In 2013, an XBOX ONE exclusive titled Quantum Break was announced. This game was and continues to be presented as a “highly immersive experience that blurs the lines between gameplay and television.” From the original announcement, two things were always said up until last month. The first, which is still being said, is that this game would be like Defiance (2013) in that it would have a plot relevant TV show to go with it. Remedy Entertainment seems to be claiming that the TV show portion of the experience, which will only be available via streaming, will be even more directly linked to the game than Defiance was. The second thing said was that it would be an XB1 exclusive. However, and to the dismay of many current XB1 owners, Quantum Break will now be available day one on PC.
This article is not meant to be a review. I don’t want to sound like I’m an expert or even more than just mildly interested in Quantum Break, because I’m not. I am not an XB1 owner and thus I was never invested in the game to begin with, because I assumed it would be an exclusive title. And if I do ever play it, it will almost certainly be on PC. In my opinion, I think this game is going to be mediocre. It’s promising a lot and I don’t think it will live up to the expectations it has created for itself like so many games before it have failed to do. It’s also really pushing the TV show as being a mandatory part of the experience, which to me translates to “the game will be average at best and the show, assuming it’s not terrible, will round it out.” I foresee this being another Defiance, which had early traction, but ultimately fizzled out earlier than the developers predicted, but none of that really matters. I want to talk about the controversy that has been created over the fact that this game was being marketed as an XB1 exclusive for the last three years and then suddenly went multiplatform less than two months before release.
If you personally know any hardcore XB1 fanboys, then it should be no surprise that they were mad about Microsoft’s decision to allow Quantum Break to be available on PC. If you know anyone who bought an XB1 in order to play Quantum Break, then you know they were very unhappy with this announcement as well. XB1 owners wasted no time taking to Twitter and other social media to voice their disapproval and anger over this announcement. I actually found the response by Phil Spencer to be extremely well thought out and clearly prepared for the easily predictable negative outcry. His argument/response, which I feel was prepared by a PR team long before the announcement was ever made, was that it is atrocious to complain that someone else gets to play a game that you wanted to play without having to buy the platform you own/bought to play the same game. Now, on paper this argument is 100% correct. And if anything, it only supports what I’ve been saying for the last generation or two of consoles, i.e. there is no current justification for exclusive titles. But the reality of this specific situation is that this game should absolutely be/have been released as an exclusive title.
I don’t own an XB1 and short of getting one gifted to me or winning one, I never will. In my opinion, which I have always been very vocal about on my personal blog, it’s a sorely lacking piece of equipment that if not for exclusive titles would in no way, shape, or form be worth buying in comparison to the PS4 or even a mid-level custom gaming PC. And clearly I’m not alone in that opinion because it’s not as if the units sold figures between the PS4 and XB1 are even near close to each other. Most of the world that currently owns a new gen console agrees with my opinion on the subject of which of the two consoles you should buy. But if you really want to play XB exclusive titles like Halo, Gears of War, and Forza, then you absolutely should go out and purchase an XB1 if you haven’t already. Or at least that would be my opinion if I didn’t now believe that XB exclusives are soon to be a thing of the past. I will return to this point later.
The fact is that as much as Microsoft doesn’t want to publicly admit it, very few people are buying their latest console because they actually wanted to. They bought it just to play a very small list of games. Quantum Break was one such game. It’s true that you shouldn’t purchase a console just to play one game, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen quite often. In my experience, a large number of gamers have no self-control when it comes to spending money and that’s exactly why season passes and other microtransactions have become so common and so profitable for developers. That means that yes, a large portion of XB1 owners purchased their consoles in order to play Quantum Break. This is not inconceivable considering the game was announced three years early. Look up the number of people who preordered the game before the multiplatform announcement and that will tell you a lot more than I ever could on the issue. So when you consider the number of XB1’s that were sold because of Quantum Break, under the pretense that it was going to be an exclusive, then no, making it a multiplatform title was not an ethical business decision.
I personally believe that consumers are owed things by the industry. Not that all gamers are owed everything by all developers and publishers, but that loyal customers of certain companies or franchises deserve to be treated in certain ways by the people or companies that have gotten fat on the profits provided by those consumers. For example: Halo. I don’t like Halo. I don’t buy Halo. I don’t play Halo. The only installment of Halo I ever owned was 2 and I am not exaggerating when I say it was because it introduced the sword and literally all my gaming friends at the time were playing it. If either of those two things had not been true, I never would have bought it. Bungie/343 Industries owes me and every other person who doesn’t play Halo nothing. I have in no way supported that franchise in more than 10 years. When they make decisions about the future of the franchise, I would be appalled and opposed to anything being done based on my opinions. This isn’t a new franchise. There’s no reason to try to make it more accessible to long time gamers who haven’t been playing it. I should in no way be factored into anything having to do with the future of Halo.
