NOTE: [We have now seen the game streaming from gamers that have gotten their hands on the game early, but we still haven’t seen anything official at the time of writing this editorial. That being said, it looks totally playable, albeit somewhat gimped visually]
After being praised to high heaven by nearly every publication in video games, online and print, Titanfall launched on Xbox One to an 86 Metascore. Nearly everyone I know with an Xbox One was playing Titanfall, and yet 2 weeks have passed and not a single word has been uttered from either Microsoft or EA regarding to how well the game has performed commercially.
As gamers in the current day and age, we are constantly inundated with press releases from publishers and platform holders touting their most recent successes and record breaking sales. Constantly shaping our perception of how well their game or platform did in the previous month, and as fans of the medium, it can be quite exciting, but it can also be eye roll inducing as companies see fit to trumpet nearly every single success to their choir of the faithful.
The more I think about it, the more I think MS made a huge mistake agreeing to a Titanfall 360 port.
Titanfall on the Xbox 360 has been delayed 2 times, with the most recent being mere days prior to the game’s (2nd) intended release date of March 25th pushing the console back to April 8th. Many people, including myself, have speculated as to the reason for this 11th hour delay. Anything from the game doesn’t look good, to the more common one, that Microsoft is delaying the game on 360 so that word of mouth builds to push gamers on the fence towards buying the Xbox One for Titanfall. At first and even still, I want to believe that this delay is for a day one patch that just wasn’t quite ready close to the March 25th date and a decision was made to delay the game to make sure 360 fans get the best experience possible.
Now, I’m not so sure.
After the initial “sale” at Walmart (supposedly not a sale but an actual price drop cast down from Walmart on high), retailers such as Best Buy, Amazon and even the Microsoft store (where I preordered my own Titanfall bundle from) got in on the discounts, knocking $50 USD off the previous week’s asking price of $500 making the bundle, $450 USD. As someone who worked in retail for 20 plus years, sales exist for 2 reasons: to bring shoppers into the store, or to move product that isn’t selling. Usually the former involves more than one item in the department being on sale, so I am leaning on the latter. Which, I truly feel wouldn’t be necessary if it was only available on the Xbox One.
The purpose of exclusives is to draw in buyers who want to play the game so badly that they will buy the console that it’s available on. To me, it seems that right now, they are cannibalizing their own sales by allowing people who haven’t made the jump, for whatever reason, to wait for the game on 360. Without that option, more people would have choice to either buy the Xbox One (which Microsoft very clearly, very much want) or miss out on the game.
I’m sure there are many reasons why this decision was made, not the least of which being EA didn’t want to leave the large sum of revenue that could be generated by making this game available on a console that has an install base of over 80 million versus the maybe 4.5 millon Xbox One owners at this stage. Mind you, Microsoft hasn’t released any numbers since it’s last update in early February that 3.9 million Xbox One’s have been shipped worldwide so my figure is purely speculative. As a business, it makes perfect sense that they would want a game they are heavily invested in to reach as many people as possible. With an exclusivity deal, that number drops significantly.
The Xbox 360 helped usher in a new era in online gaming with Xbox Live and online successes like Call of Duty, Halo and Gears of War. And since nearly everyone has been calling Titanfall “the next big thing,” it stands to reason that Microsoft so it as a great flagship title to usher in the next generation with them. Having Titanfall only be available on Xbox One would be a huge win for them and their marketing as well as free media coverage has been proof of that. Which is why they hedged their bets with EA and offered what I can only imagine was an obscene amount of money to make that happen. The only caveat being, EA loves money too so a last gen version of the game needed to be on the table.
So now Microsoft relented and a 360 version is being ported by Bluepoint Games who previously ported PlayStation All Stars Battle Royale to the Vita, a version that we have not seen hide nor hair of. One conspiracy I won’t adhere to is that the game is bad and Microsoft and EA are hiding it from consumers. I find this theory a little tough to buy into for two reasons; the first being, I can’t think of a single cross-gen title that had screens and gameplay footage of it’s last gen version. When marketing a product, you put your best face forward and I think we can all agree that regardless of the outcome, Titanfall will [confirmed: does] look better on Xbox One and PC.
Ah yes, PC. If I may digress for a moment, I’m sure there are those reading this that have probably taken to the comments or commented to themselves that Titanfall isn’t exclusive since it’s on PC. Allow me to spare you the trouble by explaining that first of all, Titanfall runs on Windows, which is a Microsoft platform. Secondly, with few exceptions, console games sell better than the PC version and if you drew a Venn digram of how many gamers own a proper gaming PC and a console, you wouldn’t see a drastic overlap. So yes, while it is available on PC, Microsoft has never seen the PC space as a competitor, so for all intents and purposes, Titanfall is an exclusive to Microsoft platforms.
Clearly we don’t know much of anything as to how well or poorly Titanfall has performed on Xbox One (depending on the expectations for all parties and fans involved), and I guess I could be wrong and maybe gamers en masse aren’t really ready for an online only shooter, but considering how popular multiplayer gaming is, I honestly don’t this this is the case. And if I am right and the reason why Titanfall isn’t selling enough units for Microsoft is because of the Xbox 360 install base that hasn’t made them jump to Xbox One, and these soft price drops are a reaction to that, well, this generation just got a whole lot more interesting.