Experienced Points: 3 Odd Things About The Tomb Raider Xbox One Exclusive

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Aug 19, 2014

Filed under: Column 95 comments

This week’s column is titled, “3 Odd Things About The Tomb Raider Xbox One Exclusive“, but it could just as easily be called “3 Reasons Exclusives are Odd in General”.

It’s funny that this story came up right now, since I’ve been thinking about Tomb Raider a lot lately. I wanted an excuse to play through it again, but I really have gnawed this particular bone down to the marrow. I have all achievements, all secrets, all tombs, upgraded all weapons, etc. I started wondering when the sequel would appear, and then this story popped up. Not only is the game not coming until Christmas of next yearAssuming no delays. And no, I would not take that bet. but then I’ll have to wait for the exclusive period to time out. I might not play this thing until summer of 2016. That’s depressing.

And of course, the only other game like it is an exclusive on the other major console.

I ended up watching our Spoiler Warning season on the game. I feel ridiculous watching our own show, but this does seem to be scratching my Tomb Raider itch in a strange way. (Also, it’s fun to watch. Aside from the odd looks my family is giving me.)

Hey Shamus, have you considered just GETTING A CONSOLE? You know, like games journalists do sometimes?

Sure, I could buy a console. But I’m not sure that makes a lot of sense for me. I don’t want to get a console that’s going to eat up my gaming hours without giving back to the blog. If I’m going to spend that kind of dosh on a console, and then drop even more money on all those high-priced AAA console titles, then I need a convenient way to capture screenshots and video. That means another hundred bucks or so of special equipment. And since I’ll be using the console here in my office I’ll need to give up a monitorHAHAHAHA! No. or buy yet ANOTHER monitorAnd maybe a bigger desk to hold it all. And a bigger apartment to contain the desk.. So now we’re talking many hundreds of dollars and double the number of devices and cables sitting at my workstation, all so I can have access to a small number of exclusives.

Basically, I’d be taking a massive financial hit, and by doing so I’d be rewarding companies for the obnoxious behavior that caused this problem in the first place.

(DISCLAIMER: Please don’t take the above as a passive-aggressive complaint for more money. My backers have been very kind and generous. I’m trying to be transparent about my decisions, which can sometimes be confused with bellyaching. I’m not saying I need more money. I’m saying I don’t think this would be an efficient use of it.)

It might make sense to get a console once we’re a little farther into this console generation, but right now prices are high, the libraries are small, and there’s lots of games to talk about here in PC land. I’m partial to the Playstation 4 at the moment. I got an Xbox 360 last genIt was one of the late-period versions that supposedly didn’t suffer from the hardware problems that plagued the 360., and it bricked after only a year of very mild use. (Seriously. We’ve got laptops that are still going after five years of constant use. There’s NO EXCUSE for the failures of the 360.) I’d want to see what percent of Xbones survive their first year before I could dream of giving Microsoft money.



[1] Assuming no delays. And no, I would not take that bet.


[3] And maybe a bigger desk to hold it all. And a bigger apartment to contain the desk.

[4] It was one of the late-period versions that supposedly didn’t suffer from the hardware problems that plagued the 360.

From The Archives:

95 thoughts on “Experienced Points: 3 Odd Things About The Tomb Raider Xbox One Exclusive

  1. The Rocketeer says:

    Game Companies: “We’re very excited to bring you our new ‘salty milk!”
    Game Buyers: “Actually, that sounds terrible.”
    Game Companies: “Well, we already bought the bull.”

    1. PowerGrout says:


      a joke with the punchline “milk plus” that I just can’t write

      …and all of my internets, you have won them.

  2. Forty says:

    You could always use a kvm switch instead of getting another monitor.

  3. Rick C says:

    Regarding monitors: A KVM means you could share one between a PC and a console. For that matter, you might not even need one: my monitor at home has a pair of HDMI inputs, selectable with the touch of a button on the bottom of the frame.

    1. That is assuming any DRM doesn’t kick in and degrade the video and audio quality.

      1. Eruanno says:

        Well, HDMI already has DRM built-in so I doubt it would be much worse picture degradation than you’d get from your standard HDTV.

        1. Asimech says:

          I think they’re referring to the problems some have had with their HDMI KVMs triggering the DRM, since the sending device thinks there’s a recorder between it and the monitor or something. Sadly, the last time I heard about it was when HDMI was starting to get wider use, so I can’t remember any details, confirmations or denials.

          1. reisseli says:

            Should not be a problem on either console (PS4/Xbox One) since you can disable HDCP on both for games (as would be required anyway if Shamus want’s to get screencaps and video of games)

    2. Mike S. says:

      Some monitors that don’t have two HDMI ports will have both HDMI and DVI, and those are equivalent for the cost of a cheap adapter.

      1. Robyrt says:

        Seconded. I have two consoles hooked up to my PC monitor using an HDMI splitter and an audio splitter, for a total cost of $50 (assuming you already have a capture card with an HDMI input).

