Square Enix recently announced Rise of the Tomb Raider, the sequel to the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot, as a timed exclusive to the XB1. Clearly Microsoft shilled out a lot of cash for this timed exclusivity. Beyond just a check, SE is probably benefiting from aid in production or advertising as well. In the end though, it may cost them more than they would have made with a typical multiplatform release.
SE is likely willing to pander to anyone that will help them save themselves from themselves. They simply cannot control their own budgets, which is shown best by this sequel’s predecessor. They managed to sell 3.6 million copies of Tomb Raider and it was still a commercial failure. Anyone willing to help foot the bill has SE’s attention.
The problem is that the XB1 has relatively terrible sales compared to the PS4, and is actually doing worse than the Wii U at the time of this writing. Not a single multiplatform title has sold more on the XB1 than the PS4. Some major titles have seen sales two to four times greater on the PS4 than XB1. The current gen port of Tomb Raider for example.
Staggering a release also means that one platform loses out on the hype factor. AAA games benefit from the hype they receive due to their production values and advertising, and can sell a lot of copies on hype alone. Watch Dogs is a prime example of a mediocre game that sold outstandingly well due to hype. When releases are staggered, the hype is completely gone by the time the game gets to the later consoles. If Rise of the Tomb Raider doesn’t live up to the massive hype it’ll receive by virtue of it being a AAA title, it’s going to lose a lot of sales on the PS4, which is the larger audience.
Fanboys are a thing as well. Those poor, ignorant souls who think a company cares about anything further than their own pockets, and align themselves with a console of choice, as if their console “winning” is some indication of their own success. They do exist, and they make up a sizable portion of a console’s “hardcore” user base. If you don’t think they’ll boycott a title because of some perceived sleight by a timed exclusive, just google “Rise of the Tomb Raider boycott.”
In the end, the only real winner in this situation is Microsoft. The XB1 is in such desperate need of a win in some way shape or form they would take any reason to brag now. Rise of the Tomb Raider was already going to face a major AAA release in the same time frame with the announcement of Uncharted 4. That on top of budget issues probably made SE extremely eager to deal, and Sony wouldn’t need to. Sony already knows the PS4 will outsell the XB1 on multiplatform titles without having to bail SE out, especially on a title that goes head to head with one of their biggest first party franchises. Microsoft may be trying to help SE so they can finally outsell the PS4 on a multiplatform release. You know their spin doctors would ride that “victory” until the wheels came off, even if the game was another commercial failure for its developer.
We’ll may never know how much money Microsoft threw at SE for this limited exclusivity. SE may actually come out ahead if the check was big enough, but contrary to what the guys at Polygon would have you believe, there’s no way in hell limited exclusivity will lead to more sales.