The word "exclusive" has been a major buzzword since the NES days. Nintendo was famous for its draconian dealings with third-party publishers (and as a result, once Sony became a viable competitor, history was made). In the past, systems sell in the millions on the basis of one game. Every console manufacturer had theirs. For Sega, it was Sonic (and Phantasy Star, and Shinobi, and so on). Nintendo obviously has its moustachioed siblings, or Donkey Kong or Zelda. Microsoft has the towering Master Chief. Sony... well, like most early practices in gaming, they broke the rules. Sony tried to have a mascot, but never really had one that became a true identity of its PlayStation platform. Crash crashed, neither Sly nor Daxter nor Ratchet really caught on as a true mascot.
However, what Sony did do was change what it meant to be exclusive. For the first time, third-party titles became important exclusives. The first example, of course, was Final Fantasy VII, which made the PS1 an instant hit. Even more pervasive, though, was the Grand Theft Auto series, which single-handedly sold millions upon millions of units.
But the times, they are a-changin’. Third-party titles are costing more money than ever before, and to put a game out on a single system is now no longer a viable option. The writing was on the wall with Resident Evil 4 on the Gamecube (a supposed exclusive to the system, until higher-ups at Capcom decided to port it to PS2 to increase revenue). Now, we’re seeing all sorts of third-party titles cross-germinating from one system to another. Assassin’s Creed or Virtua Fighter 5 are both former-PS3 exclusives coming to the Xbox 360. There are rumors flying about Tekken 6 migrating to Microsoft. The bottom line: few “exclusives” are exclusive anymore.
And I couldn’t be happier.
With my Xbox 360 having cost me $575 CAD after taxes at launch, I can’t easily afford to be a multi-console household. The idea of having to spend well over $800 to buy a PS3 with a game is mind-boggling, and I can’t remotely justify something like that. As such, I’m looking at the number of games I’m unable to play on my next-console of choice, but that list seems to be shrinking. The migration, of course, goes both ways, with Oblivion being released for the PS3 and rumors of Bioshock making an appearance on the system swirling right along with the Tekken ones.
The loss of exclusives sucks for console manufacturers, but is a great boon for gamers. No longer are we required to shell out money for a single game when, chances are, it will come to our system of choice—sooner these days rather than later. (The only exception to this rule, of course, is the Wii. But seeing as this was part of Nintendo’s business plan, the whole point is rather moot. Maybe that’s why the system is selling as quickly as it has, since every motion title is exclusive in its own unique way.)
Of course there are the first-party titles. That’s about the only reason to have one console over another. But, looking through my library—and throughout gaming history—it’s the third parties that make or break a system. The death of the home console exclusive cannot come quickly enough for me, as I relish the thought of gamers everywhere being able to enjoy great games without having to break the bank.