Giant Bomb News

237 Comments

If You Publish on PSN First, Microsoft Ain't Interested

Xbox Europe boss tells Eurogamer why platform parity or exclusivity are the only ways Microsoft will play.

If you're one of the remaining few still holding out hope for an eventual XBLA release of Critter Crunch, we have some unfortunate news...

You may have noticed that games that appear on the PlayStation Network, but not on the Xbox Live Marketplace, don't seem to ever come Microsoft's way down the road. The opposite has often been true, with numerous Xbox 360 and Xbox Live Arcade releases eventually making their way to Sony's disc-and-download-based platforms months after the fact. And yet Microsoft seemingly never gets these post-exclusive releases on the other side of the coin.

Apparently, that's because they don't want them.

Speaking to Eurogamer at Gamescom, Xbox Europe head Chris Lewis stated that Microsoft's policy is that titles must ship simultaneously on Xbox 360 or XBLA alongside other platforms, or be exclusive to Microsoft for some period of time. Otherwise, the company may simply refuse to allow the content on its console.

"We're a little biased, so obviously we're going to look to protect our own space as best we can and get exclusivity," he said. "Whilst I can't be specific about the terms and conditions, you can be very confident we seek to maximise our own advantage to ensure the playing field is even, and certainly plays to our advantage wherever possible."

Eurogamer obtained a copy of Microsoft's Content Submission and Release Policy, which states the following regarding parity and/or exclusivity:

Titles for Xbox 360 must ship at least simultaneously with other video game platform, and must have at least feature and content parity on-disc with the other video game platform versions in all regions where the title is available. If these conditions are not met, Microsoft reserves the right to not allow the content to be released on Xbox 360.

The "parity on-disc" portion of that statement does explain away how Sony was able to secure certain launch exclusive content, such as the added bonus case for L.A. Noire, which came in the form of downloadable content. At the same time, it doesn't explain away how Warner Bros. was able to release Mortal Kombat, which featured an on-disc PS3-exclusive character in God of War lead Kratos, without drawing Microsoft's ire. While Kratos would never appear on any console not branded PlayStation, the fact that the Xbox 360 version had no equivalent bonus character seems to go against the wording of the policy. Perhaps feathers were rankled, and Microsoft simply allowed things to move forward given MK's stature and draw as a title.

This policy does also extend to digital titles as well. This may have something to do with why Sony's new PSN PLAY program, ostensibly an attempt at bringing to the table its own version of Microsoft's Summer of Arcade, features no exclusive titles save for Payday: The Heist, a Sony Online Entertainment developed title. Microsoft, for its part, requires a minimum of four weeks of platform exclusivity to include any title in the Summer of Arcade program.

Regardless of any evidence of apparent flexibility in the policy, Lewis made it clear that he sees no chance for change in the policy any time in the foreseeable future, and emphasized that Microsoft sees this policy as a way of ensuring things remain competitive between the various console platforms.

"But, honestly, and this is going to sound a bit contrived, we just want what our consumers want from us. We want to be where they want us to be. We want the quality bar of what they experience from us to continue to go up. I think it has to happen. Everybody's got to do that. If we want to continue to command healthy average selling prices, which we all do, that which we offer our consumers has got to keep getting better. Despite the fact it can be irksome to have such strong competition all the time, it actually does keep us on our toes. It's great for everyone, and it makes for a very healthy race to higher and higher levels of quality of game experiences."
Alex Navarro on Google+
237 Comments
Posted by Alex
If you're one of the remaining few still holding out hope for an eventual XBLA release of Critter Crunch, we have some unfortunate news...

You may have noticed that games that appear on the PlayStation Network, but not on the Xbox Live Marketplace, don't seem to ever come Microsoft's way down the road. The opposite has often been true, with numerous Xbox 360 and Xbox Live Arcade releases eventually making their way to Sony's disc-and-download-based platforms months after the fact. And yet Microsoft seemingly never gets these post-exclusive releases on the other side of the coin.

Apparently, that's because they don't want them.

