Final Straw: the End of Third-Party Exclusives

I wasn’t upset when I read that Final Fantasy 13 had become a multiplatform game. Granted it was one of the reasons I bought a PS3 over an Xbox 360, but really it didn’t make me all that mad. As far as I’m concerned anger over video games is a staple for children and fanboys and I’m neither. If someone were to offer me an Xbox 360 tomorrow, free of charge, I’d take it and enjoy it without feeling any of the silly guilt so many people feel for "betraying" a company. After all, it is just a company. Whatever drive Sony, or Microsoft or Nintendo might feel to make me happy is firmly grounded in their desire to convince me it’s a good idea to buy their merchandise. I’m smart enough to know that if they weren’t in the business of making money they wouldn’t care about me in the slightest, so when one of the big three does something, I tend not get angry at them.

In truth, I am actually pleased at Square Enix’s decision to make the game multiplatform. The financial woes of SE have not been a secret. Last year’s profits were not up to their usual par and by making Final Fantasy XIII multiplat, profits will go up, ensuring a safe future for my favorite gaming franchise. After all, the last thing anyone wants is for the next Final Fantasy to really be final, and while it might seem absurd to imagine the behemoth series going down, the costs of development have skyrocketed and one can only imagine how much the exceedingly long gestation of FFXIII has cost SE. The last thing the company needs is another fiscal debacle a la The Spirits Within, and honestly it would have been much harder for SE to remake the costs of this game if they had kept it an exclusive.

I suppose something can of course be said for loyalty between companies. Part of the reason so many people were shocked and even angered by this move is the fact that Final Fantasy has been primarily a Sony based franchise since FFVII first graced us with its spikey haired hero. Sony and Square Enix grew so close over the years that Sony actually owns a minority portion of the company. Something all the fanboys need to remember however is the fact that before FFVII came along there was FFVI, and V and IV and so on and so forth, all on Nintendo systems. FFVII itself was originally supposed to be on the Nintendo 64 as well, but SE, then still Squaresoft, jumped ship when the costs and limitations of catridge based games became clear. Sony might have brought SE into its most profitable era, but without Nintendo, Final Fantasy might have never been. That didn’t stop them from leaving and anyone who says it should have is a fool.

If a console can’t give a developer what it needs to be succesful, why would anyone ever expect them to stick around? They have their own worries, their own lives to care about; whether or not Sony, or Microsoft or Nintendo move more consoles is not their responsibility. People, especially those wrapped up in the silliness of system wars diatribe, tend to forget that.

For all the Sony fans crying foul and Microsoft fans predicting the doom of the PS3, this announcement doesn’t really mean that much. PS3 owners still get to play this, and while it is most certainly a success for Microsoft that this game is multiplatform, people would do well to remember that Grand Theft Auto IV, another exclusive turned multiplat did almost nothing to move consoles. The only people it benefited were the game makers themselves. And its not as if SE has completely abandoned Sony either. FFXIII remains a PS3 exclusive in Japan, where really it matters most. Any hopes Microsoft has of moving the Xbox 360 there are not going to be helped by the insane popularity of Final Fantasy in Japan. The 360 will indeed remain a marginalized force there much as the PS3 is third in America.

So in the end, what this amounts to more than anything is just another sign of the changing industry. Third party exclusives are quickly becoming a thing of the past, which for gamers is a good thing. It means the likes of Sony, Microsoft ,and Nintendo will have to work harder for your money. A cold war can be a bad thing, but its hard to argue with companies trying to give you more bang for your buck.

Author: TGRStaff

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