Earlier today, EA announced the Mass Effect Trilogy for the Xbox 360, PC and PS3, marking the first time the original Mass Effect, released nearly five years ago in 2007, will be made available for Playstation 3 owners.
While everyone is excited for the compilation, the trilogy’s release indicates that Microsoft are not only no longer interested in securing or creating new platform exclusives, but also in keeping existing properties they themselves published from being lost to competitors.
Another heavily marketed Xbox 360 exclusive lost.
The original Mass Effect was published by Microsoft Studios, and this fact led many to believe that the game would never make its way to a Sony console and remain an Xbox 360 console exclusive. When EA brought over Mass Effect 2 to the PS3 in 2011, everyone had to make do with Mass Effect: Genesis, an interactive comic that allowed players to make several major plot decisions of the first game that impact the story of Mass Effect 2.
Try as they might, but Playstation owners could never experience the “full” trilogy and the satisfaction of experiencing and carrying over all of their choices and decisions from game-to-game. That was, until today’s announcement, which is sure to make every Mass Effect fan happy, PS3 owners especially.
For 360 owners, I think the loss of the original Mass Effect has further exposed just how flawed and concerning Microsoft’s handling of its exclusives is.
The fact that the original Mass Effect was a Microsoft Studios-published game and is now jumping ship to their primary competitor’s console is just embarrassing. If Microsoft can’t or won’t bother to create new exclusives, then they could theoretically at least make an effort to keep their existing ones that they themselves published from being lost to competitors... right? Well, looks like that's not even the case.
Around the announcement of ME2 jumping to the PS3 in late 2010, Microsoft commented on their thoughts of the franchise's jump to a multiplatform title.
"With both Mass Effect titles launching first on Xbox 360 combined with the wealth of available paid downloadable content on Xbox Live today, Xbox 360 remains the best place to experience the Mass Effect franchise.
That was all fine and dandy, as it was true to an extent, as PS3 owners would never experience the first title on their console of choice. Then, to reassure fans:
"And the original Mass Effect is absolutely an Xbox 360 exclusive, making Xbox 360 the only place to get the full Mass Effect experience."
Yet here we are. Microsoft are well known for securing “timed-exclusive” deals relating to DLC, such as with Skyrim, and the sudden announcement of ME1 coming to the PS3 could be a signifier of Microsoft merely securing BioWare’s original title for a certain amount of time rather than for the entirety of the console’s lifetime. Or it could be that they let EA buy out their publishing rights to the first title. Whatever the case, it makes me wonder why Microsoft bothered marketing and reassuring 360 owners that it was an Xbox 360 exclusive at all.
Is the company's attitude reflective of their console's wider gaming community simply no longer caring for exclusives? Do new unique games or the securing of existing exclusives even matter when the Xbox 360 is doing so well, sales-wise?
Exclusive seems to no longer be a term recognised by Microsoft.
This isn’t the first time that a Microsoft-published video game jumped ship and the company seemed to let it happen: Ninja Gaiden 2, also published by Microsoft Studios exclusively for the Xbox 360 in 2008, suddenly and surprisingly jumped over to PS3 a year later as Ninja Gaiden Sigma, an updated version with more content, published by Tecmo Koei. While not as big as Mass Effect, its status as a Microsoft-published product jumping to Sony is just face-palm worthy. Again: why did they bother to market and present it as an exclusive at all?
Exclusives still matter. Maybe not for everyone, but for a lot of people they still do, especially those who aren’t merely satisfied with entertainment apps or annual Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed’s or Halo. Little things like ME1’s jump are proving concerning as to the direction Microsoft are taking their console and brand -- and while the whole “entertainment hub” thing is making things great for them business-wise, their continued lack of care for exclusives -- whether in creating new experiences or securing existing ones from being lost -- doesn’t make the future of their brand any less concerning.
Is the loss of Mass Effect indicative of Microsoft’s lack of care for exclusives -- both existing ones and in creating new properties? Do exclusives matter (in relation to the Xbox 360) anymore for you?
By Nathan Misa