      2. RTBones says:

        Yeah – I had the same thought. That is, of course, unless the monitor Shamus uses is diabolically geriatric and only has a single input (HDMI, DVI, VGA, or otherwise).

    3. Squash says:

      So Shamus, you only have to buy one new monitor that has this feature. Oh, wait…

  4. TouToTheHouYo says:

    Now I want a Spoiler Warning season of the crew watching through old Spoiler Warning seasons. MST3K style.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      We did get a brief glimpse into how that would go during the Fallout:New Vegas season.

      They were very critical. Even a little harsh…

      1. Adam says:

        So, business as usual, then?

      2. Galad says:

        I admit it’s been a long time since I’ve watched that season and I’ve probably watched it with a half-closed eye, so to speak, but .. what do you mean, exactly?

        1. MichaelGC says:

          Here we go! It’s right at the start, so no need for any timestamps:


          (They were settling the previous week’s controversy over the correct spelling of ‘Cuphtbirte’…)

    2. MrGuy says:

      Actually, I want to watch the cast of Disclosure Alert (or some other group of SW fans – any takers?) do this with old SW seasons.

      I’ve always wanted an excuse to shout “LOOK, SHAMUS, WE KNOW YOU WANT TO HAVE HALF LIFE 2’S BABIES, BUT GIVE IT A REST!!!” at my computer screen. Because I’ve never done that before. Nope. Never.

      1. Muspel says:

        This should become an April Fools tradition. One year, Disclosure Alert does an episode of Spoiler Warning. Then the next year, Spoiler Warning does that episode of Disclosure Alert. Repeat ad Ouroboros.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          That would be nice,but Im afraid those special episodes would be much more frequent than the regular episodes of disclosure alert.

        2. TouToTheHouYo says:

          April Fools Spoiler Warning Drinking Game Live Stream Extravaganza!

          There’d be no survivors…

      2. Wide And Nerdy says:

        Normally I’d wince at this idea but this might just be the one fanbase that I’ve seen that could pull it off.

        . . . still wincing a little . . .

  5. Dev Null says:

    I'll need to give up a monitor

    You can have my third and fourth moniotrs when you pry them from my cold, dead eyesockets.

    1. Chauzuvoy says:

      That’s alright. I think everyone knows at this point that you never get anything back from /dev/null.

      1. Bryan says:

        I did once. I got a bunch of zeros out of it.

        Of course, that was after I did a “mknod /dev/null c 1 5” instead of “c 1 3″…

  6. Irridium says:

    Also, apparently the Tomb Raider reboot sold better on Sony consoles. So you can add that to the list of reasons why this exclusivity deal is odd.

    Also, I doubt it’ll mean anything right now but the PS4 lets you easily take screenshots and record gameplay. Just hit the share button and a screenshot will be taken and you’ll be taken to a menu where you can save/upload the screenshot and/or the last fifteen minutes of gameplay. Saves it right on the hard drive which you can then transfer using a usb stick or whatever. It’s pretty neat.

    Just throwing that out there.

    1. Eruanno says:

      Sadly the recorded gameplay will be 720p/30fps. Still good enough for YouTube, but eh, you know.

      1. Irridium says:

        Well, until youtube puts in that 60fps update they talked about a while ago.

  7. MichaelGC says:

    It’s funny how these things perhaps go in cycles! I happened to be reading this (2009!) post just this morning:

    The last PC game I played was Fallout 3. I don't have another one on my horizon. Diablo 3? Starcraft 2? Half-Life 2, Episode 3? Those are all pretty distant yet. [Insert your own Duke Nukem Forever joke here.] I'll play a dozen console games between now and then.


    PS One of those things is not like the others…

    1. That is … fascinating. What a difference only five years make. Especially this:

      Ideally, the platform might reboot itself, with a new batch of developers rising up that understand that they need to approach the PC with an attitude of “gameplay first, gameplay second, gamplay third, and graphics a distant tenth”. A little story and character development thrown in there might be a good idea as well.

      With 20/20 hindsight, I wonder what the 2009 Shamus (or a 2009 me for that matter) would say to the explosion of largely gameplay-driven PC games that was coming: Minecraft, Gunpoint, Banner Saga, Walking Dead, Braid, the new X-Com, Skyrim, Shadowrun, Mark of the ninja, Spelunky, Terraria, Papers please, Gone Home … and on, and on. And at the idea that people would be giving buckets of money to Obsidian and friends to make isometric RPGs?

      EDIT: @MichaelGC Indeed, there’s still a chance that HL2:E3 might not be as disappointing as the others.

      1. lupis42 says:

        That’s just too low a bar. HL2:3 could give me scurvy and I’d be less disappointed than I was by Diablo III. It could give me gout too before falling behind Duke Nukem Fornever.