Speaking to Eurogamer at Gamescom, Xbox Europe head Chris Lewis stated that Microsoft's policy is that titles must ship simultaneously on Xbox 360 or XBLA alongside other platforms, or be exclusive to Microsoft for some period of time. Otherwise, the company may simply refuse to allow the content on its console.

"We're a little biased, so obviously we're going to look to protect our own space as best we can and get exclusivity," he said. "Whilst I can't be specific about the terms and conditions, you can be very confident we seek to maximise our own advantage to ensure the playing field is even, and certainly plays to our advantage wherever possible."

Eurogamer obtained a copy of Microsoft's Content Submission and Release Policy, which states the following regarding parity and/or exclusivity:

Titles for Xbox 360 must ship at least simultaneously with other video game platform, and must have at least feature and content parity on-disc with the other video game platform versions in all regions where the title is available. If these conditions are not met, Microsoft reserves the right to not allow the content to be released on Xbox 360.

The "parity on-disc" portion of that statement does explain away how Sony was able to secure certain launch exclusive content, such as the added bonus case for L.A. Noire, which came in the form of downloadable content. At the same time, it doesn't explain away how Warner Bros. was able to release Mortal Kombat, which featured an on-disc PS3-exclusive character in God of War lead Kratos, without drawing Microsoft's ire. While Kratos would never appear on any console not branded PlayStation, the fact that the Xbox 360 version had no equivalent bonus character seems to go against the wording of the policy. Perhaps feathers were rankled, and Microsoft simply allowed things to move forward given MK's stature and draw as a title.

This policy does also extend to digital titles as well. This may have something to do with why Sony's new PSN PLAY program, ostensibly an attempt at bringing to the table its own version of Microsoft's Summer of Arcade, features no exclusive titles save for Payday: The Heist, a Sony Online Entertainment developed title. Microsoft, for its part, requires a minimum of four weeks of platform exclusivity to include any title in the Summer of Arcade program.

Regardless of any evidence of apparent flexibility in the policy, Lewis made it clear that he sees no chance for change in the policy any time in the foreseeable future, and emphasized that Microsoft sees this policy as a way of ensuring things remain competitive between the various console platforms.

"But, honestly, and this is going to sound a bit contrived, we just want what our consumers want from us. We want to be where they want us to be. We want the quality bar of what they experience from us to continue to go up. I think it has to happen. Everybody's got to do that. If we want to continue to command healthy average selling prices, which we all do, that which we offer our consumers has got to keep getting better. Despite the fact it can be irksome to have such strong competition all the time, it actually does keep us on our toes. It's great for everyone, and it makes for a very healthy race to higher and higher levels of quality of game experiences."
Staff
Edited by Stubee

Ahhhhh so thats what happened to Trine.

Posted by rjayb89

I'm okay with this having a dead PS3 and all.

Posted by oneman_nohorse

Seems like nonsense to me.

Posted by ZombiePie

Hey it's there platform and if they believe sending this message gets them more exclusive titles then that's their prerogative. It's still a little silly and childish though.

Moderator
Posted by benjaebe

Nice write-up. It kind of sucks for smaller developers and indie studios who have to limit their market or change their game plan (i.e. if they wanted to go PC first but have to develop on 360 lest they be locked out from the system). They're throwing around their weight a bit too much in this case if you ask me.

Posted by RoyCampbell

Entitled children have been employed at Microsoft for a long time now.

Posted by AmericanNinja

MS is sooo stupid. glad i dont have a 360 anymore.

Posted by Grimmy616

Lame.

Posted by Enigma777

This is foul. I hope publishers stand up to MS.

Posted by Junpei

this is both sleazy and absolutely understandable to me. It is sleazy in the sense that Microsoft is pigeon holing developers into making everything be skewed a certain way if you want to maximize your profits. But a great business move for them by ensuring that the majority of top tier content will appear on their console and be potentially exclusive at launch. Having a PS3 I don't mind waiting a little while for some games to arrive because in some ways it'll keep me from buying on a whim and maybe get the game cheaper down the road. That's the nature of the business though. On the edge of what feels sleazy but makes sense from a competitive advantage point.

Posted by Biggie

So is this why we've not seen Infinity Blade Kinect? I would gladly give MS 1200 points to play that game again.

