Scourge to the Playstation fanboy and Microsoft Financial Controller alike, the recent spate of exclusives going Multiplatform is showing no signs of slowing.
Trudging out the "Multiplatform Can Only Be Good For Consumers(tm)" line is the standard rebuttal to the cries and broken hearts of the Chadwardenn
crowd. I mean, we all love our GTAs and our Devils that May Be Cryings
, so it would be silly to limit these pieces of entertainment-but-not-art
to one console, right?
Ok, there are the obvious benefits with titles going multiplatform - you get to play the games you want without buying a new system - but there are a few important drawbacks.
The main one I can see is that exclusives lead to the creation of new franchises. When, back in the day, the GTA titles were released as a timed exclusive on the Playstation 2, THQ saw an opening to make some cash in the wake of the inevitable sequel on next gen platforms, and released the somewhat well received
Saint's Row on the 360.
Ok, it was a complete and blatant ripoff of San Andreas, but I enjoyed the game as much as the next bloke, and it DID introduce some great features that will have a chance of being introduced into GTA4 - mission GPS system, improved controls, greater customisation options, etc.
So, by the simple mechanic of a timed exclusive, we have an increased feature set that games in the genre cannot help but notice.
Can we say for certain that GTA4 would be as fully featured as it will probably be without the influence of its knockoffs and competitors?
Saint's Row is a pretty average title, I grant you, but it was a good example to ease you into the concept.
Microsoft hold almost all the cards right now - they have a big bank of exclusives, with most of the Playstation mainstays jumping ship to go multiplatform. But, as we saw from E3, Playstation have a slew of exclusives coming - Folklore, with its similarity to Fable, Killzone 2 - Playstations answer to Halo, amongst others.
It's too early to say for certain, but there is a good chance these games will be more than adequate, and will introduce concepts and ideas that will encourage the development of better gameplay experiences across ALL platforms.
Where would Sonic be if Mario was a multiplatform title?
Or would Silicon Knights put so much emphasis on getting Too Human out the door if God of War wasn't an exclusive?
The nikkei has shown steady growth in recent years
Exclusives are not just good for the creation of new franchises, they are good for exploiting the particular features of each console.
Take multiplayer gaming, for example. One would expect, that when the PS3 finally finds its feet, titles released multiplatform will incorporate online play. Now, matchmaking has it's problems, but I would rather have a multiplayer matchmaking system like Halo 2 & 3 offers, over the "pick the host with the best ping" system of old. Given that Playstation Network doesn't support a similar system (I could be wrong?), there is no incentive for developers to adopt the matchmaking functionality of XBL for their multiplatform games.
This also carries over to extra content. The different pricing structures and installed user base of the PSN and XBL will lead to headaches when it comes to releasing extra levels, new skins, or even teh Horse Armorz
. There is less of an incentive to release extra content if only less than half of the userbase will even have the inclination to purchase it.
Of course, this also works the other way. Think of all the PSP/PS3 integration possibilities that may be missed out on because a title is multiplatform? Or the common argument from the Sony fanboys, what about all the content that was not added because it may not fit on the Xbox360's standard DVD? Some developers will take advantage of the extra room to release additional content ("The Darkness" on PS3 contains additional movies for the in-game TVs), but these additions are generally token and will become less likely as economies of scale take over.
At the end of the day, exclusives are a reason to get one console over another, which in turn spawns new franchises and features. Using the first example, would THQ have made Saint's Row if GTA was confirmed for the 360 from day 1? Maybe, maybe not, but you can see how having a killer app on one system drives someone else to beat it on its competitor. From all reports, Killzone 1 was pretty average, but Killzone 2 is shaping up to be a winner.
All i'm saying, is that next time the Triple loses an exclusive, or the Wii gets a watered down port of an FPS available on another system, think about it.
Standard Disclaimer - I'm not a rabid console tech guru, I am just an average gamer that has a job, a life, etc. If I am wrong about any of the technical features or aspects of the PSN or XBL, I can only plead ignorance, so deal with it, you will just have to cope. read