Experienced Points

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3 Odd Things About The Tomb Raider Xbox One Exclusive

Shamus Young | 19 Aug 2014 15:00
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rise of the tomb raider

For this deal to make any kind of sense to Square Enix, Microsoft would need to be offering enough cash to make up for this shortfall. Is it really worth tens of millions of dollars to Microsoft to have this game as a temporary exclusive? I know the last Tomb Raider ultimately did okay, but it wasn't a huge sensation. Is this game really popular enough to be a system seller? How many units can this one game possibly move?

For this deal to pay off for everyone (except the fans of course, because these deals never benefit us) then Tomb Raider must be popular enough to sell a significant number of Xbox Ones, and Microsoft must be willing to pay Square Enix enough to offset their short-term losses. I know Microsoft is trying to boost sales before they fall so far behind the PlayStation that they end up in a downward spiral, but this seems like a really expensive way to go about it.

(Although, if Square Enix was low on cash then maybe they needed the short-term infusion to get Tomb Raider done. I have nothing to support this, but I'm mentioning it here as an alternate explanation.)

In any case, I get why Microsoft wants the exclusive, which makes it all the more baffling that:

3. Microsoft publicly announced the limited duration

The whole point of a deal like this is to sell consoles. The idea is that some die-hard Tomb Raider fan will be willing to pony up for an Xbox One if that's the only way they can play the game. But if you announce that the exclusive is of a limited duration, then consumers know they can save themselves a few hundred bucks by just waiting it out.

Even more strange is that Microsoft was the one to explicitly announce that the exclusive was limited. I can't imagine why they did this. Sure, I can understand why the developer would want to let their fans know, but for Microsoft there was nothing to be gained and everything to lose by coming out and admitting that you won't need to buy an Xbox One to get the game. It undercuts the only thing they have to gain in this deal: The potential to sell consoles.

All in all, this is an odd deal. It's odd that Square Enix would be willing to take the long-term sales hit. It's odd that Microsoft would fork over this kind of money to create an exclusive instead of taking that same money and "spending" it by discounting the Xbox One. (Both consoles are the same price and so any discount can be enough to tip an indecisive consumer one way or the other.) It's odd that Microsoft would talk about the deal openly instead of just keeping quiet and letting anxious Tomb Raider fans take the bait.

But the most bizarre thing to me is that that this sort of thing works - there really are people out there who will buy a $400 console so they can play a $60 video game. I love this game as much as anyone (see the first paragraph) and I'm even willing to buy the game again for a small graphical upgrade. But there's no way I'd buy an Xbox One to play it - not even the recently discounted Kinect-free version. But clearly there must be people who do that sort of thing, or else deals like this wouldn't exist.

Shamus Young is a programmer, critic, comic, and crank. You can read more of his work here.

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