Opinion: Is Rise of the Tomb Raider’s Exclusivity Good Or Bad?

Jake

As you have undoubtedly heard, Crystal Dynamics are releasing a sequel to their Tomb Raider reboot (you can read our review here). It has now been confirmed that it’ll release in Holiday 2015 for both Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

The next part of the story seems to have rattled cages of gamers around the world. Microsoft have gained themselves exclusivity of Crystal Dynamic’s sequel to Tomb Raider which will be titled “Rise of the Tomb Raider”. That exclusivity has been revealed as a timed exclusive, although no time frame has been made official; pushing the time frame aside for a second, lets focus on the key point, Microsoft bought the exclusivity to Tomb Raider. PlayStation fan boys across the globe were absolutely shattered and rightfully so, the Tomb Raider series was one of the driving forces that shaped the company into what it is today, debuting the series on the PS1 in 1996. Nearly 20 years ago and the fond memories of these games have stuck with the majority of gamers for life.

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Tomb Raider wasn’t just established for Sony though, the series has also been hand in hand with PC gaming since its inception; it only first appeared on Microsoft consoles in 2006’s Tomb Raider: Legend. So why go with the company that came into the picture 10 years after the franchise was established? Apart from money, the answer is really quite simple, publicity.

Tell me what franchise did the Tomb Raider reboot get compared to the most?…Uncharted. Time and time again when I was umming and ahhing about diving into the rebooted Tomb Raider every comparison I got was that it was like Uncharted; except with an open world and a female main character, every time.

As a side note I did dive into the the reboot but only when I had the chance to do so in the Definitive Edition. Our review is here.

Uncharted star Nathan Drake is basically the face of Sony at the moment. He sold consoles for the PS3 with each and every adventure and he is sure to do it again for his PS4 entry. Both series of games are set to launch in 2015, most likely at the business end of the year. So why would the team at Crystal Dynamics stand playing second fiddle to Nathan Drake’s Uncharted games? Sony would obviously back their exclusive franchise Uncharted with advertisements and console bundles as opposed the cross console series that is Tomb Raider.

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Microsoft saw the opportunity for what it is. Snatch a beloved franchise of Sony right out from under them (for a set period of time) and give Crystal Dynamics their time to shine as a lead adventurer on a console as opposed to being covered by the shadow of Nathan Drake. I’m sure the contract dollars were a sweet part of the deal, but this was simply an opportunity to get a leg up and re-enforce their identity as a unique adventure totally separate from Naughty Dog’s Uncharted.

And believe it or not it is already working. Take a look at the head lines, Lara Croft is flooding the news feeds; Lara this and Microsoft exclusive that. It is absolutely brilliant marketing. Is it enough to convert Sony fan-boys over to Xbone for the release of Rise of the Tomb Raider? For the hard core Tomb Raider fans, probably – but for the average gamers I am sure they can wait a few months or what ever the time frame may be to take Lara on her next adventure. The real victims here are the PC gamers who are simply caught in the cross fire of the console wars. Although undoubtedly PC gamers will experience the richest aesthetic experience of the game.

Only time will tell if the Microsoft marketing strategy works to their advantage in order to push some more consoles out the door and catch up to Sony’s powerful PS4 sales. None the less I am sure Lara and Crystal Dynamics are going to enjoy their time in the spotlight without any fear of being pushed aside for a while. The lead up to this game will certainly an intriguing delight.

Kevin

In a different perspective on the other side of Melbourne…

So Rise of the Tomb Raider has been the centre of attention ever since Microsoft’s announcement that it would be, yes, exclusive.

Sadly, watching the Gamescom stream I initially thought nothing of it, since exclusive is a term too liberally thrown around these days. Exclusive first access, exclusive DLC, exclusive first week on Xbox/PS4 only…yeah, exclusive is a nonsense term. I automatically assumed Microsoft wrangled an ‘exclusive’ Tomb Raider game which translated to exclusive for the first few months, where it would then be carted off to other platforms. And hey, I was proven right just a few days after the announcement, via one vague Phil Spencer:

“When people want me to say, can you tell us when or if it’s coming to other platforms, it’s not my job,” Spencer told Eurogamer. “My job is not to talk about games I don’t own. I have a certain relationship on this version of Tomb Raider, which we announced, and I feel really good about our long term relationship with Crystal and Square.

“Yes, the deal has a duration. I didn’t buy it. I don’t own the franchise.”

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So, just like that the controversy was dead, as was my interest in this whole fluff piece. But the storm that followed immediately after the announcement has some grave consequences, in a personal AND a fiscal perspective.

There’s no doubt that Tomb Raider was born on Sony ground (well, also on PC and Sega Saturn, but who remembers that?), debuting right on the original PlayStation. So no doubt there were a lot of Sony loyalists who have already written off Rise of the Planet of the Tomb Raider due to the ‘exclusivity’ deal alone, which may I reiterate: is not actually exclusive. So basically, Squeenix and co lost a good portion of their fanbase due to the botched announcement. If it was announced right off the bat as a TIMED exclusive, there would be a lot less angry people who wouldn’t have boycotted the franchise. But no, we had to get vague announcements and a vague Phil Spencer being vague.

Is Square Enix in financial trouble? In the year ending March 31st 2014 it was reported Squeenix actually made a $65 million profit compared to the year before, which faced losses all across the board.

SPECULATION TIME:

So it’s not really a question of Squeenix desperate to grab onto any cash thrown at them. But we can easily assume that Microsoft would have paid a LOT of money to get Tomb Raider as an ‘exclusive’. Enough money to justify the sales lost from other platforms, for a good year at least. Squeenix cannot be so obtuse to justify killing off two platforms and two fanbases for a few measly bucks? This is Square Enix we are talking about, second only to EA in bad decision making skills. In their original releases, Tomb Raider, Sleeping Dogs and Hitman: Absolution all grossly missed their sales targets. Clearly limiting themselves to one console will mean The Tomb Raider Rises will not reach nearly as much sales as Tomb Raider+Definite Editions did. Microsoft clearly wanted an IP akin to Uncharted on their platform, so they were prepared to offer a lot of money for Tomb Raider: The Rise of Cobra. Clearly this amount must have been enough to justify the loss of potential millions of sales on PC and PS4. Or Square Enix has a monkey for an financial accountant. My money is on both.

So in the end, exclusive is bullshit, this could potentially be good for Microsoft (though I wouldn’t ever buy a console over one game, no matter how good it could be) and Square Enix+Crystal Dynamics have possibly killed a huge chunk of their fanbase through the botched exclusive announcement.

On a final note, Crystal Dynamics have a friendly compensation prize for Tomb Raider lovers on the PC and PS4:

This doesn’t mean that we’re walking away from our fans who only play on PlayStation or on PC. Those are great systems, with great partners, and amazing communities. We have Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris coming to those platforms this December, and Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition is available on PS4.

Gee whiz Crystal Dynamics, thanks for the loser prize of some four player obtuse twin stick shooter game (to play Devil’s Advocate Guardian of Light was pretty good). Definitely not a smart PR move to release that statement.

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