If you’re just now catching up on all the Gamescom news, here’s the one thing you need to take away from Microsoft’s conference: Not one other announcement was more significant that the revelation that Rise of the Tomb Raider, the sequel to last year’s excellent Tomb Raider reboot, wouldn’t be coming to PlayStation or PC – it’s an Xbox exclusive.
There are many different camps that people are falling into when it comes to this news:
1. The indifferent people who didn’t care about Lara Croft’s next adventure anyway.
2. The Xbox fanboy who is cheering with all their lung power that their system of choice has one over its opponent.
3. The PlayStation fanboy who is stewing at the fact that its opponent has one over their preferred system.
4. The realist who realizes that Crystal Dynamics must have been handed a giant check to compensate the studio for the PlayStation and PC sales that Rise of the Tomb Raider won’t be getting.
5. Then there’s the people who, whether they care about the series or not, have stepped back to take a look at the big picture and realize that this move may be a nail that ultimately leads to coffin around the Tomb Raider franchise’s corpse.
Okay, perhaps I’m getting a bit dramatic. But as I think on this situation, I only see Rise of the Tomb Raider’s Xbox exclusivity as an ultimately negative thing for Crystal Dynamics, Microsoft, the Tomb Raider name, and most importantly, the fans that have followed Lara Croft’s story from the beginning.
The Tomb Raider community is in a blaze right now, and rightfully so. A much beloved franchise that has been a cross-platform series for much of its lifetime suddenly reverting to an exclusive is not good business make. As passionate as gamers are, they can be a fickle bunch, more than willing to drop something the second it bites them. Last year’s reveal of the Xbox One is proof of that. In the event that Rise of the Tomb Raider is just a strange detour for the series, and the next time Lara Croft graces a PlayStation system, do you think that fans aren’t going to remember the fact that a lump sum of cash came between them and the series that they loved? Not a chance.
In Crystal Dynamics’ statement regarding the game not coming to PlayStation and PC not being a sign of abandoning those platform’s install base, the studio cited the release of Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, a cooperative spin-off, as proof that PS4 and PC players will not be forgotten. Frankly, if you were to deny me a meal but tell me I would still get my side-dish, I would feel more insulted than placated.
The point is, Rise of the Tomb Raider’s controversial exclusivity is going to be a stain on the series regardless of how you look at it, and fans of the series, even the ones with flags firmly planted in the camp of Xbox, should be worried about what this means about public perception of the series moving forward. Bad press will follow a brand for the rest of its life. It’s evident in the fact that despite Alien: Isolation not being handled by the same developers as Alien: Colonial Marines fans are still hesitant to give it a shot because the last game under the Alien umbrella was not well-liked by pretty much anyone.
As someone who doesn’t currently own an Xbox One, is Rise of the Tomb Raider being only on it going to make me buy the system? No, and this should prove that third party exclusivity, especially for a game that is an established franchise, is not good practice.
The Tomb Raider series was in a bad place before the series was rebooted last year, so why would you want to mess that up with a clearly money-driven exclusivity deal for the game’s follow-up?
Whether Rise of the Tomb Raider’s Xbox exclusivity is timed and being danced around by skillful PR speak is yet to be determined, but the most uncertain thing is just what this means for Lara Croft and her adventures moving forward. I can ponder what the future holds all day, but none of the conclusions I reach are ever good.