The word ‘exclusive’ has become an odd term in video games. Thanks to quantifiers such as ‘console,’ ‘platform,’ and ‘timed,’ companies can use the word ‘exclusive’ (with a tiny fine-print asterisk of course) to sell just about anything. Just look back at a couple of years ago and Microsoft had a veritable PR shitstorm on their hands thanks to the company calling Rise of the Tomb Raider an ‘exclusive.’ Not only was it not exclusive to the Xbox One (as it was also announced for the 360), it was also heading to PC a few months later, as well as the PlayStation 4 a year later. Yet, technically the company wasn’t lying thanks to the game being a ‘timed exclusive’ – still exclusive in a sense but not what fans want to hear.
When choosing consoles, exclusives often play a major part, especially if you’re not one to just go where your friends are. This has become a major factor when looking at both the PlayStation 4 (PS4) and the Xbox One. While both have very impressive libraries, things change when you stop to look at their “true exclusives.” By ‘true exclusives,’ we mean games that can’t be played anywhere else including other consoles in the same ecosystem, mobile, and PC. It’s amazing how much the lists for each console shrink after focusing on the bona fide exclusive releases, but it’s also interesting to compare them.
For the PS4, the list of exclusives shrinks down from around 80 to only 25 games. On the Xbox One, the list of exclusives is reduced to only 14 when removing those shared by other platforms and consoles. Things become more interesting though, when you compare the games that are being removed in order to whittle the lists down only to the most genuine of exclusive releases.
On the PS4 side of things, pretty much all first-party exclusives stay that way. The only ones that were removed, such as LittleBigPlanet 3, happened to also release on either the PS3 or the PS Vita. They’re still technically PlayStation exclusives, just the title doesn’t extend solely to the PS4. Oddly enough, things aren’t the same in the Xbox camp. Many of the Xbox One’s exclusives, including a large chunk of its launch titles, aren’t actually exclusive. Big titles like Quantum Break, Forza Motorsport 6, and Gears of War: Ultimate Edition made their way to PC. While it can be argued that they’re Windows Exclusive, it still means you don’t need an Xbox One to play them.
The only major exclusives left on the Xbox One are Halo, Forza Motorsport 5, and Sunset Overdrive – a far cry from the strong AAA lineup that the PS4 boasts. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as Microsoft has made their approach to the future of gaming very clear. The company is moving away from the constraints of a single piece of hardware, but it does come across as odd that one of the primary reasons for owning an Xbox One is slowly drifting away.
However, it must be noted that quantity doesn’t always equal quality. Although the PS4 has around 60% more true exclusives than the Xbox One, when comparing each list’s average Metacritic score, they both yield a value of 70. The PS4 does have more, and bigger, games than its competition, but there are quite a few indie experiences that bring the quality down. Basement Crawl for instance, an indie action game that uses Bomberman-like mechanics, is sitting on a 27 on Metacritic, and VEV: Viva Ex Vivo has yet to receive enough reviews, but they’re all low right now. Still, the PS4’s lineup is the only one that includes games in the 90s. Both Bloodborne and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End were well-received and hold Metacritic scores of 92 and 93 respectively. One thing about Xbox One’s lineup is that a decent chunk of its true exclusives are for the Kinect, and we all know how well that panned out.
Still, if you’re looking for the console that will provide you with the most unique experiences, the PS4 is definitely in the lead in terms of both quantity and variety, if not necessarily quality. Also, with the exception of The Playroom, none of the PS4’s exclusives require an extra peripheral.
One thing is clear based on the directions that Sony and Microsoft are choosing, though. The PS4’s exclusive lineup will continue to grow as Sony doubles down on the PS4 and the upcoming PS4K. Microsoft, on the other hand, is expanding into more options for its player base. In fact, most, if not all, future Xbox One games will also be on Windows PCs thanks to the Xbox Play Anywhere program starting later this year.
It’s not entirely clear what part true, bona fide exclusives will play in the console race as we move towards the future, but for now, the PS4 is building up a large list of reasons to consider the console for your home. Microsoft undoubtedly has a plan in store to balance the tide, we’ll just have to wait and see what that is.