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Rise of the Tomb Raider exclusivity: why fan outrage is unjustified

When I heard the news of Rise of the Tomb Raider's Xbox One exclusivity on yesterday's morning commute, I clutched a Tomb Raider comic book in my hands and wailed in great sorrow. Okay, not really, mainly because you don't want to weep openly on a crowded train--but I was upset. I'm feeling better now, since Microsoft confirmed that this is only a timed exclusive, but we don't know yet how long PlayStation will be Lara-less. It could be months, giving Xbox a nice leg up for holiday 2015, or it could go on for almost a year (like GTA 4’s DLC). That's disappointing for PlayStation fans. That's it though: disappointing. Not idiotic, not evil, not a series killer. As upsetting as the news may be for some, and as little as we know about Microsoft and Square Enix's deal, it still isn't something Lara and her developers should be punished for.

While the situation itself is confusing, the reason that it's happening is a little more obvious: mutual profit. Following a string of PR disasters before the Xbox One's launch, Microsoft is playing from behind, and its comeback plan centers on exclusives. Not surprising, given how exclusive titles have carried its strategy in the past. It needs that to work again if it plans to push more consoles out of the door. Nabbing an established series like Tomb Raider--which has the benefit of a long history and a recent, well-received reboot--will sell Xbox Ones better than an untested new game no one has ever heard of. Although the exclusivity is timed, people will still buy XOs to play Rise of the Tomb Raider. Dip the price a little in 2015, release a bundle with Halo and Lara and… that’s a tempting reason to go green. And let's not forget: if Sony was the one playing catch-up, as it did with PS3, it'd try EXACTLY the same trick.

So how does Square benefit from this deal? Consider this: Sony sold all ten million of its Square-Enix shares last April, despite Square's stable finances. That's not exactly a move you pull when you're full of confidence. The cause of such a development, and whether the sell-off is related to the Tomb Raider deal, are both hard to say. There's even talk that Microsoft's investment could be what made Rise of the Tomb Raider possible, akin to what happened with Nintendo and Bayonetta 2. Microsoft would've had to make Square Enix a sweet deal to account for revenue lost by not working with Sony straight away, and surely the sweetest of deals is actually making the project possible. Yes, PS4 and PC-owning fans are upset, but would they be more resentful if the game simply didn't get made at all?

All told, the situation is as confusing as it is frustrating and the fan reaction has been intense to say the least. Beyond the hyperbolic calling for blood, talk of boycotting the franchise and Crystal Dynamics in general has made the rounds. Even a few sympathetic Xbox owners have sworn allegiance to their gamer brethren, vowing not to purchase Rise of the Tomb Raider due to Microsoft and Square Enix's behavior.

Boycotting the game, however, is only going to hurt the series fans claim to love. Tomb Raider and its developer are not to blame for the exclusivity, and every sale the series loses reduces the likelihood of a further sequel. While Crystal's own statement talks about how "Our friends at Microsoft have always seen huge potential in Tomb Raider," the fact is that Square owns both the developer and the brand. They can do whatever they like with it, regardless of what anyone else might want. Even if Crystal was completely against the deal, they would have little say in the matter. Yet they're the ones bearing the brunt of fan ire.

Square Enix has the final say on where Tomb Raider goes. And ultimately, Square wants the series to be healthy and profitable. That doesn't mean that Crystal Dynamics loves Lara any less, or wants to take her away from anyone. That isn't to say that we should all rush out and buy Xboxes NOW NOW NOW, or that no one is allowed to be disappointed over this development. It makes sense to be upset, but to sling insults at creators and boycott something we care about (potentially endangering the future of the series) because it's not in the format some want to be? When it may never have existed without Microsoft’s support, or may only be a short-lived exclusive? I opined in the general direction of my Tomb Raider comic book because I own a Tomb Raider comic book, and I still love Lara despite any console favoritism. I can only hope everyone else will too.

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64 comments

  • axl-creed - August 25, 2014 9:19 p.m.

    So why are we all butt hurt over a timed exclusive sequel to a game that Square Enix counted as a lost the year it game? They're hoping to do better this time around, you think this isn't planned? Sure boycott it, I bet you for ever person boycotting it two are waiting to buy it because of it being boycotted. Word of mouth sells everything and that's all you're doing. I personally won't buy it because the first game would have been better as a book or a movie, it wasn't challenging, engaging and I didn't care about the characters. So go ahead, be self entitled we'll see how far this 'boycott' goes.
  • alllifeinfate - August 25, 2014 4:04 a.m.

