Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Future is Hazy with the Frustrations of Exclusivity

According to a Gamespot report, Free-Radical developed FPS, Haze, originally scheduled to be released on 360, Ps3, and PC this Fall will now only be appearing on least in 2007.

I had originally intended to write about yesterday's revelation that Haze would feature four player online co-op through the story mode of the game, an announcement that instantly raised my interest from ambivalence to "now please". No sooner did I become interested in the game than Sony swoops in wielding bags of cash and builds a fort of gold ingots around it. Which now brings us to a diatribe on the stupidity and ensuing frustrations of console exclusives. And who can resist a good diatribe?

I own a PS3, I own a 360, I own a Wii. I own pretty much everything that a game can be played on, from this generation on back to the NES days. Exclusives don't apply to me and never have. But this gen is different. With the advent of Xbox Live, peer pressure is now part of the equation. Since playing through Haze with my brothers and/or my friends is the major draw of the game for me, the PS3 version is not an option, even though I have the means to play it. Why is that? Because I don't know a single person who owns a PlayStation 3. Actually, scratch that, I do know one single person who owns a PS3. One. I did know two people but the other one sold it so he could buy an HDTV to play his 360 on. No joke.

My point here is that even though I own a PS3, my buying habits are most certainly being affected as a result of what my friends and family own, especially in the case of online titles. I could get Haze on PS3 but I'd be playing it by myself. In that case, Haze may as well not even be online and that brings me back to ambivalent level interest.

Sony is paying through the nose for limited exclusivity on a title that isn't going to get them much more sales than if it launched simultaneously on 360. People who only own a PS3 would buy Haze for PS3 anyway, people who only own a 360 aren't going to go buy a PS3 to play it when they know it's coming later. People who own both are more likely to wait for the 360 version to come out since Sony's online service pales in comparison. Even if 75% of people who own both systems bought the PS3 version, how many people are there who own both? The term negligible comes to mind. And let's face it, for people who own neither system, Haze isn't going to convince them to buy a PS3 over a 360 with Halo 3.

Ubisoft is the big winner here because Sony is basically paying them to not have their game be overshadowed by Halo 3 on the 360. They get a chunk of change for NOT putting the game on 360 for a little while and then they can release it in Spring '08, after Halo fever is long past. So once again, we the consumers lose out. Or do we?

In a way, I feel like I should be thanking Sony. By making Haze a PS3 exclusive, that's one less game coming out at a time when there are WAY too many games coming out. So long as Ubisoft takes the extra time it now has to make the 360 version even better, Haze will be the perfect game for the slower Spring period next year.

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