Is Rise of the Tomb Raider really an Xbox exclusive?
I’ll hold my hands up and admit it: I naturally assumed, as I think most people did, that Rise of the Tomb Raider would be coming to PC. Tomb Raider was and pretty much always has been a multi-platform title, so it wasn’t a great leap to assume that it’d be hitting every platform. I mean, sure, it was revealed at a Microsoft press conference, but that surely just means some sort of exclusive/early DLC, like with basically every Call of Duty game right back to Call of Ye Duty: Warfare of Olde.
Today, at Gamescom’s Xbox press conference: “Rise of the Tomb Raider, coming Holiday 2015, is exclusively on Xbox.”
Uh oh. Well, that sounds pretty conclusive. I dashed off an email to every Square Enix PR person I know in the hopes of getting some clarification, and was quickly told: “Rise of the Tomb Raider, coming Holiday 2015, is exclusively on Xbox.”
Things got worse when I spotted a Tumblr post by Crystal Dynamics, which made any other versions sound completely out of the question. It talked about how “Rise of the Tomb Raider, coming Holiday 2015, is exclusively on Xbox,” and went on to talk about how much they appreciate the other systems and don’t worry because we’ve got Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition and Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris.
Which, seriously, is condescending and awful. I mean, come on. “Sorry you can’t play our new game – which, by the way, is going to be the best one ever – but we do really like you guys! And you can still totally play the previous game! And the little four-player co-op shoot ‘em up! That makes up for it, right?”
Then I got an email from another of the PR people I’d asked for clarification, and was told that “Rise of the Tomb Raider, coming Holiday 2015, is exclusively on Xbox.” There are those exact words again.
Don’t give up hope, though; that’s not quite the definitive statement it may appear to be. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll be clutching at straws quite a bit in this think piece, but some of those straws are surprisingly thick. And I’m not going to stretch that metaphor anymore.
No, I don’t think that Rise of the Tomb Raider is only going to be on Microsoft systems. As much as I wish I could claim insider information, I have none; in fact, it’s far from a sure thing that Rise of the Tomb Raider will hit other systems. There is every possibility that it will, indeed, be forever and always an Xbox game, and you should brace yourself for that.
But let’s look at a few oddities. Firstly, as previously mentioned, Tomb Raider is historically a multi-platform series. There’s nothing too unusual with a multi-platform series going platform exclusive, but it’s still a bit weird with such an enduring and popular icon as Lara Croft.
It’s also a little weird considering that Square Enix initially said that Tomb Raider hadn’t hit their predicted sales targets. For reference’s sake, this is a game that sold a million copies in 48 hours; at the time the publisher made that statement, it had sold 3.4 million copies at retail, and that was a new sales record for any game in the entire franchise. Back when Rise of the Tomb Raider was revealed at E3, Square Enix stated that Tomb Raider had sold 6.5 million.
I have no idea what Square Enix was expecting, but if 3.4 million wasn’t good enough then either their expectations were stupendously unrealistic, or one of the executives was told by his six-year-old daughter that Tomb Raider was awesome and would sell a million billion copies in five minutes. I’m being facetious, but considering some of the things I’ve heard about the business world in general that wouldn’t actually surprise me too much. Or perhaps it was due to corporate bullshit, what with there being layoffs not long after that and so people presumably needed to find reasons to fire other people, because the business world is a horrible place.
Still, it’s bizarre to follow on “this game didn’t sell enough” with “let’s make the next one available on only one platform.” Buh? Yes, shackling the game to one platform will help sales, I’m sure. You’ll likely get a number of people buying an Xbox One just to play Rise of the Tomb Raider, but I’m pretty damn sure you’ll piss off a huge number of life-long Tomb Raider fans – who’ve been following the series for nearly 20 years now – who will boycott future titles because of this.
Now, in fairness, the platform shackling is perhaps not as ludicrous as it might seem. If your sales targets are based around how much money the game cost to make and it needs to sell X copies to make a profit, then going for platform exclusivity might not actually be a bad idea. I have no idea of what sort of Faustian contract Microsoft and Square Enix signed, but I’d wager that Microsoft have shoved quite a lot of money at Square Enix to get this deal. If Rise of the Tomb Raider doesn’t sell a million billion copies in five minutes, then I’d imagine Microsoft will be absorbing a fair bit of that loss. It’s also worth noting that the “didn’t sell enough” comments were made at 3.4 million sales; even if a lot of the eventual 6.5 million were sold at a cut price, that’s still quite a lot of extra money.