But you know who should? All the people who have been buying and playing Halo loyally since 2001. Those are the people who Bungie owes. Their opinions should be considered and respected. So if tomorrow 343 Industries announces that the next Halo will be available on both XB1 and PS4, I would be avidly opposed to it. Even though I am irately opposed to new exclusives in the modern era, I would still say that it is wrong for Halo to be available on PS4. We didn’t earn it. We haven’t supported it for all these years. And if it can’t survive anymore without opening up to the SONY audience, then it’s time to just let it die. Because at least it will have died with respect and dignity. That’s the kind of thinking I used when I decided that it was wrong for Microsoft to make Quantum Break a multiplatform game.
Let’s not kid each other about the situation. Quantum Break was announced as an exclusive three years ago. After the last two years of low XB1 sales coupled with the release of Windows 10, and Microsoft getting much more invested in PC gaming, there was no way this game was not going to also be available on PC. They’re producing a TV show, do you really think Microsoft was going to risk putting that much money into a new IP that had a maximum potential user/sales base of only 20 million units? Logically speaking, this would make absolutely no sense. The highest selling plot based game of all time, GTAV (2013), only sold about 20 million units on all XBOX platforms combined and 16 million of those units were on XB360. The highest selling plot based XBOX platform exclusive didn’t even move 15 million units. The chances of Quantum Break selling even 10 million units (about 50% of the current XB1 user base) as an XB1 exclusive is statistically too low to even risk betting on if you’re Microsoft. Defiance sold less than 1.5 million total copies just for the record. I’m not saying that it was an ethical decision on their part, but it was the obvious one. They can and will make way more money releasing that IP as an XB1/PC title. And let’s be honest here, if pride wasn’t a factor in the current industry, they’d put it out on PS4 too. The only reason we’re even having this discussion is because they waited three years and made the announcement right before release.
It is completely acceptable for XB1 owners to be angry about this. If I had purchased an XB1 just to play Quantum Break and a bunch of other multiplatform games such as COD, then I would be pissed too. I could have put that money towards a gaming PC or if I already had one then a PS4 where the word exclusive still means something. Especially since Phil Spencer’s response clearly indicates that this will most likely be the first of many XB exclusives going multiplatform. Essentially we are now seeing the death of the XBOX name. Microsoft will convert all holdings to the much more profitable PC platform and continue to release games on the XB1 as well, but I honestly wouldn’t bet on an XB2 or whatever they may have called it. We’re looking at the Sega Dreamcast reincarnated to repeat the exact same steps to getting out of the console business. The only difference being the number of really depressing changes to the industry made in the wake of Microsoft’s reign of terror. Phil Spencer’s response intentionally ignores the underlying issue for XB1 owners, i.e. their console has now become redundant and pointless when compared to a much more useful and long lasting gaming PC.
This all could have been avoided if they had just been honest from the beginning and not pushed the game as an exclusive. Of course at the time, I’m sure they assumed the XB1 would be much more successful then it ended up being. In any case, his response buries the real issue for XB1 users by making them out to be selfish narcissists which, while true in many cases, is not a fair assessment in this particular situation. We were told Quantum Break would be an XB1 exclusive and in turn people purchased that specific platform in order to play it. Even if it wasn’t the only factor that led to the purchase, it was a factor and that is being ignored by Microsoft. This only adds insult to injury by giving a free Windows 10 copy of the game to all people who preorder the digital version on XB1. Other than gifting it to a friend or selling your XB1 and playing it exclusively on PC, what would a person ever do with two copies of the game? Especially considering the PC version will almost certainly look better overall.
As far as ethics are concerned, Quantum Break should have stayed an XB1 exclusive. I’m willing to say that even knowing that I would never have had the opportunity to play it if that had been the case. Yet at the same time, I won’t support XB1 gamers on this issue past this post. If you read my blog regularly or follow me on Twitter, then you know that I try to make sure that I’m fair to all consumers and almost always stay focused on the issues regardless of which side of the console “war” I’m on. I’m the guy who sends angry tweets and writes long articles about issues I have with games I never would have even considered playing just because the gamers were slighted in a way I find unacceptable. But karma’s a bitch, as the old saying goes.
