Thursday, June 04, 2009

Exclusivity in Crysis

One of the first announcements of this announcement-packed week was the existence of Crysis 2. From a storyline perspective, this is no surprise: Crysis ended with the main character beginning to do something. What is surprising -- and, to some poor souls, enraging -- is that the game will not be PC-exclusive like its predecessor was.

Exclusivity is a double-edged sword. The advantages: it makes a console and its owners feel special, it allows the developers to more easily take advantage of the console's strengths, and there are also some promotional perks because the console maker will want to push the game. The disadvantages: it cuts off a portion of the player base, which potentially decreases sales if the demand isn't so high that people are willing to buy the console to play the game.

Guess what happened to Crysis? Mostly the latter. If Crysis 2 were a PC exclusive, it may not actually exist.

There are many reasons for this, and many possible reasons. The possible reasons can be debated until the end of time. Was it piracy? High system requirements? Poor marketing? No one can truly say. However, there are a few pretty solid reasons why PC gaming doesn't share some of the same exclusivity benefits as console gaming. The main one being that, despite what Mac commercials would have you think (and may Heaven help you if those commercials actually dictate your thinking in any way), there is no corporation, no "they" that is behind "the PC". (Oh, and by the way, a Mac is a PC -- just a certain type that has a certain operating system on it.) The closest thing we have is Microsoft, since most PCs run Windows, but they can't be expected to have the same sort of motherly attachment to the PC "console" as they do to their own baby, the Xbox. (And if frothing-at-the-mouth Linux advocates are to be believed, that's the way it should be.)

Or, to make a long diatribe short: there's no money in PC exclusivity, even ignoring piracy completely (which, if you're being realistic, you can't). And, if we're being honest gamers instead of console warriors, there aren't many reasons to insist on it. Now, yes, there can be downsides if developers are careless about it. I hate shoddy ports as much as anyone; I played through the PC version of Splinter Cell Double Agent. But that doesn't have to happen, and in this day and age, when graphics processing and operating system architecture are becoming more and more standardized, it's becoming easier than ever to put games on multiple consoles without losing anything in translation. That said, I do want PC versions to have the benefits they rightly deserve, and ideally they should include proper mouse & keyboard support, especially in the cases where that's a legitimately better way to play -- FPSes, RTSes, MMORPGs, etc. (Although if you're still playing ports of third-person platformers without a 360 gamepad... wake up.) It sounds like Crytek is intent on maximizing the game's potential on all consoles, which is encouraging, and I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on this.

Frankly, I'm just glad they're giving PC gamers the time of day at all, and I'm holding out hope that they won't treat us like second-class customers, releasing the game 6 months later for no reason and leaving us out of DLC and special editions.

Yeah, that's right, Ubisoft.

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