        1. Peter H. Coffin says:

          I as well. I’ve been a LONG term Diablo fan, owned 1, 2, 2:LOD, beta-tested 2LOD multiplayer AT WORK on the sly and rationalized it as being for purposes of being able to give good feedback on the effect of network differences in multiplayer. But after buying 3 and jumping feet-first into it, it… didn’t grab me. To the point that I found myself wishing I was just playing Torchlight instead. And when you find yourself wishing you were playing your placeholder game again, you really need to just give up and step away from it. Okay, then. It’s $40 flushed down the toilet, but that’s okay. I learned from it. Am I gonna spend another $40 on Reaper of Souls? Nnnnnnnnnnno. I’ll go buy GW2 keys for a few more friends instead. That’ll be worth a couple dozen hours of fun until they decide they wanna go play with some other guild or quit entirely is more worth the money than wishing I was playing Tochlight again.

          1. Bubble181 says:

            I hgave to say, I was in the same boat,b ut got RoS as a gift…It really solved almsot all issues I had with DIII. The story’s still weak ass crappy, bu the loot distribution, the characters, the tone, everything is much closer to LoD or original DII than what DIII was. Honestly, I’d say it’s worth it unless you really want to punish Blizzard. Torchlight II was better than Diablo III, but worse than RoS.

      2. Bubble181 says:

        You consider Skyrim gameplay-driven? Pretty graphics, good modding tools and lots freedom aren’t exactly awesome gameplay. They’re a good sandbox to play in, not a cool toy.

        1. Yes. I would say Skyrim has solid (and pretty fun) gameplay, but that it is narratively weak. Compare it to say Mass Effect (which places a strong emphasis on its story) and Skyrim offers a lot more in terms of gameplay and especially gameplay variety. A character specialising in sneaking offered a completely different gameplay experience than a melee specialist, or an archer or an illusionist/summoner. Also, you could follow the inane quests if you prefer a more structured experience, or alternatively just travel from town to town and burgle people’s houses or wander the wilderness… Or you could just run around and punch people for no reason (Josh).

          While I agree that there are games that do any of those things better thank Skyrim, I don’t think there are many that even attempt to do them all. Minecraft is also a pretty sandbox, and is also primarily driven by its gameplay systems – there is almost nothing else there!

  8. Eathanu says:

    I have a TV tuner card with a stupid piece of shit proprietary software called AVrMediaCenter 3D. It being a stupid piece of shit aside, I can run PS3 games in a window on my desktop, and don’t even have to fiddle with wires (I just run the HDMI cable from the PS3 straight to the card in my computer and the software figures out the details from there). The card only cost about $90, which is amazingly cheap for TV Tuners.

    So, you know, the price only needs to be Console + Games + pointless but required peripherals + $90 and a free PCIe à—1 slot on your motherboard.

    If you can deal with how terrible the software is, anyway.

    1. I haven’t run a tuner card on my PC for quite a while, but the ones I’ve liked the most have been from Hauppauge. I’ve never installed their software beyond the drivers, piping the video feed out to WMP or VLC for media (Windows does have a fairly robust DVR aspect to it, or it did the last time I used it).

      I often do that with new hardware and peripherals. I install the drivers only first, then muck about and see if I even need all of the crapware (I’m looking at you, HP Printers) that gets bundled with it. Usually, it’s unnecessary.

  9. Dev Null says:

    But clearly there must be people who do that sort of thing, or else deals like this wouldn’t exist.

    I find myself using logic like this a lot. I wonder, sometimes, if we’re overestimating the common sense of marketing folks and CEOs. Maybe they’re just shooting themselves in the foot, and then wallpapering the resulting losses with so many caveats and misleading graphs to placate the stockholders that they come to believe the excuses themselves. And then they do it again.

    1. Tizzy says:

      You can find people ready to do about anything. The question, though, is: does the deal make sense?

      I guess for instance that there are a lot of dual-console households. I wouldn’t do it myself, but people are free to do whatever they want. Now, I imagine that, if you already owned a PS4 and were warming up to the idea of getting an XBone, an exclusive deal like this would be a good time as any to do it.

      Does this mean that the deal _caused_ this particular sale? No, it merely precipitated it.

      Ultimately, the open question is the one Shamus implicitly asks at the end of the article: even if this works, is this temporary exclusivity deal really the biggest bang for microsoft’s bucks?

    2. Epopisces says:

      Pretty sure the way this type of marketing works is targeting a Venn diagram cross-section: specifically the subset of gamers who are on the fence about getting a X-box One (or even getting a console at all) who also happen to be big fans of the Tomb Raider franchise.

      Little things can tip the scales when it comes to buying decisions (particularly when the buyer wants a rationale). Whether it’s worth the investment Microsoft is putting in. . .dubious.

  10. Thomas says:

    I don’t think it’s necessarily the idea that people will buy one console for a $60 game.

    1. Lots of people are going to buy a console as their prime gaming machine. The question is just which? So it’s not buying a $400 console for a $60 game. It’s choosing a $400 dollar console over another $400 console for a $60 dollar game.

    2. It’s the exclusive packages as a whole. Its stupid to buy a console for Uncharted 1. I wouldn’t do it for Uncharted 1 or 2. But Uncharted 1, 2, Little Big Planet, Heavy Rain, The Last of Us… Tomb Raider might be that tipping point.

