Features// Third Party Exclusives Are Dead - Discuss

Posted 25 Jun 2008 15:12 by
I was recently given two games to review that are new platform releases of previously platform-exclusive titles. Since I reviewed them both last time, the Evil Editor suggested I may like to take a look at the new versions. It seems to happen quite a lot these days, Blazing Angels and Lost Planet had similarly staggered releases; we'll be seeing a PlayStation 3 release of Bioshock before Christmas and even "last generation" Grand Theft Auto titles were released on Xbox some time after their original PlayStation 2 releases.

The games that were plonked down in front of me recently were Overlord: Raising Hell on the PS3 (originally only on the Xbox 360) and the Wii version of Okami, previously only available for the PS2 (my review here).

This got me thinking, were Codemasters and Capcom just waiting for the user-base of the new platforms to reach a point where it was worth releasing the ported games? Or were they taking the time to produce quality ports to new hardware, taking advantage of the extra features provided. Or, indeed, were we seeing more evidence pointing towards the supposed end of the third-party exclusive?

With Overlord, at least, it seems likely that Codemasters were waiting for the PS3's user-base to grow to a suitable size. The PS3 version of the game includes the Raising Hell expansion pack as standard - this pack has been available on the 360 as downloadable content (DLC) since November 2007 with the original game coming out in June of the same year. However, there seems to have been little else done to the game engine. The issues I had with the 360 version of the game are still present on the PS3.

Okami, on the other hand, was surely destined for the Wii from its conception, even if developers Clover Studios didn't know about the console at the time. The game mechanic of the celestial brush seems such a fantastic fit with the Wii remote's pointer mode that you have to wonder why it took Capcom until now to get the game into Wii owners' hands. One reason, according to Internet scuttlebutt, is that due to the disbanding of Clover Studios, Capcom and new developers Ready at Dawn had some trouble locating assets for the original Okami and also had to re-code a sizable portion of the game.

Both of these games, for their own reasons have had very wide intervals between their releases, over a year for Overlord and nearly two for Okami based on the Japanese release dates. However, neither added very much over the original releases. A changed control mechanic and some pre-bundled DLC aren't exactly going to set the world alight.

Much of the delay for both games could be put down to the porting process its self. A game developed with a single platform in mind is written very differently to one intended for multiple consoles from the start.

So, what are third-party platform-exclusive games (TPPEGs) all about? Why do seemingly intelligent developers and publishers nail their colours to the mast of a single console? What do the platform holders get out of them? Why do their days seem to be numbered? And most importantly; what do gamers get out of these games and what do we lose out on?
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Comments

David Armstrong 25 Jun 2008 16:13
1/10
Great article Gavin, when I was poorer I used to be so infuriated by platform exclusives, especially when all my favourite Dreamcast franchises (not to mention Rare, but that's a different issue) went to Xbox. As I now am able to afford two consoles (guess which one I can't) I find them less annoying and more enjoyable to switch between consoles.

I'm now going to bring up MGS4 (frankly, I'm surprised you didn't). For such a big franchise, this game is clearly suffering from a smaller audience (just looks at the rate sales are dropping), but Kojima really wanted to create a piece of art, he wants people to remember the game in it's true form. I'd love for MGS4 to come out on 360, I prefer the controller and I have the console, but if I had a PS3, and it was available for both I don't know what I'd do. Should 5 go for the truer form of the game or the game on a console I'm more familiar with.

I think the memorability of a game is limited by being multi-platform, it means it won't have the impact when we look back in 5 or 10 years and think it was just another multiplatform release. However, it is also true that a game will be forgotten if it comes out on a single console and not enough people play it for it to become popular. It is then more likely to gain a 'cult' following.

In contradiction to my last statement look at the example of Beyond Good and Evil, that was a critically acclaimed multiplatform release, but sales were limited because people saw it and it hadn't been pushed by one of the big 3 as the 'next big thing'. Backing from a manufacturer is incredibly important to sales, but maybe not how we remember a game.

The other problem is the strength of the first party (and second party) games. Nintendo has an incredibly strong first party offering, Microsoft has the buying power for lots of second party exclusives and Sony tended to rely on third party for the big exclusives, at least in the last generation. Software wise, Microsofts software strategy of second party games seems to be paying off for now as both the Wii and PS3 search for more third party exclusives. Although, the first party strategy does seem to be strongest for pushing hardware sales.

