helldivers 2 exclusivity
Image via Arrowhead Game Studios

Helldivers 2 proves that exclusivity is harmful to the industry, former PlayStation boss says

Is it time to spread Managed Democracy to all fronts?

The idea of platform exclusivity as a selling point has been feeling the heat of the limelight lately, and Helldivers 2 is slowly becoming the mascot of the discourse. A former PlayStation boss has chipped in on the discussion, saying the success of Helldivers 2 shows exclusivity is an “Achilles’ heel.”

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Former president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment America Shawn Layden had a bit to say on console exclusivity during an interview last week. Speaking with GamesBeat, Layden covered hot industry topics including AI, blockchain, and, of course, the current discord that is platform exclusivity.

“When your costs for a game exceed $200 million, exclusivity is your Achilles’ heel,” Layden said. “It reduces your addressable market. Particularly when you’re in the world of live service gaming or free-to-play.”

helldivers 2 exclusivity
Image via Arrowhead Games/Sony

Helldivers 2 is proof that platform exclusivity is an ‘Achilles’ heel’

Last month, Helldivers 2 launched on the PlayStation 5 and PC at the same time. It was met with unprecedented success, knocking out servers as its developer scrambled to support the hundreds of thousands of players lining up to smash bugs and bots with buds. It was PlayStation Studios’ first simultaneous launch and swiftly became its biggest game ever on Steam.

Those numbers didn’t pass by Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer unnoticed. In an interview for Game File in February, Spencer praised Helldivers 2 but also lamented its absence on Xbox.

“I will say, when I look at a game like Helldivers 2 — and it’s a great game, kudos to the team shipping on PC and PlayStation — I’m not exactly sure who it helps in the industry by not being on Xbox,” Spencer said. “If you try to twist yourself to say, like, somehow that benefited somebody somewhere.”

helldivers 2 exclusivity is harmful, says playstation boss
Image via Arrowhead Games/Sony

For Spencer, exclusivity for popular games ultimately does more harm than good. And Layden seems to agree.

“You have to improve your odds by cracking the funnel open,” Layden told GamesBeat. “Helldivers 2 has shown that for PlayStation, coming out on PC at the same time. Again, you get that funnel wider. You get more people in.”

Can exclusivity last?

Now, I’m old enough to recall the “console wars” of the ’90s. Console exclusivity made more sense, as the machines by either Sega or Nintendo (sorry, Atari fans) were clearly different. The lines were drawn between Mario and Sonic; crisp visuals and blast processing.

But nowadays the leading consoles are similar in power and share the same games that must maintain parity. Locking games to one platform or another seems like a way to keep money off the table, and that’s not helpful for an industry facing mass layoffs and economic uncertainty.

Perhaps Helldivers 2 will lead the charge against exclusivity, but it depends on whether all sides finally shed the decades of status quo and agree to work together. That’s a tall order and not something that’ll likely happen too soon. Time will tell if we’re witnessing the beginning of the end.


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Author
Cameron Woolsey
A contributing writer, Cam has been playing games for decades and writing about them for about 15 years. He specializes in action RPGs, shooters, and brawlers, but will always make a little bit of time for indies and classics.