A Quick History Of Third Party Exclusives…


Well Gamescom was quite the show wasn’t it? Undoubtedly the biggest controversy was the reveal that Rise of the Tomb Raider is a timed-Xbox exclusive. The internet exploded into a fan-boy rage with people shouting “BOYCOTT” at the top of their lungs (from atop their soapboxes). I’ll admit i was angry with the reveal, but the news that followed softened the blow, i’ll play it on my 360 (cross generation games in 2015? maybe i was right with this blog post). It got me wondering though…this cannot be the first time this has happened…and I was right.

So buckle yourself in as we look through the history of third-party exclusives; some of these may shock you…some won’t.

Back in the 8-bit days Nintendo forced the issue of third-party exclusives. If a publisher wanted to get a game on the NES (the most popular of all the 8-bit machines) then they had to agree to a strict clause that guaranteed exclusivity for two years. Due to the popularity of the NES publishers didn’t think twice; every game on the NES was; by default, an exclusive. Although the SEGA Master System was popular in Europe, SEGA couldn’t compete, they highlighted this as a problem and decided to counteract this Monopoly that Nintendo had built (they owned 89% of the market)…they beat Nintendo to the market with the Mega Drive/Genesis.

SEGA approached publishers with the same terms Nintendo did in the 80’s. Many were reluctant to sign because the Ninty-Juggernaut had yet to make a move; SEGA were in trouble, until they approached EA with a cartridge and a dev kit.

The worst company in America™ did something to create a competitive market. They reverse engineered the cartridge and threatened to sell it to publishers with better licencing terms and put SEGA out of the market for good. Thankfully SEGA offered these terms themselves. This move forced Nintendo’s hand and they had to tow the same line as SEGA and as a result the fourth gen was one of the most competitive in history.

However the third-party exclusive was still about. FIFA ’95 was a Megadrive/Genesis exclusive a huge-coup for SEGA. Pseudo-exclusives were aplenty and included the SNES getting SFII: Turbo Edition while the Mega Drive got SFII: Championship Edition. The SNES got TMNT: Turtles in Time while the Mega Drive got TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist (amongst an uncountable amount of others). All console exclusives, all from third-parties.

SEGA with the Saturn took some risks and acquired an unknown quantity as a timed exclusive; Tomb Raider: Starring Lara Croft was built with the Saturn’s infrastructure in mind hence the square based architecture of those original Tombs. When Sony entered the fray in 1995 there was a shift in the power structure and they quickly gained a sizable market share with the Playstation (47%) and they quickly got their own third party exclusives including Final Fantasy, Tekken, Metal Gear Solid, Crash Bandicoot (Naughty Dog were third-party until 2001), Spyro the Dragon, Tomb Raider II & III (Lara becoming a pseudo-mascot for Sony). By the PS2 days any game not published by SEGA or Nintendo were Playstation exclusive.

Microsoft entered the fray and threw money at publishers and acquired a number of high profile console exclusives including Knights of the Old Republic, Unreal Championship, Crazy Taxi 3 and Dead or Alive. On the 360 they got Left 4 Dead, Kameo,  and the original Saints Row. Although many third-party games appeared on both major consoles – last gen the third-party exclusive was very rare; and to be honest, quite low quality.

However in the current-gen they have had something of renaissance with Titanfall, Bloodborne, Deep Down, Silent Hills & Rise of the Tomb Raider (and all those delicious indie timed exclusives on both consoles). This is definitely a thing now guys. We’re being thrust back into the SNES/Mega Drive days of gaming with pseudo-exclusive content.

All the talk of Destiny being better on PS and Evolve better on Xbox is all well and good, however it fuels the console war and gives gamers a stick to beat each other with. Before the end of this generation we’re all going to revert to our 11/12 year old selves guys…if we allow ourselves to.

Third-party exclusives are they a good or bad thing?

Leave a comment below and tell us your thoughts and feelings on the whole Tomb Raider debacle and third-party exclusives in general?

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