The big bombshell of Microsoft's Gamescom presser was the announcement that Rise of the Tomb Raider the follow up to the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot will be available "Holiday 2015, Exclusively on Xbox".
There's a reason I'm putting that line in quotes: I don't entirely know what it means. Microsoft spent the entire conference twisting the meaning of language itself to make its platform look more desirable. During an ID@Xbox section, they showed games like Space Engineers and Smite games already available on PC and used the misleading refrain "coming first to consoles on Xbox".* Admittedly, "exclusively on Xbox" is a more solid statement, but companies have long since stretched the word beyond understanding. Will it be a timed exclusive? A full exclusive? An exclusive exclusively for 'Holiday 2015'? We don't know, and neither the conference nor Crystal Dynamics follow-up statement make it particularly clear.
"As you may have seen, we ve just announced that Rise of the Tomb Raider, coming Holiday 2015, is exclusively on Xbox," writes Crystal Dynamics head Darrell Gallagher. "We consider all of you to be the lifeblood of Tomb Raider and the work we do at Crystal. I d like to give you some insight into this decision, and why we feel this is the very best thing for the Tomb Raider sequel we re creating at the studio.
"Tomb Raider in 2013 was a success due in large part to your continued support. Our goal has always been to deliver something truly special with Rise of the Tomb Raider. Today s announcement with Microsoft is one step to help us put Tomb Raider on top of action adventure gaming. Our friends at Microsoft have always seen huge potential in Tomb Raider and have believed in our vision since our first unveil with them on their stage at E3 2011. We know they will get behind this game more than any support we have had from them in the past - we believe this will be a step to really forging the Tomb Raider brand as one of the biggest in gaming, with the help, belief and backing of a major partner like Microsoft.
"This doesn t mean that we re walking away from our fans who only play on PlayStation or on PC. Those are great systems, with great partners, and amazing communities. We have Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris coming to those platforms this December, and Tomb Raider: The Definitive Edition is available on PS4."
What Gallagher seems to be saying is that Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics think the way you put Tomb Raider "on top of action adventure gaming" is to prevent the majority of its fan base from playing it. However you try to spin it, exclusivity is not a positive. It doesn't help the people who own that console they would still be able to play the game if it was multi-platform and it definitely, obviously doesn't help those who now can't play a series they previously had access to. It is a move that goes directly against their fans, and one almost certainly motivated by Square Enix's financial issues over the last few years.
Hopefully, then, this will be one of those woolly, meaningless exclusives, and six months down the line we'll see Rise of the Tomb Raider arrive on PC. The alternative possibility that the true third-party platform exclusive is back as a viable option would be a big step back for gaming as a whole.
*"Coming first to consoles on Xbox" would appear to mean "of the consoles, it will be on Xbox first". But that's not what's being said. Including the phrase "first to consoles" is a deliberate attempt to nest the idea of exclusivity within an admission of none. It means the exact opposite of what the actual sentence is saying. This is the point we've reached in this increasingly desperate battle.