Microsoft’s conference at Gamescom yesterday was another great showing. They had tons of blockbuster games, focusing primarily on some of the exclusives that are headed to Xbox in the near future. Who would’ve guessed the internet would be in such uproar over one of those titles?
Maybe it’s because having a multiplatform title suddenly become an exclusive isn’t normal? Maybe it’s because having a sequel go exclusive alienates fans that may have played the original? When Microsoft announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider, the sequel to last years rather great reboot, would be exclusive to Xbox, it left a sour taste in people’s mouths. Business was robbing them of an experience.
But at its core, that’s exactly what it is. Business; something that Square Enix can’t afford to fluff up over and over again. They made some mistakes with the reboot of Tomb Raider last year. Crystal Dynamics spent too much on resources for the game, something which even 6 million sales couldn’t fully cover. They managed to pull it back with the Definitive Edition released on next-gen consoles, but it was definitely a scare.
So if you’re in that position and one company decided to offer a little more financial security for your second time out, would you turn them down?
That’s basically what Microsoft offered up to Square Enix. There’s no doubt that they’ve paid a lot of money to the publisher to bring Tomb Raider exclusively to Xbox, because that’s not something Square would decide on alone. Microsoft definitely seems to think that Tomb Raider could sell consoles, and Square Enix wants to put out a game that will be more profitable than the first. If you think about it, this deal makes a lot of sense.
With this Microsoft exclusivity deal, Square Enix has managed to make some money on a title that hasn’t hit shelves yet. I’m sure a lot of calculations and projections took place before anything was settled on, which means Square Enix clearly thinks that Microsoft is offering them more than what they could make on Sony sales. This money is also 100% locked down; there’s no sales risk being taken. Again, considering how the first title struggled in terms of profits, I’m pretty sure this was an attractive offer for Square Enix. Almost one they couldn’t refuse.
Having to develop for only one platform also presents its own benefits. With Crystal Dynamics only having to focus on Xbox One and Xbox 360, they’re free to cut developments costs down quite a bit. That all goes hand in hand with compensating for less total sales, something that was also calmly calculated before anything was set in stone.
On Microsoft’s side, they’ve just managed to secure themselves an already established franchise as an exclusive. They’ve been coming second best to Sony’s massive exclusive library for a while now, something they have clearly been working on after seeing all the games exclusive to Xbox One at Gamescom. Whereas most exclusives come from first-party developers, there’s nothing stopping a deal like this. The same happened with the Bayonetta sequel on Wii U, which ignited a similar response from fans. Microsoft need to sell consoles, and having Tomb Raider as an exclusive could certainly bring some in.
This deal makes sense for both Microsoft and Square Enix, and at the end of the day that’s what matters to them. They’re not interested in the fact that you’ve played every single Lara Croft title released. They don’t care if you played the reboot 100 times over and salivated at the thought of the sequel. Microsoft needs to boost their exclusive line-up and Square Enix needs Rise of the Tomb Raider to be more financially successful than the last year’s reboot. They’ve done the calculations, so they must really believe that Microsoft is offering the best deal here.
It’s disappointing that we are the ones who ultimately end up suffering, but you can’t blame either of them for a decision that could make more business sense in the long run. Whether it pays off is a different story entirely.