Is the exclusive video game franchise dead? According to the latest issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly it is. In the article by N. Evan Van Zelfden he says that the longer, more expensive nature of video games have made it necessary for developers to give up their exclusive minded endeavors and subscribe to the philosophy of having a game come out on all the consoles or many consoles.
The proof of the article seems apparent to anyone who looks at the larger state of the video game industry these days. But there are certainly minor problems with this. For instance, the majority of the BIG games for all the current consoles are not ports but original IPS that are exclusives to a single console or have been ported from the PC to a single console. Examples of this most prominently would be Resistance: Fall of Man(the best selling PS3 game for a good portion of it’s short life span), Bioshock(XBOX 360 and PC versions make this game one of the best selling games on XBOX 360 so far), HALO 3(another exclusive game to the XBOX 360 that has thus far made more money than some blockbuster films), and finally the whole GOD of War franchise which originated and has stayed on the PS2. There is a PSP version coming out this fall, but this game will be exclusive to the PSP and not ported to other devices. All of the above are examples of single console titles that have done EXTREMELY well on a single platform.
Certainly the inverse of these examples are games like: Spider-Man 3(ported to every platform except PC), Rock Band(on all consoles, and Guitar Hero 3(on all consoles). Two of these are not out yet, but are recording extremely high pre-order sales putting them above some games currently available.
What is the real story here? Alas, it is a sad one. The story revolves around the fact that video games are very expensive to make and franchises are really dangerous things to start. If the franchise is successful then the developer and publisher are heralded as masters of technology and marketing. If the games fail, it is yet another example of the risky nature of the video game industry.
In the end, the developers in Zelfden’s article have made deals with the perspective companies that insure that their games make money regardless of sales. But games like Legend of Zelda, Halo, and Resistance are going to be the top sellers at retail. Unless you count the Hannah Montanas and Nancy Drews of the world. Because then everyone should be making Nintendo DS and PC games; ignoring consoles completely. Discounting these, making a game for multiple consoles doesn’t automatically guarantee the developer an excellent title. Just as the Midway about how their porting of Stranglehold went. This moves us into another topic: Does porting your game to multiple platforms, hurt the game more than help it. But that is a topic for another post. Personally, I think there is plenty of evidence that, not only is the exclusive not dead; it is necessary for the health and well being of a console.