Console Exclusives: is it really a downfall for gaming?

Once upon a time, picking a gaming console was like picking a superhero team – you were either on Team Mario or Team Sonic. These teams just represented entire consoles and what they could do. Exclusives were the main reason people chose one console over another.

Console exclusives are good or bad

As gaming consoles have advanced in hardware and design, they’ve maintained distinct identities, evident during the 32/64-bit era with the PlayStation, Nintendo 64, and Sega Saturn. They showed off what each console was best at. For example, the PlayStation had CDs, while the Nintendo 64 stuck with cartridges. Each console’s unique approach, whether the transition to CDs or the retention of cartridges, led to significant variances. Optimization for a specific console could enhance everything from textures and lighting to music and polygon counts, showing the strengths of each system.

But that was before other platforms like PC or mobile became available for gaming. Now, you can play games anywhere, even on a vending machine. Yes, but now really. Some companies release their games meant only for consoles. For what reason? And is it fair to release a game for just one platform? Yes and no at the same time. 

Are exclusives good or bad for gaming, console identity in 2024

For how long console exclusives have been around?

Exclusive games have always been a big deal in video games, going back to the 1980s. Back then, companies made games just for their consoles because of special deals or because the hardware was different, like how Atari got to be the only one with Space Invaders for a while.

Sometimes, this makes gamers really happy or really mad. When Final Fantasy XIII was announced for more than just the PlayStation 3, some people got so upset they wanted to stop buying the game to show their anger. But this didn’t bother the company making the game, because they ended up selling more games this way.

On the other hand, Xbox got Grand Theft Auto 4 add-on stories just for them at first because they paid a lot for that deal. But in the end, those extra stories came out on PlayStation 3 too.

Will the era of console exclusive games ever end, upcoming console exclusives

Some special games made just for certain consoles have really grabbed players’ attention:

  1. The Last of Us Part II had a lot of people talking and many played it all the way through. It had a story that kept players hooked until the end. 
  2. God of War was another big hit, with an epic story about Kratos and his son that a lot of gamers stuck with to the end.
  3. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart kept up the excitement with its colorful worlds and fun action, and many players enjoyed it through to the last level.
  4. Lastly, Ghost of Tsushima gave players the chance to explore as a samurai, and it was a successful case even without paying attention that this game is not quite casual.

 

All these games show that when a game is only on one console and is really good, people will play it a lot and really get into it.

The all time greatest special games for consoles

The Downside of Cross-Platform Development

As more games come out for all types of gaming systems, game makers often have to create versions that work on the less advanced systems too. This means they can’t always make the most of what the more advanced consoles can do. So, the same game might not look or play as well on a more powerful console because it’s been made to work on all of them. For example, a game could look super detailed and real on one console, but more like a cartoon on another, less powerful one; realistic visuals on the PS3/Xbox 360 versus the cartoon-like aesthetic on the Wii for the same title.

Cross-platform games raise the question: if most games are accessible on all consoles, what then becomes the unique selling point of each system? A lineup of exclusives not only serves to highlight the unique capabilities of a console but also justifies its purchase over competitors. In the recent generation of consoles, the role of exclusives has shifted. While still important, their impact on consumer choice has diminished. The focus has turned to broader aspects of gaming, such as subscription services, backward compatibility, and social features. Nintendo, for example, has used the portability of the Switch to attract gamers, showing that the context in which games are played can be as critical as the games themselves.

Exclusives help make each console unique, but they can also keep people from playing great games just because they don’t have the right console. Think about it – wouldn’t it be sad if only some people could watch your favorite movie just because of the type of monitor they had? The industry progresses as companies strive to outdo each other, ensuring the production of the best possible gaming.

Cross-platform game development downside, pros and cons of cross-platform game development

Pros and Cons of Console Exclusives

Pros:

  • 1

    Hardware Capabilities

    Exclusives are often designed to push a console's hardware to its limits, demonstrating what the system is capable of in terms of graphics, processing power, and unique features. This is one of the main reasons why pretty much every console game is limited to 30 (sometimes 40) FPS. If you make a little test, and run any of your PC games at 30 FPS and 60 FPS you’ll notice a HUGE difference in resources your PC uses. Any monitoring program, like AIDA64, will help you understand this. 

  • 2

    Boost Console Sales

    Having compelling exclusives can drive the sales of a console. People might buy a console just to play a particular game that's not available on any other platform.

  • 3

    Brand Loyalty

    Exclusive titles can help build a loyal fanbase for a console brand, as players become invested in the unique franchises that are only available on that platform.

  • 4

    Game Optimization

    Consoles are winning the game optimization race because they have standard parts, so game makers can really polish games for these systems. Some big games have had problems on PCs when they first come out, but on consoles, they run smoothly. If you want to make a game, read about modern game testing to make sure that your game will be optimized enough for a release (don’t be like Ubisoft please). Our game console testers will optimize your game to run smoothly on the platform and make sure that the game will meet required standards.

  • 5

    Accessibility

    Buying a console for a specific game that is no longer an exclusive is in some cases 2-3 times cheaper than building or upgrading your PC for the same game. According to the annual ESA survey, about 73% of gamers in the US owned at least 1 gaming console, and 52% played mostly using consoles.

Advantages and good sides of console exclusives

Cons:

  • 1

    Limit Player Choice

    Gamers without the specific console miss out on exclusive games, which limits their gaming choices unless they're willing to invest in multiple consoles. Like, how many years (or centuries) should PC gamers wait for Bloodborne?! That’s just crazy. 