    After thinking rationally, I know it is for a short-term financial benefit, but I just hope it would not be too long of a wait for other platforms to have it as well... unless the developer wants to gather all the criticisms and acclaims on the released game and makes it better of a game for other platforms.
  • QUIMICOMORTAL - August 19, 2014 9:57 a.m.

    I completly dissagree! The first game sold more than 7 million (aside from the fact that ain idiot in square felt dissapointed) there is no way anyone wouldn't make a sequel to the game, to sugest that the game wouldn't be made without MS money seems very unlikely. The outrage is not because Microsoft paid to get a new game, it is because MS paid to prevent 2/3 of the fan base to get the game at the time of release. People didn´t get upset with the sunset overdrive exclusivity because its a new IP, same with Rise or the new one made by platinum. This one is a franchise that just released this year for the playstation consoles (along docens of previous installments). To me, the only way to vote is with your wallet, no one cares for ptitions or angry letters, so , if you feel you disapprove the way Sqare treat the game and the fans, DO NOT BUY THE GAME (even whe the exclusivity runs out) make them feel your outrage! If PC and PS owners end up buying the game anyway that will tell Square that the move they made was the correct one and will do it again. If you don't buy the game and the game sales hurts, Square (and other companies) wont considder to do that kind of move again. If that causes that the next Tomb raider game gets cancelled or postponed doesn't matter, we all know that that franchise will reapear sooner or later (just not in any way of exclusivity).
  • ncazrael - August 18, 2014 5:34 p.m.

    And for the counterpoint: Why the outrage IS justified. A few grumbles and a "Well, nothing I can do about it" attitude will do absolutely NOTHING to change this kind of behavior among game developers. Outrage and sticking to a boycott sends a clear message that we don't appreciate being treated like crap. Imagine what would happen if Activision released a new Project Gotham Racing (since they now own everything Bizarre Creations made), but released it on the PS4 first. XB1 owners would flip out, and rightly so. To take a franchise that wouldn't exist if not for a particular platform and withhold it from that platform while releasing it on a competitor is paramount to a slap in the face for the loyal customers who bought and played your game in the early days. That is no different than what is happening now. Third party exclusives are pointless, and need to be done away with.
  • pinoklin - August 24, 2014 10:18 p.m.

    Square has done something similar in the past. FF started out on the NES and then switched tto the ps1-2 before adding xbox as well. They're all business strategies and while i believe that in the end this WILL hurt sales for the game in the end it's not our choice and square doesn't really care lol.
  • not-john-locke - August 18, 2014 11:59 a.m.

    We'll stated, well written article. Kudos, and kudos again! These kinds of deals happen all the time and i just do not understand why people are so surprised by this. I do understand being disappointed if you are a PS3 or 4 owner, but as gamers, we should all be used to this sort of thing. It may not *seem* fair, but it is completely fair, and i think it was a smart move by Microsoft, one of the only ones they've made in the last couple of years. As someone who has yet to make a decision on which new gen console to buy, this just might sway me (well, and my love of the XBox controller). I do like my PS3 (got it when my 360 died, and i wanted a Blu-ray player), but i have never fallen in love with it. And while i was certainly not happy with the XBOne's pre-launch "features", especially the intrusive and lame Kinect, all that stuff has been dropped for the most part, and i find myself leaning toward XBox again. They seem to be making a real effort here (finally), and with my past experience with the 360 being a mostly positive one, more so than with the PS3, this just might be the tipping point.
  • Yazx - August 17, 2014 11:11 a.m.

    sorry but you are gone, Rise of the TR was announced long before MS made the deal, so it was in development already, and plus, if the game needed funding, they would open Pre-order program and this will give them solid grounds to keep developing the game on the go. what happened is MS offered Crystal Dynamics twice the amount they would get from selling the game on PS/PC, lets say 2-3 million copies on both platforms, so its like doubling the revenue without even releasing the game on those platform, and as its timed exclusive, they still have the chance to sell it and get the original revenue, so that like 3x Actual revenue, from business perspective, anyone would accept this deal even the bitching fans themselves, but unfortunately, ppl still live in a world that they think business works for them. anyway, its huge disappointment, but you, i and even mad fans will take the deal as it will secure the revenue of 3 sequels in one shot, thats good business and will keep the game development and sequels going for longer times.
  • The_Tingler - August 17, 2014 10:57 a.m.

