"If you could have one do-over, what would it be?" That's the question asked to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during his address at the executive club in Chicago. Mr. Ballmer then addressed the fact that there is never "just one do-over" but there is one mistake they made that was bigger than them all: "I would probably say I would start sooner on search." The crowd went dead silent. No noise, you could hear a pin drop. Ballmer had just acknowledged that his Company's nemesis, Google, had beaten them to the punch; it was almost like accepting defeat. But there's another BIG mistake that Microsoft made in their Xbox/Zune division, one that's seriously hurting their console while Sony's PS3 seems to be set for the distant future, and it's not RROD.
It's a problem that can't be solved overnight and has left the Redmond giant grasping for straws and spending big money buying third party timed exclusives. Hopefully they will learn their lessons this time so in the next generation the situation will be different, but for now Microsoft must suffer the consequences of not seriously investing in first party studios. Don't you know? Exclusives sell consoles, and exclusives will be what lead Sony to victory. Let's look into the past, then the future shall we?
If it was not for Halo, the original Xbox would have been a failure. That game made the Xbox what it was and the Xbox 360 what it is today. So one would think that Microsoft would have taken notice and invest in more first party studios in order to help bolster their exclusive roster. They did not.
Sony knows firsthand the importance of first party development studios, and they've invested heavily to make sure that when third parties decide to leave, they'll still be standing tall with great exclusive titles. In fact the President of SCEE David Reeves, said exclusives with publishers are 'a thing of the past' and his company plan on working internally to strengthen their lineup. And they had better; games like the Metal Gear Solid franchise, the Final Fantasy franchise, and Grand Theft Auto all made Sony's consoles the best of the best. But now all the aforementioned have gone multiplatform and if Sony did not prepare themselves, PS3 would be barren.
Who's to say that Gears of War will remain exclusive to the Xbox 360 forever? What about Mass Effect 2 and Splinter Cell: Conviction? Just like Metal Gear: Rising and Final Fantasy XIII, there's always the possibility of these games going multiplat. Yet still MS has only 7, yes seven first party studios. Rareware being the most outstanding. Pathetic and salty.
Sony on the other hand is loaded, hence the plethora of 'true' exclusives coming out for the system. Here's a list of first party Sony studios and their games:
Naughty Dog - Crash Bandicoot, Uncharted series, Jak & Daxter series
Santa Monica Studio - God of War series, Warhawk with Incognito Entertainment, Kinetica
San Diego Studio - NBA, MLB: The Show
Sony Bend - Syphon Filter, Resistance Retribution
Sony Online Entertainment - EverQuest
incognito Entertainment - Warhawk with Santa Monica, Twisted Metal series, Downhill Domination, Calling all Cars
Zipper Interactive - SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs series, MAG
Clap Hanz - Everybody's Golf, Everybody's Tennis
Japan Studio - Ape Escape, Siren, LocoRoco, Patapon
Team ICO - Shadow of the Colossus, Ico, The Last Guradian
Polyphony Digital - Gran Turismo
London Studio - SingStar, Eyetoy,
Studio Cambridge - MediEvil, PlayTV
Studio Liverpool - Wipeout, F1
Evolution Studios - MotorStorm, World Rally Championship
Bigbig Studios - MotorStorm: Arctic Edge
Guerrilla Games - Killzone series
343 Industries - Future Halo titles
Rare Limited - Banjo-Kazooie series, Conka series, Perfect Dark series, Viva Pinata series
Lionhead Studios - Fable series, Black & White series
Turn 10 studios - Forza Motorsport series
Wingnut Interactive - No games yet
Xbox Live productions - Fable II Pub Games, South Park Let's Go Tower Defense Play!
BigPark - JoyRide
That's it for Microsoft. None in Japan.
And now to the future. If it's true that exclusive games sell consoles, then tell me how on God's earth will Microsoft compete with Sony in 2010 and beyond? They will try shock 'n' awe but will that strategy be enough to stall Sony's momentum? God of War III, MAG, Gran Turismo, Resistance 3, Killzone 3, Syphon Filter, Heavy Rain, Yakuza 3, Agent, Quantum Theory, White Knight Chronicles and The Last Guardian just to name a few. Microsoft has Alan Wake, Mass Effect 2 (which might be a timed exclusive), Halo Reach, Splinter Cell: Conviction, which is another title rumored to be only timed with Ubisoft saying that "there's always hope for Splinter Cell on PS3;" Crackdown 2, and Fable III.
Fair is fair, and as you already know, we are not biased here at Games Thirst. Microsoft made a big mistake in this the seventh generation of consoles and in many ways you can't blame them; after all, it's only their second generation in the business. The company is passionate about winning hearts and minds over to the Xbox family, but to achieve that goal, the software giant must build more first party studios. Until then, they're fighting a losing battle.
12/02/09 Ernice Gilbert