Exclusivity Is the Achilles Heel of the Gaming Industry

In Short
  • Ending video game exclusivity could benefit developers and gamers by creating a larger player base and increasing studio revenue.
  • Non-exclusivity could lead to more diverse gaming communities as gamers from different platforms play together, and there would be a broader range of experiences and perspectives.
  • Studios working together across platforms could potentially create richer experiences that benefit all gamers, while cross-platform can foster better game engagement.

If there’s one thing video games have in common, it is a collective sense of belonging. No matter which company makes video games, gamers worldwide can almost always boot up any platform and enjoy them. However, as more gaming devices started coming out, companies started locking certain experiences behind their own platforms. This began as early as Nintendo with Atari and Sega, which became determined to keep their games exclusive.

I do believe that game exclusivity was manageable in the early days. That was mostly because of low-budget creations combined with a balanced cost-to-revenue generation. However, as the next-gen console wars began, it has now become a problem. I am very confident when I say that exclusivity has ruined the video game industry! However, before you get your pitchforks out, let me explain it all as I take you on a ride and tell you just why we need to stop it.

Non-Exclusivity Brings More Space for Revenue

The tides for game exclusivity started shifting when PlayStation and Xbox started making big-budget games exclusive to their devices. The fact that only a selective console gamer could buy their respective games started a console war and put more strain on both departments.

Some recent examples are games like Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 (review) from Sony and Starfield (review) from Microsoft. Both games had the companies pump an insane amount of development costs into them. Unfortunately, since they were exclusive to their own platforms, the revenue wasn’t exactly as expected.

Former PlayStation CEO Shawn Layden
Image Courtesy: PlayStation

Ex-President and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment America, Shawn Layden, described in an interview with VentureBeat that the lack of an addressable market that exclusivity creates is what makes it a big problem. He further said:

“When your costs for a game exceed $200 million, exclusivity is your Achilles’ heel. In a free-to-play world, as we know, 95 per cent of those people will never spend a nickel. The business is all about conversion. You have to improve your odds by cracking the funnel open. 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.”

In this interview, he points out how non-exclusivity can make a game more money in this modern era of gaming. We all know how PlayStation stepped forward with its exclusive AAA titles like Spider-Man, God of War, and even the recently announced Ghost of Tsushima being ported to PC.

Image Courtesy: Sony

In 2023, Sony President Jim Ryan released a financial presentation that indicated Sony has made $365 million from PC releases since 2020. This means the revenue grew over 212 percent between fiscal years 2021 and 2022.

This indicates that Sony has now realized how to maintain its video game economy. On the other hand, Xbox games were almost always available on PC from the beginning, which led the team to understand how having a bigger player base helps generate more revenue. But this is not just about revenue, which takes us to our next point: cross-platform gaming.

Cross-Platform Breathes Life into Gaming

Image Courtesy: Xbox

In a recent Xbox podcast, Microsoft Gaming chief Phil Spencer shared his vision of exclusives coming to other platforms. During the podcast, he revealed that four exclusive Xbox games will be available on PlayStation and Nintendo Switch. He further said:

“I do have a fundamental belief that over the next 5 or 10 years, exclusive games, games that are exclusive to one piece of hardware, are going to be a smaller and smaller part of the game industry…. whether it’s one console in PC, multiple consoles, mobile, console, and PC – you see big games landing on multiple platforms. And we want to be a great platform for creators that are trying to realize that potential.”

Naturally, Xbox-exclusive supporters did not take his comment in the best of light. Putting emotions aside, you can easily see how making a game fully available would make the developer more money.

We have all seen how PlayStation sells so many copies of its PC ports and how well it is doing with Helldivers 2 (review) on PC. The former Xbox exclusive Sea of Thieves also made it to the top of the PlayStation store list after it went to the Sony-owned platform. It is considered by far the most pre-ordered game on the PlayStation store.

Image Courtesy: Xbox

One key reason behind these sales is how they all tie together. Cross-platform gaming harkens back to that much-appreciated sense of community and bond gamers have. It creates a common ground for people with different devices.

Who would not love to play Fortnite on PC while their friends are on PS5? Non-exclusivity breaks the communication barrier and creates a fine bridge that allows games to gather more players in their communities without problems.

Diverse Player Base for More Reach

Besides eliminating the communication barrier, non-exclusivity also tightly kits gamers together. However, the biggest benefit of this actually lies in with the developers. Having a common platform helps companies develop the right formula for a game. Furthermore, this also provides a platform for underrepresented communities to showcase them better.

Diversity Sparks Representation (Image Courtesy: PlayStation)

This added inclusivity not only gives people more voice but naturally expands the audience base. A diverse audience will also allow the studios to be comfortable pushing content that they believe will bring in positive change.

If it becomes a trend, non-exclusivity can create inclusive communities that developers and publishers can be proud of. It will also naturally increase their sales and active player base.

Innovation, Collaboration, and More Competition

Besides all the positive changes non-exclusivity brings for gamers, a big point is innovation. When you create for a single platform, you stifle innovation and even limit its overall potential and performance. For instance, Games like Fortnite or Roblox have long created a platform for developers that lets them collaborate and create amazing experiences together.

Image Courtesy: Roblox, Fortnite

If a game is available on all platforms, it has more scope for innovation and collaboration with more brands or studios. More people tune into collaborations between brands and developers. Besides its popularity, this also helps increase the overall variety of games. Besides AAA studios, many indie games are already hopping on this trend.

Games like Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, or any Nintendo-exclusive games can be great for all players if available on all devices. Not only that, but I also think other next-gen devices can push these games towards a better product. Imagine Sony or Xbox studios working with Nintendo on a Pokemon or Zelda game. Yeah, that would look great.

Even though, in an ideal world, all games would be available on all platforms, hardware competition could be key. Just consider companies like Sony and MS working against each other to create the best hardware for the same game. While I know it still happens, that sense of competition would be ten times higher.

More Common Ground in the Future? Hopefully!

While some great exclusive games like Stellar Blade on PS5 or Indiana Jones on Xbox are right around the corner, I am optimistic for a future with more games that release on common ground. If the companies can eliminate this ego race of being the best, the gaming business can actually boom for once. As I mentioned above, getting games on all platforms will not only help gamers come together but generate more revenue for devs alongside improvements.

As you might agree with me now, video game exclusivity isn’t in the gaming industry’s best interest. I love exclusive games, but that’s not because they are limited to one platform.

A game is good because it is well-made, and that’s that. Whether it is Zelda, Bloodborne, or Halo, I would love to see games get into the hands of all gamers so we can all enjoy them together.

What do you think about non-exclusivity in video game platforms? Would you like to see other platform gamers enjoy the games you do? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Comments 1
  • Bharath Varma says:

    I totally agree with this. Imagine a common gaming OS that can be used by OEMs to create a range of devices from handhelds to home consoles, in which all major publishers put their games in. Including PlayStation Studios and Xbox Game Studios and luckily even Nintendo. It’s a dream come true.

Leave a Reply