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Friday, January 21, 2005

The Family Gamer: Exclusivity


Posted by Nathaniel at 9:26 PM
The Family Gamer: a view of the gaming world from the perspective of an aging gamerdad who has three problems: he loves video games, he has no time for video games, and he can't shut up about it.

This is a rant about exclusive licensing in video games. Now, before you turn away, this really has very little to do with EA snatching up the NFL Players, Inc exclusive license, or Take-Two Interactive going after Major League Baseball, though those recent events may have been the catalyst for this rant. Actually, my hatred in this case is pointed directly--almost exclusively, one could say--towards Capcom.

Before I get into this, let me remind my audience of what exactly "exclusivity" is. A quick search on Dictionary.com gives us a perfect definition of the word: Not divided or shared with others: exclusive publishing rights. So, for example, if a company says that a game will be "exclusive" to one console, that means it won't be shared with others. Correct? Are you with me so far? Don't worry. Even if you are, I'll say something at some point that will make you want to leave. It's inevitable.

Back in November of 2002, some of you may recall, Capcom had announced five games (which gaming news sources quickly dubbed "the Capcom Five" /shudder) that would be Nintendo GameCube exclusives. They were (in no particular order):

Viewtiful Joe
Killer 7
Resident Evil 4
Product Number 3 (P.N.03)
Dead Phoenix


Capcom's announcement of five potentially fantastic exclusive games was at once alarming and gratifying to fans of Nintendo's GameCube console. A masterpiece of a line-up, complete with the next greatest installment of the Resident Evil series--traditionally a PS2 exclusive--now solely belonging to the GameCube. We were all thrilled, astonished, and excited.

Then, it slowly began to fall apart. Or, it's probably more accurate to say, Capcom woke up.

Of those games on their list of exclusives, Dead Phoenix is dead, P.N.03 was laughably mediocre (and that's putting it nicely), and the rest...all going to be or have already been ported to the Playstation 2.

Now, I'm not starting a console war. I'm honestly not flaming the Playstation 2. I'm pretty much a Nintendo fanboy, but not to the extent that I want the other consoles to fail, I just really want to see Nintendo succeed.

It started with Viewtiful Joe sales, which weren't great, but they were okay. Capcom said that they thought the game was so fantastic that it was suffering on the GameCube due to its much smaller installed user base. All right, I can definitely agree to that assumption. So, they decide to port the game over to the PS2. At or around the same time, they announce that the sequel to Viewtiful Joe would come out simultanteously for both consoles. This way, they believe, a much wider audience can enjoy the absolute gaming masterpiece that is the Viewtiful Joe concept.

The appalling truth. Halfway down the page is this post:
The original Viewtiful Joe sold 275,000 copies on GameCube and an additional 46,000 on PlayStation 2. Meanwhile, through December 2004, the GameCube version of Viewtiful Joe 2 sold through only 61,000 copies and the PS2 build a mere 18,000 copies.
Ouch. So, Capcom--in an effort to increase lackluster sales--ports Viewtiful Joe to the PS2, and it fails miserably, selling almost a fourth of what the game sold on the GameCube. And then the sequel does poorly on both systems, but fairing slightly better on the Cube.

Now, before these sales figures came out, Capcom had also announced that Resident Evil 4 would be ported to the PS2, alongside Killer 7. Resident Evil 4 would go on to achieve amazing scores to become one of the highest-rated and sought-after games ever. What will be in store for its PS2 successor? What about a simultaneous GameCube/PS2 launch of Killer 7?

The reason I rant on this topic is basically directly due to the fact that I AM a Nintendo fanboy (to a certain extent). When I see publishers snub the Cube for one reason or another, I take it personally. And before you scream at me for that, realize that as a consumer, this is a freedom I'm allowed. There was actually a small glimmer of satisfaction felt when the sales for Viewtiful Joe (both 1 and 2) showed much slower sales on the PS2 than the Cube. Their idea failed. Though they did increase their sales some by porting VJ to another system, I'm sure it far undercut their expectations given the PS2's staggering installed user base. But in so doing, they also screwed themselves over in another aspect: Nintendo fans don't trust them anymore. Giving us the hope of exclusive games that only we can enjoy (elitist? yes, so what?) and then ripping those tender, juicy morsels right out of our hands, giving them over to someone else. It's just wrong. Capcom is the girlfriend that told us we were an exclusive couple, and then I saw her at that restaurant, being manhandled by another man. It's that feeling of betrayal that hurts, the knife in the back that reads "Courtesy of your friends at Capcom". That's the part that's painful.

Now, I'm all for games coming out for multiple consoles. I have no problem with enjoying a game that someone else is enjoying on another system. I'm also all for a game publisher wanting to make money. That's the reason they exist: they are businesses that are looking for ways to make more money. But don't make promises that you have no intention of keeping. We GameCube owners get beaten enough as it is by our own merciless masters. We don't need big game publishers joining in the festivities. I picture board room conference calls between publishers where they discuss things like: "so, now that we have a design for our next big game, how can we make sure we really stick it to the GameCube owners?" I know it's not really like that, but that's the feeling we get sometimes.

All I'm really looking for is a little bit of decency. Not just from Capcom, but from the entire game publishing industry. Don't intentionally screw over the GameCube. We pay money for games, too. Don't make promises you don't intend to keep. It will make us hate you. And please, on a side note, for the love of God, don't make any more throw-away games just to make a quick buck. We're smarter than that.

Well, some of us are.

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