As you may know by now, it is confirmed that Rise of the Tomb Raider will be a Microsoft exclusive, though we don’t really know for how long. It’s unclear whether or not this will be a timed exclusive, but it is safe to assume that if PC and PS4 players ever get to play this game, it will be far into the future. Is Crystal Dynamics shooting themselves in the foot with this deal? Because we don’t know the specifics, it’s unclear, but some assumptions can be made, and I would venture to say that this is far from the best move for Crystal. Let’s crunch some numbers.
First off, let’s look at sales for the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot. According the vgchartz.com, which can be trusted generally (to a fair extent), it looks like the PS3 version sold more than the 360 version. The numbers? 1.71 million to 2.22 million. That’s a 500,000 copy difference or roughly 30% sales difference. Throw in the 270,000 PC copies sold, and you’ll see that of the total 4.2 million copies of Tomb Raider that were sold, roughly 245% more copies were sold on PC and PS3 than on 360, or roughly 2.5 times as many.
Looking at Definitive Edition sales, we see that about 170,000 of them were X1 sales while 460,000 were PS4 sales. We’re looking at sales roughly 270% or 2.7 times higher on the PS4 than X1…that’s a big number! If we add up all sales for the two editions among the five consoles, we see that Xbox sales are roughly 1.88 million, all other sales are around 2.95 million for a grand total of 4.83 million copies. If I’ve done the math right, that means that a paltry 39% of Tomb Raider sales were on Xbox consoles… yikes.
So, looking at the numbers, it’s fair to assume that if the console sale trend keeps up (where the PS4 is nearly doubling X1 sales), that it will be incredibly difficult for Rise of the Tomb Raider to attain a level of greatness like last year’s game. Of course, there’s no real way to tell how many X1s will be sold between now and Rise of the Tomb Raider‘s release, nor do we know what the ratio will be of console owners to game buyers, so the future is truly up in the air. Nonetheless, by simply looking at the current difference between X1 and PS4 sales, assuming that Rise of the Tomb Raider won’t sell half as well as it could with a multiplatform release may be partially a hasty assumption, partially an educated hypothesis.On top of that, do we even know whether or not the game will be coming to 360? If so, then there could be some sales there as well, maybe on par with last year’s Tomb Raider number. Even still, sales would stay under 50% of what they could be.
Now, let’s take a look at the exclusivity of the title. It is not confirmed that this is forever exclusive; for all we know, it could be timed. If the game is exclusive for long to come, sales are shot. That’s nearly a given, unless X1 sales spike drastically. How will Crystal make a profit? Well, it would come down to how much Microsoft is paying them for exclusivity. Obviously, this number must be pretty high in order for Crystal Dynamics to willingly cut their potential sales down by over 50%.
On top of that, the effects could be far reaching. Will PS4 and PC players boycott this year’s Temple of Osiris as a result? I am definitely considering this, as I’m not sure I can support a company that would be multi-platform one year, then suddenly exclude me for exclusivity a mere 12 months later. I could understand if the Tomb Raider reboot of 2013 was an exclusive, and this one followed suit…. but for Crystal Dynamics to show their great game to a wide audience, then tell the majority that they can’t have the sequel… well, that isn’t fair.
So, because of this, it is safe to assume that loss of Temple of Osiris sales is a possibility.
Now, if the exclusive is timed and PS4 and PC players get Rise of the Tomb Raider in the future, will anyone be interested at that time? If holiday 2016 rolls around and we finally get Rise of the Tomb Raider Definitive Edition, will anyone care? I might, but of course, I can’t speak for myself two years from now. What if the period is longer? Two years? Will I care in 2017? Even if this release is a timed exclusive, sales will more than likely still be quite low on Ps4 and PC when that day finally comes, especially if Uncharted 4 is a smashing success for the PS4. How many people will be buying Uncharted 4 now rather than Tomb Raider? Is it a possibility that Sony didn’t want Tomb Raider to inflate Uncharted 4 sales?
In the end, this is a mess. It truly is. I can’t imagine why a company would sell out and lose sales unless the payout for exclusivity is incredibly high. If that’s the case, Microsoft is betting huge that Rise of the Tomb Raider will be a system seller; will it pay off? All remains to be seen, but millions of disgruntled gamers are left in the wake. Is it worth it all? Is it worth damaging your reputation and leaving millions of fans high and dry? Crystal Dynamics, I believe you’ve just shot yourself in the foot.