Was the Rise of the Tomb Raider announcement a sign of defeat?

When Microsoft announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider would be exclusive to Xbox at Gamescom in 2014, the world collectively erupted into a three headed dragon that burned everyone in a fire of doom and pain, from the voice actor for Lara Croft to the developers at Crystal Dynamics. The reboot of the beloved franchise, which spanned for many years, sold 9 Million units over PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and other platforms, so when the sequel to the beloved game was revealed by Microsoft, fanfare should’ve been high. It didn’t turn out that way.

Rise of the Tomb Raider has been collectively buried by the media and social networking over the past year. It didn’t feature on most of of the anticipated games lists for the year, and any announcement has been met with disregard. Fast forward to today, when Square Enix revealed the details of the timed exclusivity deal they have with Microsoft. It was always known that the game would come to other platforms eventually, since Phil Spencer (along with the marketing materials) repeatedly said that it’s a timed deal with Crystal Dynamics. We just didn’t know how long.

Rise of the Tomb Raider will launch on Xbox One and Xbox 360 on November 10th, 2015. PC will receive a Windows 10 exclusive version in early 2016, and PS4 gamers will receive it in Holiday 2016. This was met with great glee from the gaming community, since they now know that their platform will eventually get this game. This is also a strategic move by Square Enix, since they need all the media coverage they can possibly get since the reveal for the game. Also since the reveal of the release windows for the game on other platforms, you can clearly see an uptick in coverage. It’s even trending on the Social Media platform Twitter.

It’s debatable if Rise of The Tomb Raider would spur people on to buy an Xbox One, since they’ll only have to wait a year or less to play this game on any other platform. It’s also going to be interesting to see if the gaming community at large will embrace this game now, as they should. In the grand scheme of things, however, this is a great move by Square, because now this game is getting the coverage it deserves. Rise of the Tomb Raider may or may not be game of the year, but it certainly deserves equal attention.

But Phil Said

What I’m seeing more of since the reveal is the notion that Phil stated that the game would never go to PS4, if he invested in it. He also drew comparisons to Dead Rising and Sunset Overdrive, games famously not on PlayStation. However, this is a gross misunderstanding of the entire interview and the deals they have with those developers. In regards to Dead Rising, the game is not exclusive to Xbox in any way. Sure, Microsoft will help them build the games for Xbox and make deals surrounding that, like they did with Dead Rising 3; but after a certain period, those games could go multi-platform. Dead Rising 3 was ported to PC and Capcom could theoretically take the franchise to PS4 if they wanted to in future iterations.

In the case of Rise of the Tomb Raider, he drew an analogy to the Dead Rising deal. He noted that they have a great relationship with Square Enix, and that they endeavoured to help development of the game with them. Game development is expensive, hence they made a deal with the developer to bring the game to Xbox, exclusively, for a set period of time. He never spoke about their internal discussions or deals surrounding the game, so we do not know and never could draw final conclusions on how exclusive “exclusive” meant.

Microsoft funded the development of the Xbox versions of Rise of the Tomb Raider and will fund the marketing and distribution of the title on Xbox for one year. However, Square Enix will obviously make some profit from the endeavour and will port the title to PS4 and PC after some time (they own the IP and the game in full, including all the Microsoft funded assets). Microsoft is in no way involved in the development or funding of these versions. There might even be a difference in content right off the bat, since development for other platforms may take more money than they actually have available.

So I reiterate that Phil Spencer never categorically declared that the game would never go to PS4, PC or even the WiiU. So we, as Xbox owners, should be enjoying the fact that we will get to play a title far in advance of the rest of the world and celebrate the fact that Microsoft is not withholding a beloved franchise from others forever.

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