Why Are There Exclusive Games? The Science Behind Exclusives

Why Are There Exclusive Games? The Science Behind Exclusives

Why are there exclusive games? That the question many gamers ask. It is common knowledge that developers would make more money by selling games on multiple platforms. That is a totally logical understanding of this topic but exclusive games are not merely for profit. Different platforms or consoles sell exclusive content. In fact, most of the game catalog on any platform are third-party games.

The primary purpose of exclusive content or exclusive games is marketing, not profit. Platforms nearly make all of their money form third party games and services, not exclusive content or games. Developers also know that fact but they get funds for games from platform exclusive publishers to make a game. Exclusive games and content are a marketing strategy to attract people to a platform. They can get entangled into their ecosystem after that. You might still be thinking “Why are there exclusive games?” So I am going to explain in detail.

Publishers Controls Games not Developers

Most of the bestselling games are multiplatform games. GTA V is one such example that has sold more than 120 million copies at the time of this writing. The exact copies of the game sold on PlayStation 3 and 4 are not known. However, it can only be third of the game sale. At best the game could have sold 50 million copies on the platform. That would be the only sales of GTA V if it was PlayStation exclusive. With that in mind, Why are there exclusive games? If they are not that profitable. As I said before, exclusive games are primarily for marketing, not profit.

Developers know that they won’t be making much profit from exclusive games but they still do it. Developers only develop games. Publishers are the one that makes further decisions about games. They are responsible for marketing and everything else related to the game. Publishers are the one that funds a game. They are the one to decide what they want to do with the end product. After all, it’s their money and their choices will matter. The deal between a developer and publishers can change the outcome to some degree. Examples of such deals are Death Stranding, Halo series, Destiny series, Gears series, etc. Contract, royalty, production cost and everything related to the game will have a direct impact on the outcome.

Types of Developers

There are three types of first-party developers, second-party developers, and third-party developers. Publishing rights of a game also depend on the type of developer. Publishers decide the availability of a game on a certain platform. Sometimes even a publisher can make deal with a platform to make a game exclusive. It’s all about profit for platforms because they also work like any other company. You might be thinking what is the relation of the question Why are there exclusive games? And types of developers. Let’s find out.

First-Party Developers

A first-party game developer has less freedom than the other two. First-party developers are bound to a platform publisher. All SIE owned studios are first-party publishers of Sony. You might be thinking why are there exclusive games? Why do developers lose their freedom to a platform? It simple, working as a third-party developer offers stability. They become part of that platform and they don’t have to worry about funding. If Xbox Studios or SIE buy a developer then it will become part of it. First-party developers work as a subsidiary for the publishers. They have no choice but to do what they are told. As I said before exclusive games are for marketing and this is how the platform wants to use it. Examples include Naughty Dog, Ninja Theory, Collations, Gorilla Games, etc.

Second Party Developers

Second-party developers are the type of developers that takes contract form platforms and develop games for it. Such studios are independent studios and their freedom depends on the contract. They usually get more royalties for games. Depending on the contract, they might make a game timed exclusive, one time exclusive or series exclusive. The examples of timed exclusives are Death Stranding, Detroit Becomes Human, etc. One time exclusives are the games that only offer one sequel of a game on specific platforms Titanfall is one such example. Series exclusive gives complete rights of an IP to a platform such as Gears series and Halo series. Sometimes developers are hired as employees by publishers to make a game based on the IP owned by a platform.

Third-Party Developers

Third-Party Developers can be an independent studio or a subsidiary owned by a publisher. All their decisions are made by publishers not platforms. They are not bound to any platform and get paid for developing a game. Publishers are responsible for releasing their games on platforms. They are responsible for making a game while publishers are responsible for everything else. The outcome of a game developed by a third-party studio also depends on their deal with the publisher. In a sense, they work as first-party and second-party developers with independent publishers.

Why Are There Exclusive Games, Even When They Are Not Profitable?

The answer to the question Why are there exclusive games? depends on first-party, second-party and third-party developers. A first-party studio serves as a subsidiary to a platform and a platform becomes their publisher. SIE (Sony Interactive Entertainment) is the publishers of all the PlayStation’s first-party studios. Sony invests in their game that these studios develop which gives Sony ultimate authority over the property. First-party developers enjoy the perk of being part of a platform giving them more stability. The same could be sad for Xbox and Nintendo because their first-party studio works under their publications.