I can’t actually remember too many moments where an important and highly anticipated XBOX exclusive was stolen to another platform before release. In fact, even if you consider games that were originally released as XBOX exclusives and then ported to other platforms while they were still important, not counting just before a sequel was released, it’s a pretty short list. And if you only look at the list of games that “mattered” that went from XBOX to PlayStation, the only one I can actually think of that’s worth talking about was Mass Effect (2007). Which by the way, wasn’t even ported to the PS3 until 2012, months after Mass Effect 3 had already been released.
Now you might be thinking, “what about your Halo argument? Why was it ok for ME2 to be multiplatform and not the next Halo?” Obviously the two situations are nothing alike. Mass Effect had not yet been established as a franchise, it had only released one game before going multiplatform. Halo, on the other hand, has existed for 15 years and has 10 XBOX exclusives. We PlayStation users have no right to that. However, what we do have a right to is the same level of support and respect that I would be giving to XB1 owners right now if it weren’t for the many examples, even just in the last 5 years, where PlayStation owners got shafted in similar ways or even worse.
Did any XBOX users stand up for consumer rights when Final Fantasy went to XB360 in 2009 (not counting FFXI in 2006) after having not been supported by them since 2001 or 1987 if you go back to the origins of the franchise? Did any XBOX users complain when Insomniac Games made an XB1 exclusive (Sunset Overdrive 2014) after surviving solely on the support of PlayStation users since 1996? And finally, did a single XB1 owner shed even a supportive tweet when the latest Tomb Raider game, a flagship PlayStation exclusive IP from 1996 to 2013, got released a year in advance exclusively on XB1 and sold less than 1.5 million copies, thus possibly damaging or even destroying the future of the franchise altogether? No they didn’t. I won’t say that someone hasn’t, but I’ve never seen a single tweet, comment, forum post, or anything of the sort where an XBOX user of any generation voiced a negative opinion about a game being wrongfully released on an XBOX platform in the same way that Quantum Break is being wrongfully released on PC now.
What I have seen is a bunch of fanboys saying that they chose the best console and that PlayStation users can suck it for choosing wrong. In fact, if you go read my Sunset Overdrive post addressing this issue, you see that basically every comment not written by me is an XB1 owner telling me to stop complaining about the fact that I bought the wrong console. So essentially this issue has now gone full circle and the XB1 fanboys are shown to be the hypocrites that we always knew them to be. While they are right to complain on the issue of Quantum Break, they are also narcissistic assholes who only care about themselves and could care less about the bigger repercussions of Microsoft choosing to ignore consumer rights and show no ethics in how they run their business as game publisher/developer. I wish I could feel bad for them as a PS4 owner, but history has shown that they wouldn’t feel bad for us in the same situation, so, sorry . . .
My goal here is not to insult XB1 owners, but to address the importance of solidarity in the gaming community. We are finally in a time where the people actually do have some level of ability to affect outcomes and decisions, big and small, in the gaming industry. In just the last year we’ve seen groups of people who don’t really play video games seriously get Street Fighter V censored in the US. We’ve seen famous franchises like Fire Emblem get rewritten and censored by developers in fear of just a small percentage of gamers who were organized enough to make their voices heard clearly. On top of that, we’ve also seen huge changes occur because we the gamers stood as one coherent voice.
I think the best current gen example is the fact that the XB1 is not always online and supports used games. Remember that Microsoft’s original plan was for neither of those things to be true. And you’re foolish if you think it was purely fanboys who changed that decision. Every serious console gamer, whether PS3, XB360, or Wii U, took to social media and forums to say that such practices are not acceptable and that the console would not be purchased by the bulk of the gaming population. Within a week of the original announcement, Microsoft changed all of it to be what the XB1 is now. That’s the importance of unity and support among gamers.
All that being said, out of all the groups out there, I have to say that in my experience, the XBOX fanboys tend to be the worst about supporting their fellow gamers on other platforms and in turn, no one cares to support them now. We need to unify as a community, regardless of sub identifiers, like platform, so that when things like Quantum Break, Battlefront, or Destiny: The Taken King happen, we can work together to make sure that all gamers are treated with respect and fairness by the industry. That’s the way we should all feel when we hear the term “the gaming community” being used.