    3. The last point is weakened by timed exclusivity. So the next is just the marketing message being sent. By advertising Tomb Raider as some kind of exclusive Microsoft are fighting their ‘only does shooters’ reputation. The Playstation is felt to be much more varied in the games it promotes and that probably helped it win in Europe and Japan last time round.

    4. It buys them potentially winning PR at Christmas. This isn’t logic, it’s just when some people are playing Uncharted 4 on one console and others are playing Tomb Raider on the other and Tomb Raider is being called the better game… it gives you positive feelings towards the Xbox One even though that’s not rational.

    I bet Microsoft are banking on the public not being informed enough too. They’ll put up trailers calling it an Xbone exclusive and hope that 99% of people won’t even know that it won’t be exclusive next year

    1. Tizzy says:

      Alomg the Xmas lines: maybe they’re counting on parents / guardians who are buying for their charges, and similar third person purchase? Sounds flimsy to me, but what do I know, I don’t have any data to base an opinion, while they must have some.

      1. Thomas says:

        No I don’t mean that. I mean someone like my brother who plays a lot of games but doesn’t read gaming newsites, he would have no idea about whether Tomb Raider was a real exclusive or not.

        I would guess that maybe as high as 90% of people who buy games are very uninformed about them. Remember that survey which showed most people didn’t recognise that Modern Warfare 2 was a sequel to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (so they had to reattach the CoD part)

    2. Eruanno says:

      What really helped sell the PS4 in Europe was the fact that the Xbox One still hasn’t been released in several regions (officially anyway. Imports still exist.)

      1. Thomas says:

        That’s true, but I meant for the PS3. The PS3 outsold the 360 in Europe pretty easily except for the UK which is more US 0.5 culturally. Microsoft had a big disadvantage in Europe coming into this generation and that was with the weak start of the PS3. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d chosen to deliberate work on the countries they felt were winnable first (for example the UK got a very quick Xbox One release)

    3. MrGuy says:

      I bet Microsoft are banking on the public not being informed enough too. They'll put up trailers calling it an Xbone exclusive and hope that 99% of people won't even know that it won't be exclusive next year.

      As Shamus points out, this would absolutely be in Microsoft’s interest, which is why it’s so interesting that they’re NOT doing this. It’s MICROSOFT that’s the one pointing out “hey, it’s only exclusive temporarily.” Microsoft had the option to just keep their mouth shut and let people think this was a permanent exclusive title for the XBONE, and remarkably, they decided not to do that.

      1. Thomas says:

        That’s just the difference between us and the 90% of people who play games. It’s a quick statement that soothes the controversy being created and probably gets them out of any legal trouble, but there’s no way most people who play games will ever hear that statement.

        If Microsoft were outright deceptive its possible they might actually be breaking a law somewhere but if they’re just relying on the fact that the guy on the street will never hear some ambiguous statement an MS exec makes in an interview…

  11. Thomas says:

    I wouldn’t ever suggest someone buy a console at this time in the generation if they had a PC. Nowadays it’s so much more of a choice between an Xbox or a Playstation or a PC. If you’re the kind of hardcore enthusiast who would buy a console just for 5 or 6 games it’s still worth waiting till the end of the generation for it to happen.

  12. You talk about a potential port of the HD version to the PC but it seems more accurate to say the PC version shipped was the beta for the HD edition while the last gen consoles got whatever they could manage. After a while the current gen consoles (as they were now out) got very late ports of the PC edition. Stuff like TressFX moving over and finally being capable of handling resolutions beyond that of my 2003 purchased LCD monitor (or the CRT I owned probably a decade earlier). They also used that port to redo the character faces and add a few more effects but ultimately they had to drop the texture resolution and switch off some tessellation when compared to the PC original in spots so the ‘Definitive Edition’ was behind the original PC release in several areas. They also couldn’t offer a 4K experience (which wasn’t how everyone played it but I don’t like aliasing and SSAA was there so that was something I jumped at, rendering at 4K and downsampling to 1080p for a lovely smooth anti-aliased effect that was equally capable of doing foliage, shader aliasing, and polygons and none of the FXAA post-process loss of sub-pixel details into shimmering blobs).

  13. Geoff says:

    For the consumer, exclusives suck for sure, but I don’t think its such a bum deal for the developers as its made out to be.

    As Thomas mentioned above, one $60 game isn’t a reason to buy a $400 console, but it might be the tipping point if you’re looking to buy a console and have to decide which batch of exclusives to side with. I don’t have any idea how many consoles Microsoft things this might sell (and its worth pointing out that game and peripheral sales are where the real money is at, not just the console price) or what they paid for the exclusivity, but I’m sure its worth something to them.

    For Square / Crystal Dynamics, they help subsidize their cost of development. As came up with the first, they had difficulty reaching that ‘profitability’ point they were trying to hit. If you need to hit X million dollars worth of sales to be profitable and Microsoft is willing to pay a portion of that then you need to only make X-1 million dollars worth of sales.