I think in an ideal world we'd all have all 3 consoles and developers would develop for the console their game most suits, that way we could expects games standards to increase in general. Where it's suitable I think it's great to have multiplatform games so that the consumer can pick their console. As it stands I expect to see more sharing between 360 and PS3 (which can only help the cheaper console) and some more exclusives on Wii. After all, porting up graphics is no easy job. If all games were multiplatform it might be great for consumers, but the little fanboy in me, and indeed inside most of us, would be crying.
Joji 25 Jun 2008 16:29
2/10
These kinds of releases are becoming the norm, but nothing I don't expect from the games industry, which is very good at adjusting to any changing climate.

Indeed, it makes a lot more sense to push certain games out on 360 before PS3, and is not a matter of favouritism as some fanboys might think, but simply basic economics. Which system gets the game later, can only stand to benefit from the development of the former and the extras of the latter.

Its for this reason that I thought PS3 would not do so well, because Sony were relying on the old model of exclusives such as MGS4 and FFXIII in order to sell PS3, when I had seen this change in the market, but Sony failed to see or acknowledge it, IMO. Placing such old exclusives next to the fresh new content of 360, was always going to be hard sell.

With MGS4 now on sale, it will obviously do well for Konami and PS3, but Konami as a developer have very little on the table to entice beyond that (and Pro Evo). While Konami have remained tight lipped, when asked about a possible 360 cut of MGS4, all signs point to this as a high probability, after all, MGS is a hugely popular series and MGS2 did grace the original Xbox. MGS3 could have just as easily followed on 360, but didn't (I still don't know why this was so). There's no reason why Konami couldn't release a MGS Collection like the PS2 version, onto 360, and then sell the new MGS4 on top of that, on double sided dvd or something. There's also been whispers of MGS1 gracing Xbox Live Arcade, which, considering the size of MGS1, is a high possibility.

Like you said before, the tech is similar on PS2/Xbox and PS3/360, so they'd stand to lose less by doing so. Having all four games on one system will surely entice many to buy.

Releasing games, multiformat, at the same time can also work well. What's clear is that this way, the timed exclusive gives more flexibility, while juggling various IP in the pipe. They'll be here until some other better way is found. All in all, us gamers stand to benefit either way (especially those with all formats.

Good article, Spong.
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Kyle 25 Jun 2008 16:48
3/10
You are both wrong.

Firstly Sony seems to be relying on their First party (and they ahve the largest First Party) to create their games. They are by no means relying on 3rd party for exclusives. If anythign it's 3rd party that is the least likely to Sony. David Armstrong, I do not know what rock you ahve been hiding under for the past decade, but it's time to come out and sample real life.

And Joji, I think you are wrong too, becuase it seems to be Sony who aren't dragging out Franchises (unless Third Party such as MGS4 and FFXIII so they ahve no input), and infact replacing the last generations cults with new ones. Notice how they didn't even try to get GTA4, and lucky too, becuase it wasn't a sytem seller.

MGS4 on the other hand has helped sell tons of PS3's, and there is VERY little chnace of it comign to the 360 becuase it's such a console-centric game. So many things relate to it being on a PS3, and there is tons of in-game advertisements, that have a direct effect on the gameplay (Apple and Sony) that Microsoft would dringe at seeing on their platform, it's just not going to happen.
David Armstrong 25 Jun 2008 17:51
4/10
Sorry, but I don't agree. While Sony do have a number of IP's owned, many of these are not strictly first party and others are not exactly big hitters. It's also decreasing, after all they just lost the F1 licence. Think back to the traditional Playstation franchises. Crash Bandicoot, GTA, Spyro and MGS to name a few. All of these a third party and many have become multiplatform (interestingly part of Crash and Spyro's demise along with the fall of the platformer). I'll admit there are also many titles like Grand Turismo, Genji, God of War, Buzz!, Wipeout, etc. but, while many of these are good, popular, games, none of theme are the huge, console selling releases that we see from Nintendo's first party franchises. Nintendo is very much the first party platform holder, as it milks its IPs for all they're worth. The PSP and PS3 have both seemed heavily first party at points as they have struggled to gain quality third party exclusives, not because there are more great first party games. Note that, naturally, my list doesn't contain every PS game ever, but I think it's a good general sample of the games.

