Timed Exclusives Won’t Help Microsoft


Dragon Age Inquisition’s surprise DLC, Jaws of Hakkon, came with an additional nasty surprise for PlayStation gamers. It’s a timed exclusive for Xbox and PC, without an announced release date for the PS3 and PS4. In fact, according to the terms of the exclusivity agreement, BioWare and EA can’t even discuss when the DLC will be out for Sony console owners.

During this era of dwindling full console exclusives, the timed exclusive is the last gasp of desperation on the part of console makers who want to claim they offer a better deal than the other guy. With the Xbox One trailing in this generation’s console race, Microsoft has been the biggest recent proponent of this kind of deal. Here’s the thing, though. Holding back content, particularly DLC, from Sony console owners isn’t going to help Microsoft or the Xbox One to get ahead.

We all know why Microsoft has failed to catch Sony in the PS4 and Xbox One era. It started with Microsoft deciding to bake a bunch of bullcrap anti-consumer “features” into the Xbox One, giving Sony (which, let’s face it, doesn’t have a history of being super pro-consumer itself) a huge boost in popularity. Even after reversing most of its unpopular decisions, Microsoft has had an uphill battle with a more expensive console and far weaker positioning globally than Sony.

The fact that Microsoft is resorting to timed exclusives just shows that it hasn’t actually learned its lesson from the original Xbox One debacle. This is the internet age. We can all see what Microsoft is doing, and all timed exclusives do is make people angry. They don’t make people say, “Ooh, a few games and some DLC packs are coming out on the Xbone a month or two before they come out on PS4, I better get me one of those!”

Timed exclusives are also a colossal waste of resources that could be going to far better uses. In order to get a timed exclusive out of a third party, a console owner is going to have to give that publisher enough money to make up for all the sales that are lost by going exclusive. That’s an awful lot of money. I know that as a gamer I’d really rather see that money spent directly on game development, or even on better marketing for deserving titles. I certainly don’t like seeing money wasted on something that doesn’t benefit me as a consumer and only questionably benefits a console maker’s business.

People buy consoles for many reasons, like brand loyalty, true exclusive titles, cost, or because all their friends have a particular console. Making anti-consumer decisions like timed exclusives may sway the occasional buyer, but it also messes with brand loyalty, as these decisions leave a bad taste in customers’ mouths. Sony is riding high on its recent discovery that treating its core customers with respect (and avoiding a huge price tag on its console) pays off. Microsoft isn’t going to sway the public in its favor by doubling-down on outdated and anti-consumer practices.

If Microsoft wants to shore up the Xbox One customer base, there are plenty of things it can do. The Xbox One hardware discount we saw over the holidays was one pro-consumer strategy that worked. Getting Microsoft-owned studios like Rare to develop stronger exclusive titles is another possibility. Building a stronger overseas presence that will help the Xbox One sell better outside North America and the UK is yet another. Throwing money at third party game publishers for a pointless and aggravating period of console exclusivity seems like an awfully negative and petty strategy in comparison.