Timed Exclusivity – A Questionable Business Model

Patience Pays Off

Timed exclusives can be tricky. The decision can divide fan bases and could potentially damage sales projections. It’s a business decision that requires careful planning as any missteps could be disastrous for the product. Most timed exclusivity can be found in DLC and while it can be a point of frustration, this can be easily forgotten with the passage of time. Full releases however, is an entirely different story.

In 2015 Microsoft announced in a rather confusing manner that Rise of the Tomb Raider would be releasing exclusively for the Xbox One. The reception was mixed to say the least. Xbox fans were delighted to have the sequel to one of the best reboots exclusively on their console, while the rest of the gaming world collectively lost their shit. It was understandable, its predecessor was available for all consoles and the move was considered shady seeing how the original Tomb Raider made its debut on the original Playstation. Fortunately for fans of Lara and her adventures it was later revealed to be a timed exclusive and would only last a year.

Regardless, the damage was done. Rise of the Tomb Raider sold poorly in its first year as fans patiently waited for its release on other platforms. Square Enix clearly learned its lesson as its follow-up, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, saw a multi-platform release when it was announced. To be honest there was no logical reason for Rise of the Tomb Raider to be a timed exclusive. Confusing your fan base was clearly a recipe for disaster and thankfully Square Enix learned their lesson.

Now, you wouldn’t be wrong in believing that Square Enix’s misstep would be used as an example of what not to do. But you would be wrong. Recent examples of timed exclusivity would be Dead Rising 4 and PUBG. I thought that both titles were exclusives only to later to discover that they were going to release on other platforms. With PUBG, Microsoft went well out of their way to make it seem like it was only available on their platforms. This would have been a massive acquisition as PUBG is insanely popular and Microsoft desperately needs to expand its exclusive library.

Instead, PUBG was released in an early access state and while it retained its core gameplay, it was a rough transition. Controls took time to getting used too, performance was up and down, and visually it wasn’t impressive. While it wasn’t up to PC quality, it would act as a testing ground for performance on console. The bad news for Xbox fans and Microsoft is that PUBG is getting released on PS4 December 7th and looks to be fully featured. I would find this personally frustrating if I was an Xbox fan because I had to pay for an unfinished product while Sony fans will be receiving PUBG at it’s best.

Timed exclusives, especially regarding fully featured games, tend to never be well received. They seem to cause nothing but discord amongst fans and critics and those developers who work hard on the game are harassed for decisions made by personnel who are clearly out of touch with their fanbase. Sure, if you buy a timed exclusive you are given access to a product earlier than everyone else but you’re paying full price for an incomplete product. A year later, other people are paying less and given more content. While Rise of the Tomb Raider and Dead Rising 4 released at full price after the timed exclusivity lifted, consumers recieved all of the DLC and bonuses not featured upon initial release.

When it comes to financial decisions it never feels as if publishers have the best interests of the consumer in mind. There is always a catch and strangely, even with concrete examples displaying the failure of a specific strategy, they still seem to think that these decisions are going to turn out in their favor. Obviously there is a disconnect and the lack of common sense is concerning. Social media makes it difficult to trick consumers due to how easy it is to disseminate information. Sadly though, just like microtransactions, timed exclusives will remain as long as this method continues to turn a profit. Starving consumers of a product, especially a quality one, can be a smart business practice if executed properly. But it will never be viewed in a positive light as long as publishers continuously insult the intelligence of their consumer base.

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