I like to think I have a good intuition. On August 12, 2014, I predicted that Rise of the Tomb Raider would tank commercially. I’m here to tell you that it seems I was right, not to boast and brag, but to point out that console exclusivity can absolutely crush a game. What does Crystal Dynamics do from here?
Update: 11:20 a.m., 12/21/2015
In the original version of this article, I incorrectly stated that Rise of the Tomb Raider was initially slated for a later-than-January 2016 launch on PC. I gleaned this info from one of our recent articles on the game, which is also being corrected for accuracy. The article below has been edited to reflect the truth: from the time Microsoft announced the PC version, it always used “early 2016” to describe that launch window. We apologize for the mistake in reporting.
In August 2014, I wrote an article where I mentioned that only 39% of Tomb Raider sales (that is, the 2013 reboot and its 2014 Definitive Edition) occurred on Xbox platforms, according to data from vgchartz.com.
I postulated that even with hype, Rise of the Tomb Raider probably wouldn’t even sell half what it could have if it had a wide release. It seems that I was correct.
In a recent Gamers Sphere article about Rise of the Tomb Raider coming to PC in January, Sade Tavarez pointed out that the game failed to even crack the NPD’s top 10 sales list. In comparison, Fallout 4, which released the same day as Rise of the Tomb Raider, ranked 2nd in sales that month.
Heck, even Just Dance beat Rise of the Tomb Raider by clocking in at No. 10. JUST DANCE, people. It’s top-selling version was on the Wii. Yes, THE WII. Not the Wii U; I’m talking about the one that launched way back in 2006, five days after Microsoft released the first Zune and 16 days before Drake Bell released his second album. That’s pathetic.
Back on topic, Sade made two points about why Lara’s latest adventure failed to crack the top 10. First, never release a game the same day as a Fallout game. That’s just a bad idea. Secondly, exclusivity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, games like Gears of War and Halo manage to do well, but these occurrences are actually rarities.
As Venture Beat said, only one console exclusive charted in November, and that was Halo 5: Guardians. Of course, Halo has a much larger fanbase than Tomb Raider, and fans have grown accustomed to playing the game on Xbox consoles. If you ask a person to name an Xbox exclusive, Halo will probably be the person’s first answer.
That’s because from Day One, Microsoft has created this image in people’s minds that Halo = Xbox and that Xbox = Halo. Aside from the rare PC release, the two have been inseparable since their inceptions. Tomb Raider doesn’t have that type of stickiness on the Xbox platform.
So, when Crystal Dynamics and Microsoft announced the timed exclusivity, it seemed like a terrible idea to me. Xbox ≠ Tomb Raider, and Tomb Raider ≠ Xbox.That connection has not been made.
Even so, there are certainly some who made it a point to get an Xbox One specifically for the exclusives. I’m one of those people. Halo 5: Guardians and Rise of the Tomb Raider are legitimately the only two reasons I even own an Xbox One. Considering I rated Rise of the Tomb Raider 9.5/10, I would say it was totally worth the money.
But for those who are much more casual in their play, buying a console for only one game probably isn’t a good idea. Considering the PS4 has a much larger install base than the Xbox One, most people wouldn’t bother on just for Lara Croft. If it’s not on the PS4 (which the majority of current-gen console owners have), nobody’s going to play her game.
I’m sure Crystal Dynamics was paid very nicely for the timed exclusivity deal; nobody in their right mind would sign a deal to have a game on the minority console without a good payment for it. But does that make it worth the minuscule sales?
Microsoft seems to think so; it appears the company is actually satisfied with how Rise of the Tomb Raider has performed. Aaron Greenberg of Microsoft told DualShockers that the game has done well and that the company is pleased, but he did not give sales figures. He only said that the game sold well over Black Friday and that retailers gave positive feedback about it.
But, as Sade also said in her article, it seems that the January 29, 2016 release date for Rise of the Tomb Raider on PC might be in a bid to compensate for the fact that it hasn’t posted high sales by the industry’s standards (even if Microsoft says it is pleased). The release on PC seems incredibly swift. From the way Microsoft previously made it sound, the company had no intentions on releasing the game on PC until Spring, if not later. Is it possible that the company changed its tune once it saw the sub-par sales? It would make sense to at least release it while the awards season hype is still keeping the game in people’s minds.
And that’s just the issue; Rise of the Tomb Raider is a magnificent title. It’s a shame that few have played it. But it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the game’s PS3/PS4 version (slated for Holiday 2016) manages to outsell the Microsoft version, even a year after the initial release. It’s not a prediction I’m making, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it happened, because I think there are a lot of PlayStation owners who will gladly snatch up the title when it does launch for them.
So, here’s to hoping that Crystal Dynamics bounces back and makes another stellar Tomb Raider title. The series is just getting better and better. It would be a tragedy if a poor timed exclusivity deal struck the nail in Croft’s coffin for the time being. I don’t think that will be the case, but in a worst case scenario, that might be a possibility. I just hope that more is going on in Croft’s favor behind the scenes than the public sees negatively in its absence from the NPD top 10 list.