  • 2

    Economic Exclusion

    The cost of owning multiple consoles can be prohibitive, potentially excluding lower-income gamers from experiencing all that gaming has to offer.

  • 3

    Fragmented Player Communities

    When a game is exclusive to one platform, the player community is split. Friends may not be able to play together if they don't all own the same console. And we’re not even mentioning how people may literally threaten to kill each other just because they use and like different consoles. 

  • 4

    Smaller audiences for developers

    Developers might see a smaller audience for their games, as the titles are limited to the user base of a single console.

  • 5

    Risk of Missed Opportunities

    A game that could be a hit across all platforms is confined to one, possibly missing out on wider cultural impact and profitability.

Disadavntages and bad sides of console exclusives

Is it profitable to make a console exclusive?

Depending on what kind of game you’re making. If you want it to optimize the future development pipeline, the role of prototyping cannot be underestimated, especially when we’re talking about the development of console exclusives. To ensure that a console exclusive stands out, companies must hire prototyping experts who can help refine and perfect the game concept before it goes into full production. These experts are key in solving the issues of console hardware, using their technical prowess to push the game’s design to its limits, ensuring that it uses the full potential of the console.

Creating art and design for game genres is another important part of building a console-exclusive game. Like with any other videogame, whether it’s for PC, mobile, or cross-platform, you should have an understanding of what the game will be about. Many developers start counting money even before knowing what exactly will attract gamers to their creations. For example, games with lots of armor and weapons require a lot of references and studying of different textures, shapes, weapon types, and practicality of usage, especially if you’re making a historical-based game. Developers need to have a plan for what their world will look like, even if it’s a fantasy world or events set in a faraway future. 

Everything needs to have a systematic approach, you can’t just take it for the imagination. For exclusive titles, where there is an added pressure to show the unique capabilities of a console, the creation of game concept art with AI can be particularly useful. AI can help generate innovative designs and concepts faster, which gives developers more time to focus on enhancing the game for the specific console it will be featured on. Recently, Square Enix, the creators of Foamstars, admitted that they used AI while developing their characters, and we don’t think that it’s the only game studio to do so to quicken the process, and many top game studios in the world use it. There’s nothing wrong about it.

It’s also impossible to create a good game without concept art character design. A lot of devs aren’t paying attention to the art and design process of the game development and pay their price after. Some character copyright scandals and controversies won’t make your game famous. If you need a unique and well-thought character you’ll need a 3D game art studio to help you. 

3D character design services begin by sketching concepts and crafting them into detailed 3D models, essentially the digital version of sculpting. The models are then painted with textures, giving them color and depth. Next, the characters are rigged, which means giving them a skeleton that allows them to move. With this skeleton, animators can make the characters perform actions, like running or jumping. Finally, we render the characters, adding lighting and shadows to make them look as real (or as fantastically unreal) as possible within their game environments. Speaking of the environment, don’t forget that you’ll need a background and a whole world to build around your character. 3D environment design services are a popular choice for those developers who want to save their time and create a rich universe and unique lore in their game. Even if it’s a Match 3 puzzle or a Tower Defence – players are attracted mostly by visuals, and you’ll need to think about it. 

Are console exclusive game make profit, profit from console exclusives

The Voice of the Gamers

The community’s opinion on console exclusives is quite varied. Some gamers value exclusives because they offer polished, high-quality experiences that show the console’s capabilities. These titles, often developed by first-party studios, are seen as a key reason to choose one console over another and are perceived to provide better value for the investment in the console.

When it comes to exclusives, particularly in genres like real-time strategy or RPGs, isometric game assets are often a central part of the visual design. These assets must be meticulously created to align with the console’s exclusive title vision, often requiring a higher level of detail and optimization to ensure they run smoothly on the console.

Others express frustration with exclusives, feeling that they force gamers into the ecosystem of one console, potentially causing regret if another system offers attractive titles in the future. There’s a sentiment that exclusives are not always necessary for a console’s success, as some consumers prioritize elements like user experience and the broader gaming community over exclusive titles.

A few voices are indifferent to the debate, pointing out the quality of the games over their exclusivity. They point out that great gaming is available across various platforms, and having fun is what truly matters.

Interestingly, some opinions suggest that the importance of exclusives may be shrunken as game porting services are getting more popular and cross-platform play becomes more prevalent and as gaming shifts towards PC and streaming services, though any game cannot be legally ported without permission from a company that owns the game’s IP. This shift could democratize access to games, allowing more players to enjoy a wider range of titles without being restricted by their hardware choice.

Overall, the conversation around exclusives seems to underscore a broader question about the future of gaming and what factors will define the next generation of consoles and gamer loyalty.

Community opinion on console exclusives

Exclusives and Console Identity

The gaming world is at a crossroads, facing an uncertain future where the physical boxes we play on might not be the stars of the show anymore. With the gaming industry inching towards streaming, we may say goodbye to consoles as we know them. In this new world, it’s not just about the games you have, but also about which service you subscribe to, and no we don’t mean PS Plus or something like that. This is a big change from the past when owning a particular console was the only way to access certain games.

In conclusion, console exclusives are not inherently bad for gaming. In 99% of cases these games release in perfect technical condition with almost no bugs. While PC games nowadays…well, you know what we mean here. However, it is important to ensure that while they drive innovation and competition, they do not become barriers that prevent gamers from enjoying their beloved games.