Launch Retail Exclusives: Minor Role
If you have been on N4G for more than five minutes you would realise there is a constant war that has been brewing since the dawn of time. This war has really amplified with the release of two new systems coming sometime in November. I keep seeing N4G users and gaming journalists compare the PS4 launch titles with the Xbox One launch titles and which one you should get. Except this comparison has one fundamental flaw. It ignores the third party (non-exclusive) games.
I am an advocate for exclusives selling systems. We usually see articles about how the days of the exclusive games are over because of the rise of Call of Duty and other such third party games, which has never made any real sense to me. For example you buy X system over another because X has, in your eyes, better exclusive games or content.
But at launch things are vastly different as exclusives retail games are usually in the minority. Each exclusive retail game isn’t just competing against their equal on the other side of the fence. They are also competing with the third party game. For example Ryse/Dead Island/Forza isn’t just competing with Killzone/Knack/Drive Club. Each game is competing against Ghosts, Battlefield 4, Black Flag……. What I have noticed is that users and journalists compare (for argument sake) Dead Island and Knack or Killzone and Ryse and use that comparison as a reason why you should go for X system over Y. That isn’t entirely a true comparison as you should add the third party element into that comparison
Launch systems are not cheap. The PS4, here in the UK, cost £349 which then goes up to £400 with a game. The Xbox One is even more expensive with it costing £429 (comes with FIFA for the pre-order bundle) or another game for over £470. This is not cheap and this cost affects game sales across the board. There isn’t going to be a huge amount of people are able or want to buy more than one game at launch. Games are not cheap. The big three know this and are showing their understanding by their big push for indie developers. Indie games are relatively cheap and can be very important for a launch. When you have completed or bored of X game which you just shelled out £400+ just so you can play it right now, another game at £50 seems/and is a bit steep. Indie developers (and to an extent F2P) provide an alternative option to a consumer that is less taxing to their wallets. Yet I rarely see this indie impact being discussed here on N4G. Sony’s indie focused conference, at Gamescom, was often poo-poohed and seen as a weakness, yet it should be seen as a strength. They gave a reason to people to choose a PS4 version over an Xbox One version of a third party game. They were basically saying you can by X game from Y company but buy our version as you can also buy Z games without feeling the pinch.
It is annoying to see people compare two systems saying X has a better line up than Y when in fact that doesn’t really matter as the more anticipated games are third party (i.e. on both systems). What both Microsoft and Sony have done is create a small but broad range of titles just to fill in the gaps that are left by the third party. Knack is the more child friendly platform game, Forza is the more sim style racing game, Killzone is the sci-fi shooter and Ryse is the hack and slash. These games don’t appeal on a mass market scale (more of a case can be made for Killzone because it is an FPS). At the end of the day system buyers are more likely to get Battlefield, Call of Duty, Watchdog and Assassin’s Creed than any other first party game because these games have more mass market appeal.
So how do people choice a system/which version to buy when the exclusives are just filling the gaps? It is fundamentally down to a couple of things; cost, past history, value for money and services (which also is involved in value for money). The vast majority of people will look at these factors in deciding which version of a third party game to get. It isn’t really about what or how many retail exclusive are available at launch (that does come into a play but in a much smaller way than publications and users think). It boils down to value for money (both short and long term).
Thoughts are much appreciated.