Yesterday I reported the news that apparently Titanfall will remain an Xbox and Microsoft exclusive for the lifetime of the game. This means that whilst we'll get a PC version to accompany the Xbox One and Xbox 360 versions, Playstation gamers will be out of luck, right? I'm not so sure about this - so please allow me to indulge in some speculation.
So let's start with what we know. Last October developer Respawn Entertainment's Vince Zampella clarified the status of the game in a tweet:
Always MS exclusive at launch, great partner and focus is good for a startup. EA made a deal for the rest, we only found out recently =(— Vince Zampella (@VinceZampella) October 29, 2013
So the game was always destined to be an Xbox exclusive for at least a few months, but EA, who publish the game seem to have concluded a separate deal making the game an exclusive for the life of the console.
Sounds pretty concrete, right? There's perhaps good reason though why we should treat this with a huge grain of salt.
Remember back in the day when to the shock of almost everyone it was announced by developers Capcom that the game would be exclusive to Nintendo's sickly Gamecube console? At the time it was seen as a huge boon to a machine that was stuck with a kids-only image, and there was clearly some regret about choosing the little purple box, over the infinitely more popular PS2. Several months later, Capcom reneged and released the game on the other consoles.
Last generation too, the Mass Effect series started life as an Xbox 360 exclusive, but soon found its way on to the PS3 too. So what does "exclusive" really mean?
Here's my thinking on Titanfall.
Being the first AAA release of this latest console generation, making it exclusive was obviously a huge priority for Microsoft. Since the infamous E3 announcement, they knew they would be on the back-foot and playing catch-up amongst the hardcore early adopters who can make-or-break a console. So perhaps wisely, they've thrown money at the problem and signed up Titanfall as an exclusive.
EA must have eagerly signed up to the deal because they have made the calculation that getting a big lump sum from Microsoft in exchange for exclusivity is going to net them more cash than if the game was released on both consoles - why else would you hold back?
Titanfall is going to sell well - but it probably won't be a huge seller because, lets face it, not many people own an Xbox One yet. And whilst there is a 360 version, chances are that many 360 owners - especially the hardcore gamers who Titanfall is targeting - are holding off buying new games until they can afford to upgrade to the new platform.
Arguably what's more important to Microsoft at this stage isn't the game per-se, but what it and its brand represent to the Xbox One as it and the PS4 jockey for position in the on-going phoney war. Microsoft aren't just interested in telling Xbox One gamers about Titanfall, but want to say to potential customers "Hey, look at us - we've got a big shooter with massive robots! This is where the proper hardcore gaming happens... all the PS4 has is Knack, which is for kids anyway". It's all about signalling.
In a few years time, when the Xbox One and PS4 have successfully penetrated the market, the economics of this decision might change. Don't be surprised if the inevitable Titanfall 2 appears on both the Xbox One and PS4 - as EA will judge that there will be plenty of potential customers on these platforms, and the money to be made on both is more lucrative than a one-off wad of cash from Microsoft.
As soon as Titanfall 2 is released too, the value of the first game will drop dramatically - it'll definitely be no longer the big, new and shiny thing. It's at this point that EA might decide to buy their way out of the exclusivity contract with Microsoft and port the first game over so PS4 gamers can enjoy the second game, then go back and play the first. And Microsoft, recognising the second game is the attraction now will see there's less to be gained from Titanfall 1, and may give up its exclusivity in exchange for a smaller bundle of cash from EA.
So will Titanfall never appear on the PS4? I'm sceptical. Of course - the above speculation could turn out to be nonsense (it wouldn't be the first time), but I think it makes a reasonable case as to why circumstances can change. So don't be surprised to see Playstation gamers climbing aboard their mechs in a couple of years time.