Exclusive Advertising Rights – The New “Console War”

As we continue to maneuver through the second year for the 8th generation of consoles, a time-honored marketing tactic between the video game industry juggernauts has become more aggressive and cut-throat in recent memory. We all know it’s no secret that console manufacturers need desirable software to sell their prefabricated video game machines. They use all the tools at their disposal to get us gamers to sign up for their side of the “Console War” but now they have taken it a step further in order to get the exclusive goods from 3rd party developers. Sony and Microsoft have escalated their fighting to be the #1 place for every popular cross-platform game by securing exclusive advertising rights before and after game launch. ThisGenGaming believes in healthy competition between companies which breeds new and exciting video games but not when the fighting gets so intense that we as gamers become the collateral damage.

Mutual Assured Destruction Between 1st Party Developers

The wheels on the bus go up and down, up and down. Just like the nursery rhyme, Mutual Assured Destruction is a doctrine of military strategy in which a full-scale use of WMDs by two opposing sides would cause the complete annihilation of both the attacker and the defender. While a grim prospect in the real world, this subtly applies to Microsoft’s efforts in the exclusive advertising, especially with the Call of Duty series in which they have secured the past few in-game DLC packs to arrive a month earlier on the Xbox consoles before Sony consoles. In response to Microsoft’s heavy marketing deal, Sony decided to throw some major marketing dollars behind Bungie’s 2014 release of Destiny which the PS4 was advertised as the premier console to play Destiny with your buddies and enemies. Overall, it seems that the decision makers for console manufacturers instead of cutting a large check and buying the rights to have the next Halo or Uncharted, they are grudgingly sharing cross platform games while asking developers for anything to sway consumer decision making. With fewer and fewer 1st party titles coming into the marketplace, it should make gamers worried about an eventual bidding war where Sony and Microsoft buy exclusive rights for most large 3rd party games. A perfect example would be Tomb Raider’s surprising decision to switch to Xbox One as a timed console exclusive. When the price is right, it looks like any developer can be swayed to alienate their fan base in order to be an exclusive.

Old Money Talks and It’s Hurting Fans on a Budget

At this point, we are seeing a shift in the gaming marketplace that has many fans worried. After the broken game fiasco of Fall 2014, in which several big name publishers produced games that were broken on day one, video game customers have become more wary on these large investments in software. Right now, 8th Gen games are sticking to a $60 price-point in the U.S. But other countries are not so lucky. Recent listings for preorders in Canada show that standard games are now climbing to $80 (Higher than expected even factoring current exchange rates). This makes it even harder for fans to chose which console to go with because now they have to budget how many games they can purchase within a year and ultimately decide if adopting these new consoles are even worth adopting until prices go down. When exclusive advertising rights get thrown into the mix, potential customers now see the next hottest Call of Duty or Destiny 2.0 could be slightly inferior because they chose the wrong console and now won’t get those cool side missions, wacky skins for weapons or robot kangaroo companions. However, not all console exclusives can be bad. Look at indie golden child Shovel Knight that first appeared on the Nintendo 3DS and now has been ported to both the PS4 & Xbox One this past month. What’s very important about these ports is the fact that they added console exclusive content that was fun and not exploitative. On the PS4 version of Shovel Knight, players could fight the legendary god-killer known as Kratos and Xbox One owners on the other hand, could play against the disgusting brawling toads from retro series Battletoads. Let’s hope that more developers follow Yacht Club Games example and provide unique experiences for both console families and help fans understand that 3rd party games are equally fun on each platform.

The Business May Never Change but Gamers Can

Seeing the higher powers in the gaming fighting over consumers like a couple of jealous, possessive ten-year olds has never been a surprising sight over the years. However, now with the advancement and viral spread of technology, we the fans now have a more of a voice within the industry. With social media and more objective video game journalists, the collective voices of the critic/customer fan base can be heard and directly change company policy or changes to future video game releases. Just look at last weeks headliner news that Valve let modders sell their digital creations and the subsequent uproar from the community that was so loud and resounding that Valve and Bethesda agreed that they had made a mistake and taken down the modder shop and refunded everyone’s money. We also can slow down on the pre-orders for big AAA video game releases and wait a week to see if console manufacturer claims are true about the game playing better on their system. Overall, we hope that Sony and Microsoft ease up on the exclusive content they withhold from the opposing sides fan base. Gamers consider it a small victory when we get quality 3rd party game on both consoles and in turn that helps future sequels become an assured possibility.

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