really is no point in staying exclusive for any third party developer. And going the second party route just doesn’t make sense; you’re getting the worst of both first and third party support with none of the benefits that the others would offer.

Peter: So, the first party titles become paramount as system sellers. Basically we’ve come to the conclusion that Sony was right all those months ago.

Kris: First party have, to me, always been the primary sellers. I mean going back Sonic and Mario were the original system sellers really. I’d say that the last gen or two, where third party title have taken on added significance, are anomalies more than anything else. We’re currently seeing the move back to focus on first party titles, the way it should be really.

Peter: Both platform holders seem to realise it now with third party exclusives becoming almost non-existent. It seems to be only the fanboys that worry about exclusivity. Even the big DLC exclusive deals don’t seem to make a difference to multiplatform sales.

Kris: Sony’s lineup this year really is stellar. The only things that spring to mind for the 360 are Halo ODST (worst title ever) and Alan Wake, which may well turn into a Duke Nukem Forever if they don’t announce more information soon. On the other side Sony has White Knight Chronicles, MAG, inFamous, Heavy Rain and God of War 3.

Peter: Sony certainly have more first party titles set for release this year but does that mean they have used up all their development and next year will be barren while Microsoft have a glut of, as yet unannounced, projects coming to fruition?

Kris: Unless Microsoft have held a huge amount of stuff back for E3, a really unprecedented move, they may well be left scrambling for content to support the console over the next year. However, as you state, Sony may have the same issue next year. I guess Heavy Rain may be next year, and I can see MAG getting bumped back. Apart from that they’re in the same position as Microsoft are this year really. I’m interested to see what Microsoft have got hidden back for this year’s E3. I mean as a new 360 owner what would you like to see coming out of the show this year?

Peter: I’ve been enjoying Fable 2 and Mass Effect. I think there could be some news on Mass Effect 2 but that may be multiplatform. I’d also like to see another iteration of Project Gotham announced, something to push Gran Turismo and compete over something other than the “action RPG” genre that Microsoft seems so keen to monopolise. I hope Microsoft have held back some big announcements for E3 otherwise my new investment might be nothing but a big blow-heater for the next twelve months. It is likely that Sony are also holding some stuff back, another Sony E3 like last year would be a disaster. What exclusives do you think the 360 has that don’t have a comparable PS3 title?

Kris: In terms of non-comparable titles there’s nothing that compares to Fable or Mass Effect. Halo 3, to an extent, stands out by itself. I can’t think of any comparable arcade shooters off the top of my head. I know that the Killzone series is frequently put up as a ‘Halo Killer’ but I just don’t agree with that. Going the other way what on the PS3 doesn’t have a 360 version? Obviously Lair, Warhawk and LBP spring to mind immediately.

Peter: I think that you have to compare Halo and Killzone, they have subtle differences but on the whole they are very similar in terms of genre. I think Banjo Kazooie Nuts and Bolts has elements of creation that LittleBigPlanet does on an obviously much grander scale and Fallout 3 has elements that can be found in Fable and Mass Effect. This probably just indicates that no matter how good an exclusive is it will migrate elements to the other platform in time.

Kris: I don’t know that you can really compare Killzone 2 and Halo 3, although I’ll agree there is some crossover. And if we’re talking exclusives then talking about Fallout 3 just doesn’t work, although it certainly does have similar elements. But of course we are going to see at least some styles and concepts migrate from platform to platform and from developer to developer. It’s the way the industry evolves, although I think you’ll rarely see a direct clone. That’s why with the top tier titles there often isn’t anything that’s a direct link from one to the other, but more an extension of the concepts laid down in one game moving to a new title.

Peter: I would suggest that Lips and Scene It are dangerously close to being direct rip-offs of Singstar and Buzz! but I suppose there is only so much variation you can have with that kind of title and maybe that’s a discussion for another time, along with the digitally distributed stuff we didn’t get a chance to talk about. I think this is a discussion that could go on forever so let’s throw it open to the readers and see what they think.

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