But let’s forget about the financials for a moment, not least because looking at financial data makes me feel like a dog trying to read A Brief History of Time. Let’s look at something I’m actually good at: words, and phrasing things very carefully.
In case you’ve forgotten, the statement made about 17 times is as follows: “Rise of the Tomb Raider, coming Holiday 2015, is exclusively on Xbox.” Which sounds pretty clear cut, unless you read it with the mind of a bastard. Or a cynical arsehole. Or a lawyer. All of which are pretty interchangeable, I suppose.
There are a few ways of reading that sentence. The first is this: “The new Tomb Raider game will only ever be released on Xbox. Ever.” Which is what your mind probably tells you when you read it, but that’s not how it actually, literally reads.
The second is this: “Rise of the Tomb Raider will be exclusively on Xbox when it launches in Holiday 2015.” Which is to say, it’s a timed exclusive. It’ll be exclusively on Xbox in Holiday 2015, but after that?
The third is this: “Rise of the Tomb Raider is an Xbox exclusive, and it’s coming out on Holiday 2015.” Which probably sounds quite a lot like “it’s only on Xbox,” but that sort of assumes they never re-release it. As, say, Rise of the Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition. I mean, no mention has been made of that game. Rise of the Tomb Raider might be an exclusive, but Rise of the Tomb Raider: Game of the Year Definitive Ultra Hyper Fighting Edition Turbo?
Considering how carefully worded that statement is, I’d take a guess that the meaning is probably one of the latter two, and they can’t really say anything about it if Microsoft asks them not to. Part of any timed exclusivity deal would likely be “You cannot mention any other versions of the game until X date.” It’s far from definite, I’ll grant you, but I’m going to keep hoping until someone actually comes out and says “The new Tomb Raider will only ever be released on Xbox. Ever.”
Speaking of which, you could probably try drawing a conclusion from the fact that I asked for clarification and just got the exact same statement from two separate people, but I’d not actually recommend that because it honestly means nothing. It’s tempting to point to the fact that they didn’t flat-out deny any other versions to mean that they are planning other versions, but that’s not quite the case.
It’s the games’ journalist’s bane of “We do not comment on rumours or speculation” again, you see. For the sake of explanation, let’s assume that there will not be any other versions, and this really is just for Xbox. If they come out and say “No, this definitely is just on Xbox,” then what happens when they announce something that is a timed exclusive and someone asks them the same question? If they go back to saying nothing then everyone will go “Oh, but they denied it last time, and they’re not doing that this time, so clearly it’s a timed exclusive.”
So no, the fact that they’re repeating the same 12 words over again really doesn’t mean anything. That, unfortunately, is just PR, and there isn’t much to take from that.
Finally, there’s the case of previous Xbox exclusives coming to PC. I don’t think anyone expected (or asked for) Ryse: Son of Rome to come to PC, but it’s happening. Dead Rising 3 is an Xbox One exclusive which is making its way to PC, too, so there’s certainly a better chance of Rise of the Tomb Raider eventually hitting PC than there is of it hitting any of the other possible platforms. For whatever reason – and it’s one I’m eternally thankful for – a fair few of Microsoft’s exclusives do, often enough, seem to wind up on PC later on. Halo and Halo 2. The rubbish parts of the Fable series. Alan Wake. Condemned. Etc. It’s worth noting, too, that Tomb Raider 2, 3, and The Last Revelation were console exclusive on the PlayStation for quite some time, but always wound up on PC. If this really is a genuine exclusive, then it’ll be the first main-series Tomb Raider game in franchise history not to hit PC.
And – as Peter Parrish pointed out to me not two minutes ago – what do Ryse, Dead Rising 3, and Rise of the Tomb Raider all have in common? Yep: they’ve all got “rise” in the name. Rise of the Tomb Raider confirmed for PC, then, obviously.
So that’s what little evidence there is, and honestly, it’s not much; “little” might be giving it too much credit. It’s a bit of reading-between-the-lines combined with a bit of past history. But it’s enough to give me a degree of hope that Rise of the Tomb Raider is a timed exclusive, even if the time of that exclusivity might be a lot longer than I’d actually like.