Rise Of The Tomb Raider Xbox Exclusivity: 4 Good and Ugly Consequences Square Enix Faced From The Deal
At Gamescom 2014, Microsoft shocked the world announcing Rise of the Tomb Raider would have been a Xbox exclusive. The game has just released for Xbox 360 and Xbox One, a couple of years after that announcement which has been so divisive among the critics and the fans, so it seems a good time to get back to that discussion and look at if it was worth all the words spent so far. Being an exclusive game has a lot of pros, starting with the high degree of support coming from the platform holder you are working exclusively for and also considering the support you are going to get from that platform fanboys.
But it also has cons, meaning that releasing just on one or two consoles is way less remunerative than launching a multiplatform game at all. Let's take a look at all the reasons why launching an exclusive game could be a good or bad thing, then, and what this has meant for Rise of the Tomb Raider so far.
As we said a few lines ago, sales are the first thing which is going to be harmed, at least in the short term, when you release an exclusive game. Multiplatform titles are obviously more successful or, at least, have more chances to be successful rather than an exclusive, if you just look at the installed base.
Although Brian Horton has recently defended the deal between Microsoft and Square Enix saying they're happy the way the title performed, it's clear this had an impact on Rise of the Tomb Raider sales, too. While we don't have official data from both the publisher nor the platform holder, we know the game ended up being fourth in its launch week in the United Kingdom, staying behind Fallout 4 (was it a good decision to release the same week the latest Bethesda RPG did?), Call of Duty Black Ops III and FIFA 16.
To tell the truth, sales had been unsatisfying with the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot as well, so it made sense for Square Enix to go out and find a partner which could have given the sequel the mediatic attention it desperately needed. At least the same way Microsoft needed a third person action adventure to respond Uncharted 4: A Thief's End that ended up being delayed to 2016.
So, while we don't know whether Rise of the Tomb Raider looks better than it would have done in case it released as a multiplatform game, it surely took advantage from being an exclusive: Xbox fans have elected the young Lara Croft as a new gaming icon and have showed an unprecedented degree of interest for both the genre and the saga.
LOT OF FANS LEFT BEHIND -
If you think about it, "exclusivity" is a really bad word, since it "excludes", leave someone out of something, which is never a positive thing and it isn't especially talking about video games. So, we wouldn't ever enjoy an exclusivity deal, moreover when it isn't about a title coming from a first party development team but from an external partner such as Square Enix, Eidos Montreal and Crystal Dynamics.
Tomb Raider has always been a PlayStation franchise and releasing the sequel to 2013's reboot only on Xbox has meant two things: 1) leaving a lot of true Tomb Raider fans, those who have played the original games on PSOne, literally behind in the wait they can get the new chapter on PS4 or PC; 2) giving such a big brand to Xbox fans who don't care very much about it. An exclusivity deal with Sony would have been more coherent with Tomb Raider's history, but Uncharted 4 is just around the corner, you know.
CONSOLE WAR BOOST +
Console war boost is still something mediatic we have already discussed a few lines ago, but it's also a chapter that deserves its own explanation. Think about it: Microsoft and Square Enix almost agreed to launch it out in the most crowded gaming season, knowing it wouldn't have performed as it could have done early next year, just because of the console war. Just to say, "Xbox has the best Holiday lineup ever".
It has been something promotional, a matter of marketing, more than an exhibition of the will to provide gamers with the best exclusive games around and make them feel more comfortable while buying one console rather than another. We don't know how much Xbox fans will really care about Rise of the Tomb Raider (sales data are pretty clear but, again, we don't know) and it's still unclear if there is someone out there who will decide to buy an Xbox One just because that game, and not Halo 5: Guardians or Forza Motorsport 6, is available only on Microsoft's platform.
What's clear is that Rise of the Tomb Raider releasing exclusively on Xbox One and Xbox 360 has been a great thing for Xbox in the months and years preceding the day one. After that, it has almost become something both Square Enix and Microsoft (Square Enix in particular) want to forget and underline that's temporary, that's something which is going to change in 2016. Exclusivity deals have pros and cons but, ultimately, we see more cons in this case and who knows Microsoft is going to slightly change its approach with external partnership looking at how this deal performed and how Sony is handling its cooperation with third parties.