As long as my rock has a TV, a GameCube and a broadband connection I'll be OK.
Makidian 25 Jun 2008 18:17
5/10
David Armstrong wrote:
Sorry, but I don't agree. While Sony do have a number of IP's owned, many of these are not strictly first party and others are not exactly big hitters. It's also decreasing, after all they just lost the F1 licence. Think back to the traditional Playstation franchises. Crash Bandicoot, GTA, Spyro and MGS to name a few. All of these a third party and many have become multiplatform (interestingly part of Crash and Spyro's demise along with the fall of the platformer). I'll admit there are also many titles like Grand Turismo, Genji, God of War, Buzz!, Wipeout, etc. but, while many of these are good, popular, games, none of theme are the huge, console selling releases that we see from Nintendo's first party franchises. Nintendo is very much the first party platform holder, as it milks its IPs for all they're worth. The PSP and PS3 have both seemed heavily first party at points as they have struggled to gain quality third party exclusives, not because there are more great first party games. Note that, naturally, my list doesn't contain every PS game ever, but I think it's a good general sample of the games.

As long as my rock has a TV, a GameCube and a broadband connection I'll be OK.


You are joking right!? Lost the F1 license, try chose not to renew it, they weren't in a bidding war and since the new Ferrari game is looking sharp it will likely be the replacement for F1. Spyro and Crash really, what are you twelve, those games are old and lost all of their luster after Naughty Dog and Insomniac stopped working on them and for good reason because we got Jak and Ratchet instead which are far better franchises, and now Uncharted and Resistance have been added which sweetens the pot. Genji is garbage, and Buzz is still pretty new. Singstar and Gran Turismo have sold plenty of systems and software though mostly in Europe. Your list is retarded and a poor choice of the available games especially new. Sony's first and second party games are aces, while Nintendo relies on the same tired franchises, don't get me wrong I love Mario and Zelda but how many damn ways and situations can you possibly play Mario in before getting tired of it? MGS4 will not appear on the 360, not only is it not possible, it just wouldn't fit, and Konami has never been 'tight lipped' they flat out said no, a long time ago, and since its selling loads of software and consoles I don't think they need convincing to keep it on the PS3. And they obviously aren't relying on FFXIII to sell consoles since it isn't even out or on the horizon and it's still outselling the 360 in every single territory. Have fun with your Gamecube though, DDR Mario is fun.
Simon 25 Jun 2008 18:40
6/10
Kyle wrote:
Notice how [Sony]didn't even try to get GTA4, and lucky too, becuase it wasn't a sytem seller.

Could that be because it was released on both next-gen systems?

Platform-exclusive titles sell systems precisely because they're platform exclusive. They add the lustre to a hunk of plastic that pushes some people over the edge. When that title is on multiple systems those people might just continue teetering on the buying precipice, not sure which way to go - or even to bother at all. I did just that with Burnout. now that I *do* have a PS3, I still haven't got the game.
David Armstrong 25 Jun 2008 18:56
7/10
Sorry Kyle, you're right those examples are from the fifth generation so I'll give some more sixth generation examples of third party games: Kingdom Hearts, Okami, Devil May Cry, Resident Evil and Guitar Hero. Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are two good first party games that I forgot. I like that Sony are constantly making new franchises, rather than milking the same ones, which as I implied, Nintendo do too much. You can't say that Nintendo aren't making new franchises at the same time though. Disaster: DoC is a good example and don't forget all the new 'casual' game franchises they've made. Nintendo both keep nostalgia and innovation flowing, you shouldn't forget that. But let's not be so console specific, this discussion is about TPPEGs, after all.

I may be a mentally handicapped twelve-year-old, but as long as my rock has a TV, a GameCube and a broadband connection I'll be OK.
TigerUppercut 25 Jun 2008 18:58
8/10
The lack of a single, dominant platform has moved the goalposts somewhat. The PlayStation was so massively dominant in versions 1 and 2 that it could swagger around with the lion's share of top-end exclusives while other machines could make try and scrape together what they could.

