Titanfall, developed by Respawn Entertainment, is a game crafted by a co-creator of Modern Warfare, funded by the publisher behind Battlefield, and rife with soldiers and giant robots. While the game is multiplayer only, it will feature plot, player chatter, and NPCs in its matches. Having already received over 60 awards at E3, 2013, the game is quickly moving beyond the need for introduction, as I’m sure anyone who would be on the Internet perusing video game websites has some cursory knowledge of the title. A game with such gravitas would certainly make for a pretty compelling exclusive, wouldn’t it? Perhaps this is why Microsoft has obtained exclusive rights for the console launch of the game. It’s definitely good console-war fuel, but how long will Titanfall remain an exclusive to be championed by Microsoft loyalists everywhere?
From Respawn’s perspective, timed exclusivity may be the safest option.
Joel Emslie, Respawn’s lead artist, who followed Vince Zampella and Jason West out of Activision after the pair was famously fired, insists that the team does want a large range of players to have the game accessible to them, but the situation is tricky. Respawn is a new developer making a game for a new generation, after all. The decision to make Titanfall exclusive to Microsoft’s consoles seems to be one made purely in the interest of reliability and a customer-friendly launch.
” When you boil it down, we would love to be everywhere, but we're just starting out," Emslie explained. "It comes down to quality, not quantity. We have a fantastic relationship with Microsoft. It just boiled down to, okay, how can we hit this as hard as [we] can and get it on as many platforms as possible and deliver the quality, the 60 hertz, out of the gate? That was the goal.”
And besides the relationship with Microsoft, one would be hard pressed to deny Xbox’s impressive infrastructure. The 300,000 dedicated servers that are pulled from Microsoft’s powerful Azure network boasts the ability to drastically improve online play. (You can check out my opinion on the Azure network here.) If you can circumvent peer-to-peer hosting for a game that is multiplayer only, why wouldn’t you? It’s the only way to ensure an enjoyable experience and positive word of mouth.
With Sony slowly improving its infrastructure, most notably its ability to stream high-definition PS3 games via Gaikai, the ability to eventually support Titanfall in a way that the developers will feel comfortable with is by no means infeasible.
While quality control accounts for part of the decision, the business-minded Electronic Arts has to worry about its investors. EA recently defended its choice in an investment call reported by CVG.
“Strategically we’re going to be multiplatform, platform agnostic, and our history shows we go where the audience is and so we will do that,” said Frank Gibeau, EA Labels boss. “However, there are tactical opportunities from time to time on a title or on a service component that we do enter into a relationship with one or two of the first parties on that particular opportunity and we’ll execute on it.”
So the long and short of it is simple; if it makes financial sense, it’ll happen. But has it already been deemed financially sensible? A particularly curious edit in a GameInformer feature raises some questions. In the video, which focuses on the history of Respawn, a vertically standing developer’s kit is blurred out. Upon further inspection, a perceptive viewer will notice that the controller lying near the kit is that of a PS3. Why the secrecy?
Naturally, we can only speculate.
Regardless of what systems it ends up on, Titanfall is poised to be a big hit that is sure to get a lot of chatter. If that happens, PS4 is definitely an option EA will have to consider. And even if Titanfall never sees the light of day on Sony’s next-gen console, a successful IP typically yields sequels, and sequels are just another opportunity to go multiplatform. So if Titanfall releases exclusively for the Xbox One, and you had no plans to purchase the system, and you really want the game, maybe hold off a bit before deciding to drop that kind of money to play one title.