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."