    There’s also this pervading assumption that if they release a year later on the PS4 they will miss out on all the sales! but that’s probably not accurate. Given that their original release date was close to the Uncharted 4 release date, they might even get more of those crucial first month sales on PS4 by releasing later, as opposed to some people choosing Uncharted over Tomb Raider and coming back for the latter (if at all) a few months later when the price has dropped.

    1. syal says:

      That brings up an interesting question; if the game was not exclusive, how many sales would they lose because people are still on the fence about which console to get?

      1. Eathanu says:

        More than they will lose to piracy.

  14. Retsam says:

    Huh, so the title of the article is: “3 Odd Things About The Tomb Raider Xbox One Exclusive”, but the page title (and URL) is “Rise of the Tomb Raider Exclusive for the Xbox One has Major Issues”.

    I’ve never paid attention to whether the page title mentions the article; is it normal for the two to be different? Or was there a change to the article title that didn’t get reflected in the page title? Is there some secret nefarious reason for the incongruity?

    1. Shamus says:

      The “3 odd things” is the title I gave it. I can only assume someone decided to rename it (which is fine with me) but then didn’t change the text on the page?

      Yeah. Weird.

      1. Corpital says:

        Learn how one grumpy man fixed the games industry with this strange trick!

        1. MrGuy says:

          The article titles that publishers don’t want you to see!

          1. Major Game Studio CEOs hate him!

        2. Paul Spooner says:

          This reminded me of something Shamus re-tweeted last Friday, so I wrote some code to generate headlines. Here are some results.

          “This grumpy old man rages impotently at the shortsightedness of modern game developers.”

          “Read on in horror as this programmer transforms EA Games with his scathing criticism.”

          “You won’t believe how this internet pundit reveals his true nature.”

          Horay for programming!

          1. Bubble181 says:

            All of those sound absolutely realistic. I’d read the first and third, certainly.

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              Realistic? The second one wants me to believe EA changed!

              Though, to be fair, it does not say they changed for the better…

  15. Retsam says:

    Someone on the escapist forums suggested that the third point – “Why would Microsoft draw attention to the limited exclusivity part” – is probably an attempt at transparency on the part of Microsoft. Which, yeah, I think is probably a good point and the most likely explanation; though the overall message seems to come out as “Hey, we’re being vaguely anti-consumer with this deal, but at least we’re being honest about it, right? … Right?”

    1. ET says:

      That actually sounds like a plausible reason. I would hope MS still loses from this deal. I want exclusivity/deals/etc to die off. Like right now. Ugh.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I immediately thought of transparency too. To be honest if I cared about the game I would be royally pissed if they first claimed it was exclusive and only after the deal run its course revealed it will actually get a PC release that was planned all along.

    3. Abnaxis says:

      That does seem plausible, though I don’t know if there’s really as much deliberate thought behind Microsoft’s action. It seems less like them going “Let’s try and engender trust with our customers by appearing transparent” and more like “Oh holy crap the media’s handing out the pitchforks again! Quick, tell them it’s temporary, TELL THEM IT’S TEMPORARY!”

  16. Paul Spooner says:

    If you want more desk space, you could always hang your monitors from the ceiling. Let me know if you want help with this. I’ve done it before to make a mini-lair in our Harry Potter closet.

  17. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I get why it was microsoft that did the last announcement.The backlash of their initial push backfired(microsoft announces something and it backfires?Inconceivable!),and they naturally backpedaled,as they usually do.

    1. MrGuy says:

      Which still makes no sense, IMO.

      Exclusives are ALWAYS bad for consumers. Always. No mystery about this.

      That people would be upset (because they wouldn’t have the hardware) is exactly what they should have been prepared for. It’s not like the magnitude of this particular “exclusively on” arrangement was particularly more negatively received than previous gen exclusive announcements.

      Why take the massive PR hit if you’re not inclined to stick with the story long enough to make your massive investment pay off with actual console sales?

      At least the “you can’t get it without a Kinect!” story lasted long enough to sell way more kinects than they would have otherwise. Can you imagine what would have happened if they’d announced day one “Oh, the integrated Kinect is only required for the first 6 months. After that, we’ll launch a version with without it.”? They’d have killed their day one sales as people said “thanks, I’ll wait.” But that’s exactly what they’ve invited here.

      1. ehlijen says:

        I agree.

        In addition, it’s not just Microsoft that suffers here. Without those extra X-Box sales the game isn’t going to get those sales either until the exclusivity runs out, which means it’s not going to beat the PS4 competition in launch sales and preorders, and that makes it even less likely that any insane sales projections will be reached this time either.

        Unless Microsoft is attempting to destroy Crystal Dynamics, I don’t get what’s the plan here. And I don’t see why they’d do that. Even “Evil Corporation’ doesn’t quite cover that.

