Console Exclusivity is Gatekeeping, and Needs to Go Away

I’ve been sat on notes for this article for a few weeks now, but this week’s Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade announcement has helped me flesh it out somewhat. So, as the title says, we need to do away with system exclusivity. It’s a business practice that, long-term, makes little sense. Why reduce your potential sales by limiting yourself to one platform?

Now, obviously, there are some exceptions to this. First Party titles are always going to be stuck on their respective platforms, so no, we won’t see Link taking on his latest adventure on PlayStation 5 and we’re unlikely to see Kratos slaying his way through myth and legend on Nintendo Switch. There are also those developers who may not have the funds or resources to develop for multiple platforms at once, but quite often those guys seem to eventually release on multiple systems once they’ve got their first release out into the world. Other exceptions are when the developer has made the game with a specific system in mind, particularly when that system has a unique selling point or has a very particular market.

So yeah, I’m bending my rant a little.

But this initially came from one specific release. Namely Persona 5. Since its release Switch owners have been literally begging for it to be released on Nintendo’s hybrid console. I’ll admit I’ve watched this with some amusement, primarily because it’s a weird position that Nintendo now find themselves in. With a lot of games now releasing Switch versions, its a far cry from just a few generations ago when Nintendo struggled to get third party developers and publishers to make games for the N64 and Gamecube, but the popularity of the Wii (and ignoring the WiiU’s short life) followed by the explosion of the Switch (plus that sweet sweet Nintendo system RRP where we rarely see games discounted on their consoles like we do on Sony and Microsoft systems). This has in some quarters, I think, created an expectation that any game that can run on the Switch should indeed do so and there’s a sense of entitlement that’s come from that that has made the lack of a Switch port of Persona 5 quite amusing, particularly as Atlus saw fit to recently release Persona 5 Strikers (which I’m currently playing on PS4) on the system and that game makes no effort to introduce you to its cast and setting leaving you a little confused if you haven’t played Persona 5 or Persona 5 Royal.

But then, I took a step back and thought, well, that’s a shitty attitude to have, it’s shitty to find amusement in that there are people who may only be able to afford or have time for one console, or they prefer the functionality of Nintendo’s system over that of Sony’s. There’s all sorts of reasons, and quite frankly, Atlus do release games on Nintendo hardware, namely the Shin Megami Tensei mainline games, (that Persona was once a spin-off from, my promo copy of Persona 3 has Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 stamped on it). So, why should people have to miss out? 

Atlus aren’t the only guilty party and console manufacturers are desperate to get those third-party exclusives, no doubt throwing a whole bunch of cash in the publisher’s direction whilst a game is in development to secure that exclusivity. And do you know what? It’s a fucking joke and gamers make it justifiable by buying into the whole “fanboy” mentality. Why should we, the players (or as Sony like to call us The Players) encourage these business practices, which I might add is a form of gatekeeping that’s not really existent in any other medium, there’s never only ever one way to listens to someone’s music for example (okay, in some very rare examples there is).

Which brings me onto Square-Enix. On Thursday 25th February 2021 they announced that owners of Final Fantasy VII Remake (which is still currently an exclusive on PlayStation 4) will see a PlayStation 5 release this year, on top of that if you own the game on PS4 (though not the version they’re giving away as part of March 2021’s PlayStation Plus subscription) you can upgrade to the PlayStation 5 version for free. That’s excellent and is a business practice we’re seeing more of. But they showed this alongside footage of new content for the game, which they’ve apparently made PlayStation 5 exclusive, locking out millions of customers who have bought Final Fantasy VII Remake who will happily pay for the new content to play on their PS4 with no development reason for this decision, its particularly poor practice when people are still struggling to get their hands on Sony’s new console and has really rather annoyed me. Admittedly, I wasn’t desperate for more FFVIIR content just yet, I only finished the game on Monday and have spent some time drafting my thoughts on it for a future post, but in a couple of months times? Sure, I’d have been down to return and play a bit more. But unless its content that will be included with Part 2 in some way, I’m unlikely to return to the game a year or so from now when I eventually have the opportunity and the money to buy a shiny new PlayStation 5.

 

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