There are nine million reasons why Xbox fans will always stick with Microsoft and Playstation fans will always stick with Sony. Exclusive games should not be one of them.
I grew up watching my brother play God of War on PlayStation. I was mesmerized. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. The game had all the elements that made my young imagination run wild: a badass antihero, meddlesome Greek gods, and beautifully moody scenery. Combine that all with a story about intrigue, birthrights, and bashing in skulls and I was sold.
At about the same time, my family was already gravitating away from Playstation. The Xbox 360 was out and we were huge Halo fans, playing through the campaigns constantly as well as regularly teaming up with my brother and my step dad to face hordes of covenant forces. It was all the rage and honestly brought my family closer together.
Fast forward a dozen years and I can honestly say I haven’t touched a Playstation controller in a decade. That’s not to say the Playstation 4 isn’t bad. It’s actually really good and it has a lot of great exclusives, but you know how these things go. You get locked in with the latest console that has your gamerscore, collections of games, your reward points, your friends list, and your exclusive content, and any number of other psychological marketing tricks these companies employ to keep you in their gated community, then, before you know it, the sunk costs overwhelm you and you never look back.
All companies do it, not just Sony and Microsoft. There is a long history of companies employing every tactic in the book in order to keep its customers “loyal”. Whether it be with actual loyalty cards, reward systems, exclusive content, or arbitrary barriers, corporations historically don’t like it much when customers wander off to what are often greener pastures. The most notorious of these of course is Apple. I wouldn’t be surprised to find they have an indentured servitude clause in in their Terms of Service somewhere if I could be bothered to read it.
Profit be damned though, I want to play God of War. In order to do that, I’d have to dole out a few hundred bucks for a Playstation console, spend time relearning how to use a Playstation controller and then buy the games for another fifty to one hundred bucks depending on how many of them I want to play. That’s not ideal to say the least.
There are nine million reasons why Xbox fans will always stick with Microsoft and Playstation fans will always stick with Sony. Exclusive games should not be one of them. That’s just greedy in my opinion and deprives people of one of the core tenants of video games: it’s ability to tell phenomenal stories. The God of War series is one of the most highly-rated video game series of all time, and I can’t experience it unless I pay what amounts to an exorbitant fee.
The kicker is that Sony is the company that makes the series so it’s not like they wouldn’t be making profit off it. They’d still get my money. Now, before I go any further, the exact same arguments could be said about Microsoft with regards to Halo, but to their credit, Phil Spencer has been a surprising advocate for cross-platform play between PC, Xbox and Playstation.
Last December, Laura Parker, writing for Gamespot, highlighted Phil Spencer’s willingness to move beyond capturing consumers simply based on the console they own. She writes, “ ‘The number of people that are actually buying a console every generation isn’t growing dramatically, if at all,’ Spencer told me. ‘At one point you have to recognize that, okay, you can’t just lead with one device. You can’t just say, here’s an Xbox. I’m going to go sell this device to every single person and that’s what they’re going to play on. That just doesn’t work.’” Spencer nails it. People have their preferences and these fences that are put up to block customers from running away have been up so long that in some ways they are doing the opposite of their intended purpose: blocking potential revenue in other areas.
Parker continues illustrating this idea. She writes, “ In March 2016, Spencer attempted something even ballsier: he opened up Xbox Live to cross-platform play, inviting rival publishers to allow players on competing consoles to connect with Xbox Live users. Cross-platform play became something of a cause célèbre for Spencer; he extolled its virtues on every stage and public forum. He stood on stage at Microsoft events and declared in front of millions that Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo should be competing on games and services, not through exclusionary walls that hurt gamers. What right do video game publishers have to block players from playing together, he’d ask. Doesn’t this create unnecessary divides, and prevent more people from playing games? “
It does, Phil Spencer. It definitely does.
I know there are some people out there who might scoff at the sentiment, but God of War is more than just a video game. It’s a symbol, a need for breaking down walls, a recognition of the fact that we’re all in this together, and a statement that no one should be discriminated against.
People are exhausted, looking longingly over the artificial fences that hedge us in for some hope. These fences that have existed for time immemorial are built higher and higher, because that’s how we’ve always done it. We’ve built fences. Capitalist societies depend on it, and the market thrives on it.
Let me let you in on a little secret. It doesn’t have to be that way. We can work together. Corporations, rivals, and mortal enemies can all work together if they so choose.
These are interesting times, where millions of people are under some form of quarantine, and every major gaming company is seeing huge upticks in users. It would be a perfect time for Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Apple, and all the others to announce cross-play of all sorts for all games on all platforms. If the noble goal is bringing people together, making lasting memories, and including everyone, than what better way is there? Universal cross-platform play is a must.
And so I say let the people play God of War. Who’s with me?