The article (very nice btw) alludes to cross-development between platforms being problematic - or at least not as pleasant a development experience as concentrating on a single machine. This just needs time to come together - advances in middleware and true development talent to innovate using the tools they have. It's dead early in the current-gen's lifecycle right now, and cross-platform development, or porting of code from one machine to another, will get easier.

Last gen had some true stand-out cross-platform titles, with TimeSplitters 2 leading the way in my opinion. Then the work Capcom did on Resi4 - even if they canned the Xbox version for whatever reason. At this time, there will be natural disparities in quality between one system and another - but this should fade.

And who benefits from platform-exclusives anyway? Fanboys arguing about which system has the most of them. I say spread the love!
Joji 26 Jun 2008 12:10
9/10
This is a good topic, good response too.

To Kyle and Maki, we don't want to get all fanboy with this. Try to keep the target in sight and remain objective and argue your point well. It is up to you anyway.

How the hell do you know MGS4 won't come out on 360 eventually? You don't and neither do I, but seeing how Konami like any company out there like money, its highly likely they find a way. MGS4 can't fit you might say but that's bilge. Have you never heard of double sided DVDs, or even a 360 game using more than one DVD? Take a look at Lost Odyssey, a superb game, spread over 4 DVDs.

Did anyone really care that Lost Odyssey was on four DVDs? The answer is no, because as gamers we are used to disc swapping and to be honest it only takes seconds to do. Lost Odyssey is still a superb game without Blu Ray, so don't count your chicken on MGS4 so soon.

Remember, even RE4 came out on GC, but then spread to other formats (a very smart move by Capcom too). Like I said before Konami did MGS2 on Xbox, and while a long time ago. Seeing as Pro Evo also does well on 360, and Live is well established too, 360 would also benefit from MGS4 and MGS Online.

Sure Blu Ray is larger, but in this town money talks louder than fanboys.

With regards to Sony's recent PS3 pushing games, there's little that convinces me to buy a PS3. Uncharted, Resistance, Heavenly Sword etc, nice games in theory but there's a certain x factor that's void from this product, compared to what I see on 360 (sorry to say this, and it might sound somewhat biased while not intended to be, but its true from my perspective). The Only games so far that have enticed PS3 to me are Valkyrie of the Battlefield and The Agency, that's two games.

Nintendo are in a unique position right now. They are obviously masters of overusing their established IP, but its very hard not to bite, when some of these games are so damn fun to play. They are creating new IP on WIi and DS, but not the kind of stuff they used to, that really makes me sit up and say 'god damn, I want that'. The last time I felt tlike this was when Star Fox hit the SNES, and when Blast Corps and N64. I guess this is because Nintendo always needed more action IP with characters and story, and to this day there is very little still (With the exception of Fire Emblem, Advance Wars, Pokemon etc, if you can count them, but these are hardly ground breaking in story and characters wise, like what third parties provide). This is one of the things that concerns me now with Nintendo, as they seem to not want to create any exciting and new these days, with those things in mind.



ozfunghi 18 Jul 2008 17:22
10/10
Nintendo doesn't overuse their franchises. They may overuse their mascottes, but not their franchises. One Mario Kart, one Mario, one or two Zelda's, one F-Zero, one Animal Crossing... per platform, that's hardly overusing them. They just tend to be a lot better than competitors franchises and they know their own games like no one else, which is why their franchises are up to 30 years old and still kicking ass. I do agree however, that they shouldn't overuse their mascotte(s) like they do.

As for the problem with them creating deep games: this is the best part for 3rd party developers, who until now STILL don't understand Nintendo, their platforms or their audiences (take Ubisoft as an example). They try to copycat Nintendo but ofcourse fail miserably, because nobody makes as good "Nintendo games" as Nintendo. In the meanwhile the Wii market is WIDE OPEN for these deeper/harcore/mature games. Games like Resident Evil, The Conduit, Dead Rising, Eternal Darkness (made by an at that time 2nd party), Splinter Cell, Metal Gear Solid... because there is no competition. But instead, they try to take on Nintendo one on one, and then claim the Nintendo crowd only plays Nintendo games. Sure, not all those games did great on Gamecube, but GCN also got the worst ports and had the smallest installed userbase. Things could be different this time around, but 3rd parties need to understand and stop releasing crappy ports.
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