  18. silver Harloe says:

    So a couple or three jobs ago, I was working for a company that had a largish website thing going on in JSP. I don’t remember the size of the project in terms of code, but it wasn’t trivial – we had 8 or so developers working on it for like four years and we weren’t just fiddling our thumbs. We also had a semi-large set of Perl tools to manage dev patching/running multiple versions and keeping the DB up to date and so on and so forth. And the system administrator had his OWN Perl toolset for live deployments.
    So, a significant chunk of code – and it actually worked and we were adding features to try to attract more customers and all was pretty cool.

    Until Microsoft showed up.

    Microsoft took notice of us and decided to try to get us on C#. This should be a very hard sell, because we’d have to *start the frak over* on the real code – *and* throw out all the benefits of our deployment tools and hope theirs did what we wanted – *and* effectively cease to provide new features for a year or more while we re-provided existing functionality.

    But they didn’t negotiate with development, or even the dev managers. They negotiated with the VP level people. And somehow convinced our own VPs that our code must, purely because it was in Java, be a priori lame and slow and badly in need of replacement. And they offered money and free consulting to answer all our questions and help us switch over. And because our new code would be in C#, it would be a priori superior (even if we kept the same design and just recoded the objects line by line. Our VPs did NOT understand that developers make code fast or slow, not languages – and our developers weren’t asked). The details were hammered out by upper management and presented to dev as a done-deal.

    Now I know at this point you’re thinking that means we had internal communications problems and lack of trust at our own company, and I won’t deny that. But that’s not even my point.

    My point is the promised money and support never materialized. Once we were paying for a dozen copies of Windows and Visual Studio Professional and had a substantial MS-SQL server license – and once we had payed for a bunch of developers to go to workshops/consulting meetings to learn about C# – MS ceased to give us any attention whatsoever. Once MS knew that any pushback from development would be met by VPs who *just knew* that C# was that much better than Java, and who could hide behind the sunk-costs fallacy on all our new software, it wasn’t important to actually help us out. The VPs were convinced we’d make a better thing regardless, and sales would go up and so on and so forth.

    Anyway, that’s just one anecdotal piece of experience. I can’t say for sure that MS negotiated the Tom Braider exclusivity deal with the boss-of-the-boss-of-the-boss level people at the publisher, who then forced it down the throats of the dev studio, but I wouldn’t be surprised, keeping in mind that making *actual* sense would be less important than being able to convince a high-level suit type that it makes sense.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Wow. That all both makes no sense whilst simultaneously making all kinds of sense. (Er, if you follow me! It’s like the initial outline for a month of Dilbert strips or something.)

      1. Neruz says:

        One of the most common problems in many large modern companies seems to be upper level management either failing or refusing to communicate with the lower levels and thus ending up in a position where they have not the faintest fucking clue what is actually going on.

        Unsurprisingly they then make poor decisions; it is hard to make good decisions when you don’t know what you’re talking about.

        1. Zak McKracken says:

          That problem has another side: Low-level employees familiar with the devil-in-the-details not being able to communicate their concerns effectively, and also not being able to see the larger picture their boss’s boss is seeing.
          So the dev can thing that management doesn’t understand while management is just as justied in thinking that the devs don’t understand their side of the problem and have a much easier excuse for discarding a dev’s complaints as “they’re just afraid of change” (which, to be honest, is a thing that does happen…). And thus what upper management says, goes.

          I think the only way to solve that is for management being able to get off their horse but at the same time lower employees looking for (and being given) a perspective on management’s decisions, possibly even being involved… At my last job, after about six years, we had a department “conference”, half of which consisted in managers talking about their reasons for decisions, strategic outlook etc. That opened a few eyes, certainly mine, and explained lots of things I’d previously filed under “they probably don’t know better”

          1. In the modern world, being (as an employee) afraid of change is highly justified. It’s been around 40 years since any change was likely on average to be good for line employees. Many decisions which actually do make perfect sense from a management standpoint or even overall-profitability-of-the-firm standpoint are bad for employees. And many other decisions which are bad for employees are actually based on shortsightedness or ignorance. And decisions to change things in ways that are good for employees . . . are increasingly rare.

            Meanwhile, relating to silver Harloe’s initial anecdote, I cannot imagine a situation where those executives explained themselves and any reasonable person then found that their eyes were opened and it all now made sense. Well, unless the executives were simply bribed, in which case it would make sense from their personal perspective. (OK, I can imagine such a situation, but it would involve the Illuminati or something)

            1. Abnaxis says:

              At the same time, however, I can’t count how many times I have had to endure a rant-fest from a fellow employee complaining about management, that the decision they were complaining about made sense if you took five minutes to think about it.

              Case in point, for another anecdotal point of reference–one of the companies I worked at had a dysfunctional engineering structure. Every product being designed for release had a design engineer in charge of it. That engineer had to carry the product, enlisting the help of the manufacturing department, the purchasing department, the drafting department, the QA department, etc. to get everything set up so the good could be manufactured and documented and sold.