    Nah, sorry Ashley, in this case it's justified because it's a dick move. Any exclusivity is crap, and while this isn't quite Splinter Cell Conviction levels as it's timed it's a long slippery slope of back-and-forth exclusivity deals that only people who own all consoles win with. This is part of the reason I haven't yet bought a new console, and I honestly feel this generation I might not bother at all and just stick with my PC. I'm just fed up with it all.
  • nintendo365 - August 16, 2014 10:18 a.m.

    We need to do a "boycott" of sorts. Im getting pretty sick of Xbox paying off developers for timed exclusivity of major franchises. Especially the whole "First on Xbox" thing for DLC. And besides my own resentment to timed exclusives, its pretty fucked up that they didnt say this at the original announcement for Rise. They let us be hype as hell for weeks, then rip the carpet out from beneath out feet. Yeah, its first on Xbox One, but this game will be out for the rest of my fucking life once it releases for PS4 and PC- so I'm not in a rush to drop $460-560 on the chance to be the first to play one game. All this does is piss people off and encourage more negativity towards Xbox. I don't blame Crystal or Square in the slightest. They should have just said something during the first announcement- the feeling of betrayal I'm getting from this late update is whats really hitting a nerve, not the fact that its Xbox. I dont really like the fact that Destiny has timed exclusive DLC on PS4 either, but at least they told us all at once, now the bad has less of a sting, and the entire product isnt being defined by that one strike.
  • TanookiMan - August 14, 2014 3:09 p.m.

    Exclusives used to be really pervasive. In the nineties, deciding between a Genesis and a SNES meant deciding between Mario and Sonic too. Series would jump ship a lot too, like when Final Fantasy switched from Nintendo to Sony. I think it's an artifact of the decrease in exclusives in general that when there is suggestion of exclusivity (even if it is only timed), it is seen as some sort of outrageous moral wrong. I, for one, have difficulty getting too upset about it.
  • TheCockneyCharmer - August 14, 2014 12:22 p.m.

    The article title does not reflect the article itself really and blends too many aspects under why non Xbox TR Fans are upset, and are justifiably upset. Crystal Dynamics deserve some backlash for that ridiculous statement issued after the reveal which was as insulting as it was pointless. Square Enix derserve backlash for the way in which they quickly forgot that the reboot was only a success due to sales on all 3 platforms of Xbox, PC and Playstation of which more copies were sold on launch and on PS4 with the definitive version. Does Microsoft deserve backlash for doing the deal, no as its business just shady murky business made worse by Spencer having to give a response to the CD statement which he clear didnt expect or want to have to do. What is unjustified is the abuse over social media that staff including the story writers for the Tomb Raider reboot have received since the news broke. Any anger or feedback should be directed at Square Enix as the overall decider of what happens with the series, the deal made with Microsoft and to Crystal Dynamics for the douchebag statement issued to fans. This article failed to give a fair assessment of the reaction in my honest opinion.
  • Clovin64 - August 14, 2014 12:09 p.m.

    Well, its only a timed exclusive so its no big deal, I'll just buy it later. Maybe we'll even have a GOTY edition with all the DLC or something? In any case, Bloodborne is what I'm really wanting a PS4 for.
  • GaryE - August 14, 2014 11:37 a.m.

    Ashley I dont think you get it. This is not about PS vs XBOX vs PC. It never WAS. The only people who think that are the forum trolls who have nothing better to do than slander the platform opposite to what they play on and game journalists it seems. This was less about what platform it was on and more about companies cutting of millions of fans in one simple stroke. It was about millions of fans of this series who play on PC and PS from a direct sequel to the reboot of the game, whilst somehow having the cheek to then claim "its ok, you still have temple of osiris or the definitive edition of the 1st game to play (just pretend you wont ever get to play the sequel though, its OK). THATS what the issue was and still is. Not sure why that is so hard to grasp.
  • z-cba - August 14, 2014 12:12 p.m.

