Of all of the surprises we saw during E3 2014, perhaps one of the biggest ones was the announcement of Rise of the Tomb Raider and the fact that it would be an Xbox One exclusive. A lot has happened between since then, including confirmation of when the game will arrive on PS4, but there was still Square's side of the story and why they chose to make Rise of the Tomb Raider an Xbox One exclusive for a year.
Tomb Raider was rebooted back in the spring of 2013, and it turned in a magical performance that not only captured the minds of fans, but critics as well. This past April, Square Enix revealed Tomb Raider's 2013 reboot had sold over 8 million units, surpassing the top mark any previous iteration had claimed up until that point. It was this outstanding success that has driven Square Enix to want to make the franchise one of the top in the gaming industry; an aspiration every publisher has for their brands.
It was never a cold, heartless or thoughtless decision for Square Enix to agree to bring Rise of the Tomb Raider out as an Xbox One exclusive at launch. As he told Examiner.com, Square Enix CEO of the Americas and Europe Phil Rogers knew it was a decision that would cause disappointment at first, but the ultimate goal in mind was to bring Tomb Raider into the upper echelon of gaming's top brands.
"I hope fans know that it wasn’t an easy decision. I think any sort of partnership at this level is a decision that took a longtime for us to get to. The decision at a studio level, we took very, very seriously. We knew it would, in the short-term, disappoint fans," Rogers said.
Fan disappointment has certainly been a result of the exclusivity, but with last week's announcement of when the game will come to PS4, at least everything is out in the open now. Tomb Raider isn't the first franchise to be exclusive to a specific platform, as Titanfall, Street Fighter and Plants vs. Zombies can all attest to that.
All of these games chose exclusivity with being the best in mind. They wanted to have a chance to standout from the rest of the pack and have an individual spotlight shown on them, all in the hopes of grasping that brass ring of the elite. Third party exclusives are a reality of our industry today, and they are a product of the fierce competition between great companies like Microsoft and Sony.
When talking with Phil about the deal, it's easy to get the sense that one of the chief reasons why Square Enix decided to go with a timed-exclusive for the next Tomb Raider is because of one very simple reason: Microsoft's passion for Tomb Raider. "What we saw in Microsoft, which is probably not as well known, is that Microsoft’s passion for Tomb Raider is amazing.
"Having been working with us on previous games in a lesser sense, they’ve been supportive. [However], for Rise of the Tomb Raider, they’ve just brought this passion and belief that has really enabled us to blow people away. People should feel that about Microsoft. Their commitment to Tomb Raider is just amazing for us," Rogers said.
The level of exposure and spotlight that Microsoft has given Rise of the Tomb Raider certainly has made the game one of the must-haves for this coming holiday season, even despite that other little game releasing on the same day, Fallout 4. Rogers spoke about what it means for the company and brand when it continues to Tomb Raider being showcased on a worldwide stage along with some of the biggest franchises in gaming. "To see Tomb Raider showcased with Halo, Forza and Gears and see Tomb Raider there, it’s amazing for us."
Rogers spoke quite a bit about the passion Microsoft is bringing to the Tomb Raider franchise, and some evidence of that passion in play is whenever Xbox boss Phil Spencer goes to San Francisco. "If you don’t know, Phil visits Crystal [Dynamics] every time he’s in the Bay Area. Phil is the most welcomed guest, he’ll come talk to the team, play the game and [Microsoft] is a very committed organization to our properties. It just makes it that much more exciting for us," Rogers said.
With the emphasis being placed on Microsoft's commitment to the brand, one wonders if it would've been possible to have this deal in place, had the people of Xbox not been as motivated to help Rise of the Tomb Raider succeed. Rogers said passion is something they expect from everyone at their company, so it was natural that they wanted it from a partner like Microsoft.
"It becomes the most important thing. We’re about growing our IP, this is a long-term decision. We’re going to take Tomb Raider up to the next level. With Microsoft’s belief, passion and sort of muscle to help us deliver, we really think this is going to be an awesome game that people will enjoy for years and years to come," Rogers said.
So where will Rise of the Tomb Raider end up in the history of games? That's hard to predict, especially when you consider the competition that lies ahead of it. All will see just what Rise of the Tomb Raider is this fall, and if it can reach the heights Phil Rogers and Square Enix have in mind for the game. Rise of the Tomb Raider will launch exclusively for the Xbox One on Nov. 10, PC during the early part of 2016 and PS4 during the holiday period of 2016.