Rise of Tomb Raider Xbox exclusivity is a head-scratcher

As you’ve heard, Rise of the Tomb Raider, the sequel to the 2013 classic, will be a “timed” exclusive on Xbox platforms. Microsoft has admitted that this deal “has a duration”. This deal comes out of left field as most evidence pointed towards Tomb Raider being a multiplatform title and available on Playstation systems too.

Square Enix, Crystal Dynamics, and Microsoft likely struck a deal back in 2013. Why do I say this deal must have been made a long time ago? Well, because it just doesn’t make sense after May 2013.

Like many developers, Square Enix likely thought the next Xbox platform would be more popular in America and probably nearly as popular as the PS4 back before the Xbox One reveal in May 2013. Then of course Microsoft nearly destroyed 10 years of good-will with gamers and went on a summer-long apology tour, reversing countless anti-consumer policies.

Then the Xbox One and PS4 came out last year and since then its been pretty clear where consumers are moving. Sony says they’re getting a healthy number of PS4 adopters who didn’t own a PS3 previously. They’ve passed 10 million units sold worldwide while Microsoft is still sitting around 5 million XB1 systems sold, roughly. PS4 software sales are also generally better than those on Xbox One.

For example, Tomb Raider sold 2.2 million copies on PS3 and 1.71 million on Xbox 360. The Definitive Edition has sold 470k on PS4 while selling 170k on Xbox One. That represents a 2.67 million versus 1.88 million difference between Playstation and Xbox sales. Nearly a million more copies were sold on PS3/PS4, so why would Square Enix partner with Microsoft on this Rise of the Tomb Raider timed exclusive deal?

The last game sold nearly a million more copies on Playstation.

The last game sold nearly a million more copies on Playstation.

Well, I’m sure Microsoft offered to help with marketing and other costs. But that can’t be the whole story. Sony is helping with Destiny and Watch Dogs marketing, so why would Square Enix choose the company with the console their last Tomb Raider title sold worst on?

This is why I believe this deal must have been sealed sometime in 2013, probably before E3 2013. Square Enix, like many other publishers, probably didn’t see the Xbox One’s terrible reveal and subsequently poor hardware sales coming. They made a pretty good bet on Xbox for next-gen but even the most education guess can be very wrong sometimes.

Simply put, Rise of the Tomb Raider being an Xbox One timed exclusive makes little sense for Square Enix. It will be a good game if it follows in the footsteps of its predecessor and will likely sell very well. But you better believe that when it hits Playstation platforms sometime in 2016 it will see a huge boost in sales. A lot of fans will simply wait, knowing the typical publisher routine and save their money for a PS4 version at a later date. Heck, even a Crystal Dynamics progammer says its coming to PS4. Because really, who believes Rise of the Tomb Raider will take that long to ship on Playstation anyway?

So it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense why Rise of the Tomb Raider is a timed Xbox exclusive but that’s okay. Square Enix simply bet on the wrong horse and will have to wait it out and hopefully the game does well. But don’t worry Playstation only fans, the game won’t shun you for long. It literally can’t. Consumers spoke with their wallets and showed that they want to buy Tomb Raider on Playstation and no matter how much Microsoft wants you to believe that you have to get in on the Rise of the Tomb Raider fun at the game’s Xbox launch, if you’re unable to do so you shouldn’t worry about whether you’ll get to the play the game on your console of choice.