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System exclusives are a middle finger

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Just a few console generations ago, PC games and console games were all separate and there were often obvious reasons for that separation. Take the Nintendo 64 and Playstation 1, which most people will remember were competitors: the N64 often had better visuals with fewer jagged edges, while the PS1 was able to incorporate videos thanks to its much larger storage capacity. Meanwhile, PC games were often too complex for porting to be a remote possibility; games like Baldur's Gate were so complex and used so many different keys that console controllers simply didn't have enough buttons for all of the things they'd have needed to do. Point is, because of all of the console variety that was out there, system exclusives made sense and were pretty much inevitable. Now that the gap separating consoles from each other and PCs has eroded, however, one is left with a question: do console exclusives make any sense anymore?

An obvious explanation for console exclusives in the modern day is to entice gamers to pick up a certain system that their most-wanted game is chained to, but is this even necessary anymore? The go-to names in the console world have been established, and many people are making the natural jump from PS3s to PS4s and Xbox 360s to Xbox Ones because of their already-existing preferences for each company. Given that Sony and Microsoft's names are all but set in stone whenever the subject of consoles come up and pretty much everyone has taken a side already, are exclusives really anything more than a middle finger to the end user?

Even worse, exclusive games (especially on consoles) bring out the absolute worst in gamers. Toward the end of this last console generation, comment sections and Youtube comments had finally calmed down a bit after years of bitter name-calling and side-taking. Sadly, with the new consoles and all of their exclusives, that bile has returned and rendered game-related discussions an exercise in frustration and futility.

One can't help but wonder why consumers seem to be more caught up in taking sides than questioning the purpose of exclusives in the modern game industry. Isn't it possible that enough of a consumer backlash—the very same force that strong-armed Ubisoft to abandon their always-on DRM for games like Assassin's Creed 2—could free some of these games from their system-exclusive chains and allow more people to play them (thus making more money for the developers)? Aren't all of these companies supposed to be working to entertain people for money instead of annoying potential customers until they cough it up?

It's sad that the answers to those questions are less certain than they once were.


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