Posted by Scrumdidlyumptious

Understandable position for Microsoft. Sucks for consumers and publishers.

Posted by whatisdelicious

Sucks from a consumer standpoint, but that's pretty brilliant from a business standpoint.

Posted by Surkov

I'm glad Sony doesn't have the same policy otherwise I wouldn't have been able to play Braid, Limbo or Castle Crashers. 

Posted by ZeForgotten

Microsoft being Microsoft. I love that they're thinking about their consumers for once... oh wait

Online
Posted by RanchLizard

Excellent article.  Thanks, Alex!

Posted by Swoxx

They have to do what they feel is best for their business. They answer to shareholders first, not consumers.

Posted by Foggen

The MK example is Microsoft looking at the situation, realizing that passing on MK would be a colossal fucking mistake, and giving in. This whole thing is about leverage, and when it comes to top tier games the publishers have the leverage. Otherwise, Microsoft has the leverage to put the screws to small developers.

Edited by Slaker117

I realize that it's easy to hate on a company as huge as Microsoft, but this policy is perfectly reasonable. They are just protecting their interests in a way that is well within their rights.

Posted by PhilESkyline

I guess this means Bastion will never make it to PS3 then?

Posted by Wraxend

The only ones that suffer out of this are Microsoft and its loyal customers. Makes me glad Sony don't mind either way.
Posted by benjaebe
@Slaker117 said:
I realize that it's easy to hate on a company as huge as Microsoft, but this policy is perfectly reasonable. They are just protecting their interests in a way that is well within their rights, and it does end up benefiting Xbox owners.
It may be well within their rights, but it's still reasonable for publishers, developers and non-Xbox owners to not be too crazy about these kind of limitations.
Posted by Revenant86

Total garbage. I don't need microsofts suck ass ports anyway

Posted by jozzy
If these conditions are not met, Microsoft reserves the right to not allow the content to be released on Xbox 360

This is they key sentence here. They reserve the right but will not always enforce it.

Posted by Tally_Pants

So... the only winner is Microsoft is this scenario. Awesome!
Oh well, I hate microsoft, and buy all my games for my PS3, except for a couple of exclusives.
Fuck you, Microsoft!!

Posted by metalsnakezero

This is kinda bad for Microsoft. Well too bad for them. 

Posted by beard_of_zeus

@PhilESkyline said:

I guess this means Bastion will never make it to PS3 then?

That case would come down to whether SuperGiant actually wants to put resources into the port. You're thinking of the converse of the case being discussed in this article. Showing up on XBLA first and then PSN later is a common occurence at this point.

Edited by Marz

kinda shitty for an indie developer if they made a product that is successful on another platform like steam and want to bring it over to XBLA but can't due to this policy because there's a high probability it will be rejected.

Posted by Mummenschanz
@PhilESkyline:  You've got it backwards. If it first appeared on PSN, it couldn't make it on XBLA. Since it's XBLA first, PSN will gladly take Bastion after Microsoft's exclusivity deal runs out.
Posted by BabyChooChoo

As much as I doubt it would happen, I would love to hear some developers/publishers chime in on this. For some reason I imagine Gabe Newell sitting in his office laughing at this announcement.

I do not know why.

Posted by mekon

Have any similar statements been made by Sony about PSN Play (other than Sony titles)?

Posted by Zabant

This means there will never be 360 re-releases of ps3 exclusives like there are vice versa. Mass effect might have eventually came to PS3 but don't expect games like MGS4 to ever grace the 360. Odd considering previously exclusive series sequels seem fine by MS to grace their platform (dark souls). What an ass backwards policy

Posted by Zidd

Microsoft? Anti-competitive? NO WAY.

Posted by Lukeweizer

Good to see that Microsoft is in it for the love of the games.

Posted by wickedsc3

Makes sense to me. If you chose the competition over my company for your debut sales, then I guess my company's sales were not important to you. So guess what you don't get to make money off my loyal customers.

Posted by Karsghul

It's Microsoft being Microsoft.
 
It makes sense as a business but it's a slap in the face for devs and user wanting great games like Joe Danger.

Edited by Devoid

@PhilESkyline said:

I guess this means Bastion will never make it to PS3 then?

