The Morality of Platform Exclusives

So, I bothered you about this on twitter, and I don’t know if it interests you at all, but why do you consider exclusivity to be intrinsic to current console development? Current consoles have basically standard pc hardware, only slightly customized. Alienware could very well mass produce a pc tailored to last the next 5 or so years of games, and it would have all of the benefits of consoles (devs could optimize for specific hardware, buyers get a gaming ready product) without enforcing a closed platform. But console manufacturers benefit from a closed model, and so enforce it.

Because it costs developers money to release to each platform, to publish patches to each platform. That’s required developmental upkeep that grows with each platform released to, even if they’re identical codewise. Also this is the first time in history where the competing consoles have had identical CPU architectures and it may not stay that way. Despite that, code still needs to be changed between releases, it still costs development time.

And realistically, if you’re going to bother releasing a console at all, you’re going to want exclusives for your console, so you can have a unique brand from your competitors and compete as a brand rather than as a producer of commodity. Alienware does this. The Alienware brand allows them to overcharge for parts and rip people the fuck off in a market that would otherwise be primarily about commodities, just a matter of trying to undersell competitors pushing similar products. It doesn’t completely resemble a pure commodity market because there’s better and worse hardware, but whatever.

Sony and Microsoft and Nintendo all want their brand to be unique, so naturally they’ll pay people to be exclusive. Naturally they’ll all develop software exclusively for their platform.

It’s within everyone’s rights to make the business model as it currently exists. It costs more to them and does not particularly benefit them to change it. And it’s not inherently evil like Freemium or deliberately making a game a carte blanche DLC-fest to try to pocket as much revenue off whales as possible. It’s a reality of the fact that there are different software platforms, and developers can choose to develop for one or multiple.

I agree that upkeep for many ports costs more, but this is exacerbated by the different OSs they use, and while them using similar hardware may not go on, it would be preferred, as they probably won’t make a better CPU or GPU than Intel or Nvidia, so them using custom stuff has no benefit, with the exception of when there’s something really unique like the 3DS or something, in which case I totally accept the fact that there will be exclusives for that.

The thing is they can be unique, but if they are making hardware and a service, that should be their selling point. Exclusives are a monopolizing practice, and they force people to buy redundant hardware to get access to a particular product, it’s like if you had to buy different radios to get access to certain composers, or different monitors to be able to watch particular shows (which Occulus is somewhat doing with their enforcing of DRM). While I recognize that this comparison is biased, because music and video doesn’t require specific code compatibility with hardwware, my point is that the difficulties in compatibility are obviously artificially increased.

In an ideal world, consoles could just be a specific hardware configuration they chose to play to certain strengths, with whatever service they can provide, and they would just all use linux or something, so going multiplatform would only entail optimizing for specific hardware, and not having to use an entirely different API, they could probably even use a single executable, and manufacturers would be forced to make a better service and product to compete, rather than kidnapping pieces of art to be only accessible through them. This is entirely distinct from OS vendors, which require different APIs to work with the actual thing that they actually develop and whose differences with other OSs are the actual thing that are core to their product. Even porting between OSs could eventually be smoothed out if we get to a good enough universe, though that’s beside the point and isn’t really trivial, unlike consoles which only would require to stop using different OS to ease up multiplatform development. Here they mention the smoothing of porting between OS by the way, specifically at 21.45:

I obviously recognize that this is “the current state of affairs”, but if the console market could be completely open, which it definitely can, we should push for that because it’s obviously better. Sure, it’s incredibly idealistic, but just encouraging people to not buy a console, at the small sacrifice of forfeiting access to like 5 games, could make a small push so that we arrive there a bit faster, because money motivates them, and boycotting takes their money away. Evidently it’s an exageration to call it “evil”, as it’s not directly exploitative of people like freemium, but it is exploitative to some degree, and it’s a business model based on acquiring more small monopolies on some products, which is also corrupt at least to some degree, so it definitely should be worked against. So yeah, idealistic, but it really is The Way Things Should Be, and it seems obvious to me that at least this much should be recognized, and people encouraged to boycott just to put the issue in their minds.

I don’t think it’s gonna play out that way because of this:


Things aren’t a perfect ideal open source world because a ton of people just want to buy a box they can stick a game in, and a ton of companies don’t want to become another OEM.

If you are the platform holder, then you are the one everyone pays dividends to. That’s where the real money is. Becoming a popular platform holder is about the strength of your brand, and if you subscribe to open standards and allow cross-compatibility with other platforms, then you cede your power to them. This is what keeps google, apple, microsoft, steam, sony, and nintendo on top. All of these companies, except steam, offer products that run exclusively through their services. You cannot compete with the google play store or apple app store. Google allows tons of people to create android hardware and run the android operating system, but they hold the power, because they own android and the store through which all the apps are sold.

This might not be the best situation for customers, but it’s the way the world works, and many customers are more than happy having a simple world like this.

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