              The problem is, that means all those departments are effectively working on every project, all the time, in parallel. If I needed something as a design engineer I had to enter the queue. And there was ALWAYS one step in the process where that particular department was swamped with work much more important and much more manpower-intensive than mine. It made adding a simple option that took me (as a design engineer) five minutes to draw up and get all the documentation together for take fourteen months before it could finally be released.

              Short of a major company restructuring (which was started, then nixed when the housing crash happened), there was no change that didn’t incur MASSIVE backlash. That’s because there were only 2 ways around it: either A) the clogged departments needed to push out more work (never a popular thing to ask), or B) the design engineers needed to cut them out of the loop (queue office-political pissing match).

              I talked with a lot of people, trying to get my shit done, and I would put the proportion at about 25% of them who would understand the position the company was in, and their part in the problem. The rest would flare up defensively, because in all fairness the situation sucked for the departments almost as much as it did for the design team, although we were always the ones blamed for slow releases.

              That’s just the way things are–sometimes decisions have to be made, and it’s going to make somebody’s job harder. Sometimes those are the best of a number of bad decisions. Most of the time, in my experience, the employee won’t see it that way.

              Incidentally, I left about the time the sales department was close to convincing the higher ups that the company needed to start outsourcing all the engineering work because turnaround was too slow. Which is to say, a lot of times management has a clearer big-picture view, but a lot of times they also have some MASSIVELY STUPID ideas. Seriously, I don’t know if they ever went for that, but it would have cost them so dearly if they did…

        2. The culture of modern managerial education is oriented towards money management more than anything else. It does concern itself with organizational issues to some extent. But in both cases, it emphasizes the idea of management as a universal phenomenon, implying that all firms are the same and differences in product are ultimately irrelevant.

          Bottom line, the point is that managers are trained to believe they don’t have to understand the business in order to manage it effectively. The smart ones may overcome this bias. But it seems many don’t.

      2. MrGuy says:

        I feel the need to dredge up one of my favorite Joel on Software posts. It’s 14 years old, and still relevant.


    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      I feel for yout.Thats what happens when you get bad head of the company.The one Im working for now is still trying to fix the mess left by the last guy that run it.5 years after the new guy(who is actually good at his job,and consults with practically everyone when he doesnt understand the field)got into the chair.

    3. silver Harloe says:

      Thanks for the empathy and extra points, everyone, but I didn’t actually mean to talk about me – I was using the anecdote to present a (rather shoddy) case for the possibility of an alternative scenario on the TR exclusivity deal:

      Namely, that the deal might not be because MS is paying them the right amount of money to make up for the exclusivity, but has persuaded someone who doesn’t know any better (but happens to be in charge) that the deal makes more sense than it does by waving their cloud of mystic suit mumbo-jumbo at them. Or, as I said, “I can't really say that MS negotiated the Tom Braider exclusivity deal with the boss-of-the-boss-of-the-boss level people at the publisher, who then forced it down the throats of the dev studio, but I wouldn't be surprised”

  19. General Karthos says:

    I think, honestly, the exclusive relase is simply so that they can attach “exclusive” to the title. If something is exclusive, it must be rare/fantastic, so you must get it. If I release a game that I call “exclusively for electronic entertainment devices”, I’d bet you it sells more copies (particularly to the idiot crowd, to which many of my age group belong) than it would without the “exclusive” part. Maybe they think they can make up enough sales by making it exclusive to make it worth it.

    And maybe when they release it on the other consoles and PC/OS X, they figure that the excitement at finally having it will increase sales? Making a game cross-platform compatible is EXTREMELY expensive too…. Maybe they want to avoid the expense if the game is going to flop the way the last one did.

    1. Ciennas says:

      Cross compatible is expensive?

      I thought that all the consoles now used the same under lying code base.

      1. Eruanno says:

        Weeeell… I mean, they’re both x86-64 CPUs, but there are still differences. The PS4 rolls with OpenGL versus DirectX for example.

        1. The PS4 (and PS3) do not use OpenGL. OpenGL 2.0 ES (with NVIDIA Cg instead of GLSL) was available on the PS3 in the form of Sony’s PSGL library, but performance was lackluster, and it was rarely used outside of HD remakes (which, of course, are less performance critical)

          The PS3 uses a Sony proprietary library called libGCM; the PS4 will use something similar. This is a very low level library – it manages the command buffers for you, but doesn’t provide any of the additional functionality that OpenGL or DirectX would. Hence, developers can obtain greater performance (because there is less abstraction in their way)

      2. guy says:

        You need to do some work to convert between Xbone and PS4, but Xbone to windows PC is apparently free if you don’t customize the UI. Admittedly, you should do that and it costs some amount of money, but that’s a fairly mild additional investment for a AAA game.

        1. General Karthos says:

          Also, there is SOME need to modify things for the PC. I mean, we’ve seen some pretty dreadful console-PC ports in the past, haven’t we? Games that were OBVIOUSLY designed to be played using a controller that just do NOT work over with your keyboard and mouse. (Or in my case, even more difficult to make work, keyboard and trackpad.)