You've got it the wrong way around. Had Bastion come out on PS3 first, there would be every chance that Microsoft wouldn't allow it to be released on 360 later.

Also in regard to the article:

you can be very confident we seek to maximise our own advantage to ensure the playing field is even,

How does that make sense? What

Edited by gosukiller
@PhilESkyline said:

I guess this means Bastion will never make it to PS3 then?

Wrong. Read the article again carefully. 
 
If Bastion will ever make it to the PS3 is totally up to Supergiantgames themselves.
Posted by BiG_Weasel

If I were a dev, I'd tell Microsoft to go, well, do  something crude to themselves.  Why they refuse to support their player base is beyond me.

Posted by Slaker117
@benjaebe said:
@Slaker117 said:
I realize that it's easy to hate on a company as huge as Microsoft, but this policy is perfectly reasonable. They are just protecting their interests in a way that is well within their rights, and it does end up benefiting Xbox owners.
It may be well within their rights, but it's still reasonable for publishers, developers and non-Xbox owners to not be too crazy about these kind of limitations.
And that's fine. No one says you have to like the policy, but that doesn't make it bad or wrong.
 
Xbox only owners probably aren't thrilled when a PS3 exclusive gets put out, and developers probably want as many people as possible to play their game, but that doesn't mean we should stop making console exclusives.
Posted by benjaebe
@PrimeSynergy said:

As much as I doubt it would happen, I would love to hear some developers/publishers chime in on this. For some reason I imagine Gabe Newell sitting in his office laughing at this announcement.

I do not know why.

In the Eurogamer interview they quoted an anonymous publisher who said this: 


One representative from a publisher who wished to remain anonymous told Eurogamer Microsoft's policy blocks developers from taking advantage of other platforms' strengths.

"Microsoft is suggesting that anything but parity will result in them not carrying a title. They may think this is competitive, but it's not. They are killing any creative exposure of titles to make up for their own platform's shortcomings."


Posted by Lobst

This is Microsoft's right; I just have to wonder why anyone would go for it in the first place.

Other marketplaces have userbases that are more used to getting their content digitally, and are far more open to giving control to content-creators than anything you'd find on a console.

We know about the Zeboyd story, but I really have to wonder just how much Bastion has sold on Steam versus XBLA.

Edited by zeezkos

I think it is a predictable game that MS is playing.. what they are doing, basically, is making an example to publishers/developers that they should either release on both systems (ps3 and 360) at the same time and with the same content (more or less) or face the possibility of not releasing at all on 360.  This would, hopefully, encourage (blackmail?) people into avoiding exclusivity contracts with other systems because it would, potentially, cut off all revenue from a later release on the 360.
 
This will ONLY be bad for 360 consumers if there is a massive amount of publishers who thumb their noses at the 360 as a result.. which, frankly, seems unlikely outside of true PS3 exclusives.  
 
In a sense, by making an ultimatum of sorts, MS is working to guarantee that there are more cross-platform releases on the same day.  Are they doing this coz they love you? no. Like everyone else, they are legally obliged to pursue profit.  Doesn't mean you won't benefit. 
 
EDIT: now, if only someone will step up and kill all the separate pre-order bullshit bonuses and standardize that shit....
 
EDIT2:  not sure why everyone is flipping out and saying this is MS trying to get exclusives.. look at the writing. it says "Titles for Xbox 360 must ship at least simultaneously with other video game platform, and must have at least feature and content parity on-disc with the other video game platform versions in all regions where the title is available".  I read enough documents for investments to understand that this does not mean MS is saying "exclusive or GTFO".  They are leaving the option for exclusives open while demanding at least equal launches.  I don't see how that is worse for gamers.  It seems like a VERY standard thing to do

Posted by Cazamalos

old school Microsoft

Posted by embryo69

@Biggie: They got Fruit Ninja a lot later than iOS.

Posted by onimonkii

this seems bad for the developers more than anything

Posted by WilliamHenry

@BiG_Weasel said:

If I were a dev, I'd tell Microsoft to go, well, do something crude to themselves. Why they refuse to support their player base is beyond me.

And risk losing out on potential profits? That just seems idiotic to me.