A good exclusive game is more about the caliber of a platform than the profit. For any exclusive game, being a good game is as important as profit. Sony won the race of current-gen consoles due to the wide range of exclusive games. A platform uses exclusive games as advertisements to let players know what they have to offer. There are no third-party stores on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo, and Stadia because it is the source of their income.

Google Stadia is offering free game streaming as long as you use their store. Consoles don’t make much profit from hardware in the digital age because their profit depends on game sales. The profit margin in consoles sales is low. A platform can’t survive without selling games or charging you for services. Exclusive games serve as a bait to attract players to the platform and trap them into it. Is the answer to the question “Why are there exclusive games?” somewhat clear to you.

Exclusives Are Not as Important as Third-Party Games and Services.

PlayStation 3 was worse-performing console by Sony even though its sales were as high as Xbox 360. One would think that why was it a worst-performing console if the console sales were high? The answer is that PS 3 was sold at less price than its manufacturing cost. Sony Sold PlayStation 3 at a lower price than its production cost because they knew that profit depends on service and game sales, not consoles sales. Sony knew that as long as they sell games it will be profitable. 8th gen consoles were no different because there is not much difference between manufacturing cost and selling cost of the console. Sony and Microsoft are following the same tactic for their next-gen consoles by selling it at the lowest cost possible. Below is the answer to every question related to the inquiry Why are there exclusive games?

The Situation of PlayStation Exclusives

The Last of Us is the bestselling PlayStation exclusive with more than 17 million sold copies (Both PS4 and PS3). If it was a multi-platform game then the figure would be three times higher if not more. Sony also knew it but they didn’t do it. Since that the indirect profit with the game was even higher. Uncharted 4 A Thief’s End has sold more than 16 million copies. It is the bestselling PlayStation exclusive on a single PlayStation console.

Uncharted 4 a Thief’s End and The Last of Us were a critical and commercial success, now imagine both games on all platforms. The release of these games on multiple platforms would make Naughty Dog an extremely profitable developer and publisher. Since Naughty Dog is not a publisher and serves as the first-party studio they couldn’t do it. Even Sony knows the profit these games would generate but they won’t do it too. Sony is showcasing its platform quality through exclusives. In a sense, they are telling players “Hey look we have a platform that offers unique games” Since many gamers own only a single platform they will just buy a PlayStation to enjoy these unique games along with others.

The Situation of Steam Exclusives, Epic Exclusives, Xbox Exclusives, Nintendo Exclusives

Xbox Studios is releasing games on PC and Xbox but not PlayStation. On PC they sell games through their store and other stores. Since there are less Xbox One Players than any other platform, Xbox Studios have to compensate for it. To tackle the problem they have no choice but to release games on PC. PlayStation also releasing its SIE owned studio exclusive to attract other players to the platform.

Nintendo is very strict when it comes to its intellectual property rights. They take the exclusivity of games very seriously. Let’s be honest without exclusives Nintendo has nothing to offer. The sole purpose that many of us still buy Nintendo is the games that it’s offering. With exclusive content, they are able to keep their platform alive. For any platform, exclusives are very important.

Epic Games is releasing exclusive games on its platform. They are offering more profit to the game developers to sweeten the deal. Epic Exclusives are only available on Epic Games and other platforms. Through its exclusive content, Epic Games was able to transition into a gaming giant from a small developer.

Steam makes exclusive games such as Half-Life and Counter-Strike series. Their recent game Half-Life Alyx was developed to sell Valve Index and attract other players to the store. The reason for the development of Half-Life Alyx was not direct profit. The game rather focuses on the indirect profit. Exclusives are developed to keep a platform alive and lucrative.

Exclusive Content is Also A Business Strategy

Sometimes there is exclusive content on a platform even if the game is available on different platforms. Call of Duty Modern Warfare is one such example. It made a mode timed exclusive for PlayStation 4 which is unethical in my opinion. If everyone is paying the same amount then why do some platforms get a bigger slice? It is a lucrative situation for both publishers and platforms. Publishers get extra from the platform while also selling more games on that platform.


Many gamers complain that exclusive content divides the community. There is also a perception “why not release games on all platforms to make more money?” Both of these perceptions are just in their own way. However no one can deny the importance of exclusive games for a platform. It serves as an advertisement for a platform to show what it is offering. PC digital game stores are also making exclusive content to sell more games. Even if they are on the same hardware.

The short answer to the question Why are there exclusive games? Exclusive games are all about attracting players and sell other games to them. Direct profit is not the intention of an exclusive game. Platforms need exclusive to survive even cloud platforms.  The whole purpose of exclusive games is to attract customers to sell services, third party games, and content.

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