  20. Torsten says:

    There is an article on Polygon that tries to explain what could be reasons for the publisher to agree on Xbone exclusivity.

    Basically the idea is that Microsoft needs a competitor to Uncharted on PS4, so they are going to step in and help Crystal Dynamics on development, maybe provide advertisement space or lower licensing fees.

  21. Daimbert says:

    Heh. I AM one of those people who’ll buy a console for a $60 game/product. If the next Persona game was only going to come out on the PS4, I’d run out and buy a PS4. That’s because between Persona 3, Persona 3 FES, P3P, Persona 4, and P4 Golden I’ve put well over a thousand hours into the various Persona games. Based on that, my expected playtime out of the new Persona game would mean that with both I’d be spending $1/hour for entertainment. That’s pretty good.

    I bought a Vita for P4 Golden. I bought a PSP for P3P.

    I bought a PS3 because I had bought a HD TV and wanted to watch Blu-ray movies, and it would also let me play games as well. Since this is what allowed me to play P4: Arena, the first Mass Effect, Oblivion and Record of Agarest War, I say it was worth it.

    I bought a Wii for Wii Fit, which I’ve used a bit. I expected to play more Wii games but that never happened.

    I bought a PS2 to watch DVD movies. Since this allowed me to play the Persona games … yeah, still worth it.

    I’m probably not indicative, but I don’t think I’m alone either. If the perceived payoff is high enough — including considering what else you’ll get if you buy it — then one game can indeed push to buying a console, or buying a specific one. It won’t get you to buy one if you’d never consider buying one, but it might get you considering one if you wouldn’t and to buy one if you’re considering one.

    1. Aspeon says:

      I’m in a similar boat. (PS2 for Persona 4, Vita for Golden/War of the Lions/other old PSP stuff, 3DS for Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies.) I’ll even be holding off on a PS3 until Persona 5 comes out. But the list of franchises I’ll do that for is very short, and usually ones that are doing something unique.

      The little surveys Nintendo does through Club Nintendo always include “Did you buy the console to play this?” so the top brass are at least getting data on it.

      1. General Karthos says:

        I bought an XBox for KOTOR. But I also have an extensive lineup of other XBox games. And I didn’t buy the XBox until almost the time KOTOR 2 came out. Even then, I didn’t pay full price.

        1. Daimbert says:

          Yeah, that’s the same for me except for the Wii, unfortunately. Once I bought the PS3, I bought a fair number of games for it, but not as much as I did for the PS2.

    2. Abnaxis says:

      I’ve bought consoles for first party exclusives, but not for third party ones. I bought a Gamecube because I was a huge Metroid fan at the time.

      Never bought a console for third party exclusives, though. For some reason, there is a distinction between the two that makes me want to buy a console less due to third party exclusives. It’s like it feels more scuzzy and manipulative to me, and I don’t want to reward the behavior.

      1. Daimbert says:

        For me, I mostly only buy a console because I can get something from it that I couldn’t get anywhere else. If that happens to be a third-party exclusive, then I don’t really have a problem with the technique … but, then, I’m used to it because in the old days you got a lot of that.

  22. WILL says:

    Shamus, are you starting to write your headlines like clickbait articles?

    It’s probably the smart thing to do.

  23. Simplex says:

    “I'd want to see what percent of Xbones survive their first year before I could dream of giving Microsoft money.”

    Ever wonder why XBONE is so huge, has lots of “grill area” and a huge fan? Microsoft did their homework – another RROD fiasco would be a nail to their coffin so when designing the console they made absolutely and 100% sure that the console will not overheat.

  24. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I think Amazon really cut them off at the knees. You want a powerful gaming system? PS4 is more powerful for the same money. Ah but Microsoft is touting itself as the multimedia machine, a powerful gaming device with music and television.

    Oops, Amazon Fire TV is way cheaper if you want a more casual gaming device that still does media well.

    And then there’s the PC market. This doesn’t give the XBox any good place to stand.

  25. The Other Matt K says:

    In your article, you mention how alien it seems that someone would buy a console just to play one game. I don’t generally think the idea is that there will be one game that will get them on board alone, but rather, that one game may be the tipping point in order to do so.

    I bought an Xbox because it was the only system with a game I wanted (Culdcept Saga). I went on to play dozens of other titles on the system, but none of them would probably have been a reason alone for me to pick up the system.

    I haven’t had any interest in picking up the Wii U. But whenever the next installment of the Zelda franchise comes around, that might change. Once I have the system, odds are high that I’ll grab a number of party games for it, stuff like Mario Kart and Smash Bros – but I don’t have any interest in picking up the system just for them.

    I’m sure there are some folks out there who do, indeed, buy a game system to play a single game, and never play any others. But I suspect they are few and far between. Instead, I imagine the benefit of most exclusives in simply in adding more weight to the scale for those who are balancing whether or not to pick up a system. It isn’t about being the only reason for someone to buy a console – it is about simply being the final reason needed to go ahead and do so.

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