Square Enix announced that the highly anticipated Final Fantasy VII Remake will be a PlayStation 4 exclusive until March 2021. To be honest, I’m surprised it’s not a PlayStation exclusive regardless, even though the publisher released Kingdom Hearts III on Xbox One when Kingdom Hearts console games were always previously PlayStation exclusives. At the same time, Final Fantasy VII originally released several console generations ago, so it makes sense to reopen the popular FF game for all gamers.
But then, Square Enix decided to make it a timed exclusive for a year. So while it will be multi-platform, right now it’s just a big tease for Xbox One owners. Timed exclusives aren’t new, especially when it comes to PlayStation 4 exclusivity at the outset. The original Destiny comes to my mind, as not only was it a timed exclusive for launch, each expansion also had timed releases. Even some of the updates were timed releases. The Xbox One owners of the game were rioting (figuratively), and I didn’t blame them. I worked for a PlayStation-only site at the time, and I was disgusted by the fanboys’ responses of “You should just buy it on PS4 instead,” or “Should have bought it on PS4, suckas!”
The original Destiny title never fully recovered its fanbase on the Xbox One, and both Activision and Bungie learned their lesson for Destiny 2. While Destiny wasn’t a failure due to the timed exclusivity by any means, it definitely left a bad taste in gamers’ mouths about timed exclusive games.
But there is one game that was hurt badly by timed exclusivity: Rise of the Tomb Raider. Microsoft secured exclusivity for the rebooted series’ second title for one year (the standard rate, apparently), which would have been a power move if the Xbox One was in as many homes as the PS4. Instead, it frustrated people, the game didn’t sell well due to the small console-base, and PS4-owners who were at one time interested in the title promptly forgot about it. Xbox One-owners weren’t able to forget that Destiny was a thing, because Activision and Bungie were constantly updating it.
Then, to make matters worse for Rise of the Tomb Raider, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, released a few months after ROTR exclusively released on Xbox One. Now no PS4-owners were missing ROTR, because they had the next best thing. Uncharted might have originally been picked on for being a Tomb Raider copycat, but with no Rise of the Tomb Raider in sight, all of that was promptly forgotten.
Fast forward a few months later when the game did finally release on PS4, not many cared. It drove me insane to see PlayStation fans putting down Rise of the Tomb Raider because it was a knock-off of Uncharted 4, never mind the fact ROTR released first, and Uncharted 4 was, in their words, better than Lara Croft’s new adventure.
Once again, Rise of the Tomb Raider didn’t sell well. It had two chances, and neither stuck. Microsoft didn’t even win out in the end for this exclusive, because the game was not a killer app that inspired people to invest in the Xbox One. The game company paid Square Enix high dollar for the exclusivity rights, only for it to not pan out as brilliantly as they hoped.
So who lost out in this exclusivity deal? Well, everyone did. Micosoft didn’t receive a return on their investment. Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics, while getting paid well by Microsoft, still missed a decent turnout in sales. Gamers weren’t happy, critics weren’t happy, and Rise of the Tomb Raider never really got a fair shake.
While timed exclusives may feed the fanboys’ fire in their petulant console wars, they hurt the industry overall. No one really wins in these scenarios in the end. I had thought we wouldn’t see any more timed exclusives, but apparently Square Enix is willing to take that risk once more.