    Perfectly worded.
  • brandi-marie-parker - August 14, 2014 11:20 a.m.

    Ashley Reed I completely disagree with your conclustions First NO ONE is going to go drop nearly $500.0o just to play one game and their certainly NOT going to do it now that the cat is out of the bag and they known its TIMED. Second while Square Enix can do as they please with Tomb Raider they have a responsibility to EVER fan of the series who made the reboot a success as such they are Insulting when they give the PC and PS4 community the Big Fuck you Middle Finger ! Saying we sold you out and took the money ! For if it weren't for the over 10 million PS4 players and the untold number of PC players along with the X Box crowd the reboot would have failed and Microsoft wouldn't want it. Third it is Square Enix FAULT they took the money so every bit of blame and ire that is directed their way they've earned, if that kills the franchise then hey oh well they did it and that will be their fault too. We are the gaming nation and any gaming company that doesn't respect us or doest listen to is't fan and takes the quick cash will reap the consequences.
  • brandi-marie-parker - August 14, 2014 11:05 a.m.

    I see this as a desperate attempt by Microsoft to try and catch up in console sells with PS4 at the expense of Square Enix and the Tomb Raider franchise. This gambit hasn't paid off for Microsoft simply because the outrage was so great that the secret of it being a timed exclusive couldn't be kept under wraps long enough for them to benefit from the exclusive. Some people will just wait it out and see what happens others are so pissed that they will NEVER buy another Microsoft or Square Enix product EVER. ( I'm in this camp ) I don't think its wrong to try and compete with Sony, but the way Microsoft went about it was totally WRONG. They should have come out with their OWN exclusive IP and not highjacked a franchise that has ALWAYS been a multi-platform game. I also think that if Square Enix doesn't do some damage control really really fast and find some way to limit or get out of this deal that this could be the finally nail in the coffin of the Tomb Raider franchise. I personally still hope the game comes to PS4 I'd love to play it but I won't be buying it new I'll buy it from some second hand shop just to keep the profits from going to Square Enix. They have lost my trust after giving the worldwide gaming community the big middle finger ! It's going to take years to earn it back if it can be earned back. I think sometimes these game designers forget that its US who keep them in business and without us they be working for Google. They need to remember to never lose the pulse of the gaming community and to ALWAYS listen to the gaming community for we are a vocal bunch and we have no problem saying how we feel or in telling them what we like and what we don't and why ! The Change.org petition has over 12,000 gaming voices on it from gamers all around the world. I have to say reading all those comments from all over the world gave me a sense of pride as I saw us come together from Russian to China to the UK to the US and everywhere in-between. We are the gaming Industry and not the people who simple serve us and make the games we enjoy and ANY gaming company that loses sight of that is destined for trouble. Thank You to all who signed and made their voice heard. I'm hoping us PS4 players will get the change to play this game, while i'm not completely sure we will at this point as Spencer was vague in his comments only saying that ROTTR "could" go the way of Ryse and Dead Rising meaning coming to PC. Nothing was said about the ROTTR coming to PS4 we'll see. Lastly please remember that while we have our console battles NOT all issues are about that like this one it's a gaming community issue. Remember Caring is Sharing and Sharing is Caring thats how sharing works !! Play ON !
  • db1331 - August 14, 2014 7:41 a.m.

    I don't care either way, as I didn't even like the last game that much. I only paid $5 for it, so no biggie. I might do the same for this one a year after release, so timed exclusivity has no effect on me. It's still a shitty practice though. Basically all MS is doing is spending millions so that other gamers will have to wait to play an already finished game. This isn't going to make anyone go out and buy an Xbone. At the absolute most, the only extra sales of this game the Xbone will see are from people who own both an Xbone and PS4, and decide to get the game on Xbone so they don't have to wait. No one with a gaming PC is going to pay $60 for this on a console.
  • bernard-marlow - August 14, 2014 6:14 a.m.

    I disagree with the article. I think as consumers we are allowed to exercise our right not to buy when we are upset. After all were would any of these companies be without our hard earned money. I thought the last games was just an uncharted clone so for me the Tomb Raider series is dead anyway.
  • madriker - August 14, 2014 5:07 a.m.

    why bitch and moan about it get an xbox one if you wanna play the game simple really moaning c..ts

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