I meant to write this post a lot earlier than now, but life gets in the ways sometimes, you know? E3 is the highlight summer conference where new games are announced, companies update the status of highly anticipated releases and all sorts of goodies and teasers are shared by all (who attend, that is). This year, I was most excited for the conference for Bethesda. Yet, exclusivity in gaming reminded me how foolish that was.
Bethesda: What Happened
Bethesda has been one of my favorite gaming studios to date. They have created incredible worlds for decades, including two of my personal favorites: the world of Tamriel in the Elder Scrolls universe and the Fallout universe. I’ve personally owned and played Skyrim, Elder Scrolls Online, Fallout 4 and Fallout 76. I am one of many fans who salivate at the thought of Elder Scrolls 6. Bethesda also announced a brand new IP, Starfield, which has been pitched as Fallout in space, which had both myself and my space-and-sci-fi-loving partner practically ecstatic.
Then, Microsoft bought Bethesda.
Microsoft is the company that owns Xbox, one of the top gaming consoles. I grew up with Sony’s PlayStation. After this announcement was made, I was terrified for the future of Bethesda. Not because I thought they wouldn’t be able to continue creating quality games, no. Because I feared the games I loved would soon be inaccessible to me.
Bethesda and Xbox’s dual conference at E3 confirmed it: Starfield is an Xbox exclusive.
Exclusivity in Gaming
Obviously, my partner and I are pissed; pissed, but unsurprised. For why else would Xbox buy Bethesda unless they wanted to force PC and PS gamers over to their platform with one of gaming’s most anticipated releases?
This isn’t the first time sometimes like this has happened, either. Nor can I deny that it’s only a tactic used by platforms I don’t have. Games like God of War and Guerrilla Games’ Horizon series are PlayStation exclusives. I don’t believe that’s right, either, even though I have been able to play those games and have access to them.
It seems, however, that this is becoming more a trend. Smaller companies are being bought up by big names in exchange for access to resources and marketing. However, there’s also an increased risk that more and more games will become platform-exclusive as a result (or, in the case like BioWare, have their entire identity and vision tanked due to their publisher, Electronic Games, buying them out and trying to make them something they’re not; but, that’s a rant for an entirely different day).
The Rationale and the Bullshit
I know the rationale for making a game exclusive to certain platforms is capitalism; capitalism and financial gain, nothing more, nothing less. I recognize how much that influences much of life, but that doesn’t make it any less bullshit. Period. And I hate how it’s becoming much more common.
Why is it problematic? Well, for starters:
- It’s alienating: setting up the expectation that you must own and have access to all platforms to have a fair shot to play a game that’s announced.
- It’s privileged: both in terms of access to consoles (as the inability to purchase next and current gen has already shown) and financially, as not everyone has the money to own multiple devices.
- It’s dangerous: encouraging monopolizing the gaming industry the more one business, like Microsoft or Sony, owns and controls.
On top of all of that, it was very disheartening to see, not only in terms of exclusivity in gaming, but also how many gaming companies claim to support all gamers, but rarely show it. While we’re still in the throes of a deadly pandemic, it would have been incredible to see the gaming industry use E3 to come together and show support for one another and its community. Instead, we saw a handful of exclusive releases, many big players not even coming to the conference (instead, doing their own conferences) and a lack of consideration for many within its community; all proof that the gaming industry is divided and focuses on profit, not community.
I love being a gamer. In the span of a decade, it’s become my greatest hobby and one of my greatest loves. But it also has a long way to go, in terms of being accessible, affordable and available to all players.