Tomb Raider has always been a multiplatform series. No example illustrates that more clearly than the first game, which I played, and loved, on the Sega Saturn. Raise your hand if you own a Sega Saturn. Yeah, I’m not seeing a lot of hands out there. Despite that, my ability to play Tomb Raider on the console I owned informed my time with the series again and again, from the very first game to the reboot last year. Tomb Raider has never been an exclusive, and that’s always allowed me to play it, through the ups and downs, through the best and worst entries, remaining a fan throughout.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is the latest and a direct follow-up to last year’s Tomb Raider reboot, a game that came to PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC and Mac. This new game, conversely, will be an Xbox exclusive for Holiday 2015, meaning it will only be coming to Xbox One and Xbox 360 for the foreseeable future. (Update: It is, in fact, a timed exclusive deal, though no timeframe has been revealed as of this time.)
This seems like a painfully dumb move on the part of Square Enix. There are a lot of 360 owners, sure, but there are also a lot of people who have moved on or are looking to move on, and that’s only going to be more common in 2015. The Xbox One isn’t a sure bet for a lot of people, and for those who have already chosen the PS4 (or a gaming PC) as their big purchase, they’re out of luck if they assumed they’d be able to play the next Tomb Raider on day one.
It’s a big get for Microsoft, but with this series in particular, they’re just coming off as bullies. Remember that series you could buy on almost everything? Remember how you’d just buy a Tomb Raider game because you had something to play it on, rather than buying an entire console for it? Too bad, says Microsoft, because they have enough money to hog an established multiplatform franchise for themselves.
There’s a big difference between this and new platform exclusives like Sunset Overdrive and Bloodborne. With those games we have no multiplatform precedent established in advance. Those are good “gets” for Microsoft and Sony, and they help establish a unique identity for the console. But I can tell you right now, no matter how hard Microsoft tries, Tomb Raider will never be synonymous with Xbox. How could it? Look at this history:
- Tomb Raider (1996) – PS1, Sega Saturn, PC, Mac
- Tomb Raider II (1997) – PS1, PC, Mac
- Tomb Raider III (1998) – PS1, PC, Mac
- Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation (1999) – PS1, Dreamcast, PC, Mac
- Tomb Raider Chronicles (2000) – PS1, Dreamcast, PC, Mac
- Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness (2003) – PS2, PC, Mac
- Tomb Raider: Legend (2006) – PS2, PS3, Xbox, Xbox 360, Gamecube, PC
- Tomb Raider: Anniversary (2007) – PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PC, Mac
- Tomb Raider: Underworld (2008) – PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PC, Mac
- Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (2010) – PS3, Xbox 360, PC
- Tomb Raider (2013) – PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, Mac
Even the upcoming follow-up to Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris, is coming to PS4, Xbox One, and PC, something Crystal Dynamics was quick to point out in their latest blog post. If anything, Tomb Raider is more synonymous with PC or Playstation, and for players that are stuck waiting on those platforms, this Rise of the Tomb Raider deal is a kick in the gut.
Is this an angle that console holders should really be striving for? The way I see it, stealing franchises out from players isn’t going to make anyone happy. Imagine if Microsoft were to take it a step further and scoop up Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain, or if Sony were to make Batman: Arkham Knight an exclusive. There are exclusives, and then there’s console manufacturers just being assholes.
With any luck, Rise of the Tomb Raider is merely a timed exclusive (Update: it turns out it is!), and we’ll see it on other platforms shortly after the holiday season. A Definitive Edition of the game a year later wouldn’t be a surprise, but who wants to wait that long? For a lot of fans, and for this franchise in particular, this news just kind of sucks. Microsoft may sell a few more consoles with this move, but I don’t think they’re going to make a lot of friends.
Enjoy random thoughts about the latest games, the Sega Saturn, or the occasional movie review? Follow me @JoeDonuts!