January hasn't kicked off well for Microsoft. The company just canceled one of its exclusives, Scalebound. We learned it missed out on what looked like an awesome Mega Bloks Halo Xbox 360 game. And despite still being on the company's 2017 release list, Crackdown 3 is missing in action. The Xbox One is in dire need of exclusives. Or, is it? Do consoles and handhelds really need a vast array of exclusives to survive?
It's a complicated question. One for which there isn't a definitive answer. The closest thing you can say is that it depends. There are instances where exclusives are critical to keeping interest, ones where they aren't going to make or break a system, and ones where even exclusives aren't going to save a system. And, thanks to the current console field, we've been able to see all three possibilities in action.
With systems like the 3DS, PlayStation 4, and even Vita, the answer is yes. Exclusives tend to be their lifeblood. All three are options that keep on keeping on because of the exclusive games they manage to get. The PlayStation 4 is a solid example of first- and third-party exclusives done right, as one game after another rolled out. Last year alone, we saw The Last Guardian, Uncharted 4, Ratchet & Clank, Street Fighter V, Gravity Rush Remastered, Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, Megadimension Neptunia VII, The Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival Edition, Nights of Azure, The King of Fighters XIV, Bound, and The Tomorrow Children. With the 3DS, we have a healthy mix of first and third-party exclusives, like Pokemon Sun and Moon, Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, Fire Emblem Fates, Kirby Planet Robobot, and Monster Hunter Generations. With the Vita, it's third-party games like The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II, Stranger of Sword City, and Ray Gigant making a difference.
But with a system like the Xbox One, you could probably get away with saying no. There are just over 30 exclusive games for the system (not the Xbox One and PC, but only Microsoft's console). Though, in general, it wasn't a good year for Xbox One showpieces.Only Quantum Break, Dead Rising 4, Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3, and ReCore really appeared last year. Yet, the Xbox One is still doing really well. There were instances in the past few years where it was outselling the PlayStation 4, even though it didn't have the same steady stream of exclusives. That's saying something.
Especially since we have a prime example of exclusives not being able to keep a system going. I'm speaking, of course, about the Wii U. Nintendo put some great games on the system. We had Super Mario 3D World, Super Smash Bros., Splatoon, Pikmin 3, Mario Kart 8, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Super Mario Maker, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, Bayonetta 2, Nintendo Land, and this list is probably getting a bit long. The point is, even though it had some of the best first party games this generation and, for a time, some pretty good third party titles, it swiftly sank in terms of sales.
Exclusives can be important. They can really help a system's popularity. But they aren't always as critical as we can make them out to be. The Xbox One has done rather well without them. And certainly, amazing first party games didn't help save a floundering Wii U. We have to look at a library as a whole, rather than focusing in on a few select games.