Tuesday, September 15, 2009

360 timed exclusives get extra content on PS3 - fanboys swear revenge.

Star Ocean: The Last Hope.
I know I should like a scantily-clad cat-girl, but I don't.

So another Japanese-made 360 exclusive is headed to Sony's console. This time it's tri-Ace's Star Ocean: The Last Hope, as revealed in the latest issue of Famitsu. Word is that, like others before it, Star Ocean: The Last Hope International will enjoy tweaks and additional content. Specifically, "new characters, better menus, improved targeting during battles, and dual-language support for English and Japnese in addition to subtitles for multiple languages."

I can't say I'm thrilled at the news - nothing about this RPG ever grabbed me, but it does raise some questions about timed exclusivity.

Take Ninja Gaiden - the Xbox got a major exclusive with the reinvention of the franchise on its console, only to have it ported, polished to a mirror shine and given all sorts of new bells and whistles for the PS3's Ninja Gaiden Sigma. Same story with Ninja Gaiden 2. The result is that Microsoft-only gamers are able to enjoy the original version of a modern classic - but no longer the definitive version.

It's the same story with another title - one I'm very pleased is getting a PS3 port - Tales of Vesperia.

Tales of Vesperia.

The PS3 port of Tales of Vesperia is getting a bunch of new content and an additional character - a pre-teen pirate-girl named Patty Fleur. This has pissed off Japanese 360 owners to the point that they are willing to take the ultimate action - an internet petition. Yes yes, I can't read it either - it's in Japanese.

The petition makes a lot of demands - here's a few, roughly translated:

Games should not be dispersed across multiple platforms, they should be consolidated onto one platform [i.e. Xbox 360].

From now on, the porting of titles like Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Vesperia should be abolished.

An official apology should be made to Xbox 360 users for the abnormal number of additions made to Vesperia only a year after its Xbox 360 release.

Elements of the Tales series [i.e. Patty Fleur] which cannot be enjoyed by all users should not be added.

First off, I think it's safe to say these folks are bat-shit insane. Any company can do whatever they want with whatever property they want - it's their property, and it's their job to make money off it. Do they risk making less money by pissing off their consumers? Possibly - but that's a risk they've no doubt calculated.

This isn't something that often happens in reverse - a Sony exclusive getting an improved edition exclusively for Microsoft's console - but even if they got a super-special Director's Cut of Siren: Blood Curse, I hardly think I would be signing internet petitions and burning my Blu-ray disks. Could it be that these gamers on the other side of the world are simply idiots?

The closest real-world example that comes to mind, I suppose, are Rockstar's incredibly ambitious Grand Theft Auto IV DLC episodes on the 360. I do not own the definitive version of Grand Theft Auto IV - I'd love to play Lost & Damned and Gay Tony, but I appreciate that Microsoft paid fifty million dollars for the exclusivity, and I certainly don't begrudge Rockstar for taking them up on it.

There's another story to be told, here - the developer's. Here is a blog of a Japanese dev who worked on the abysmal Vampire Rain. No, I can't read it either. Sakuracomplex (which I won't link to, as it is decidedly NSFW) has translated it, and - to paraphrase - this is what goes down with timed-exclusivity ports:

In return for timed exclusivity, Microsoft pays developers a lot of cash - cash that makes the development process a helluva lot easier. Sony, on the other hand, isn't quite as easygoing. They offer very little, if anything, in terms of cash incentive, and "their support is confused and unreliable" - so the company goes with Microsoft. They get their cash quick, and are able to move ahead and get their game done with Microsoft subsidizing the development. "Their support is also very fast and complete in these cases."

Before you get up in arms about Sony not supporting developers who support its console, consider all the first and second-party devs Sony has to take care of (Naughty Dog, Sucker Punch, Sony Santa Monica, Insomniac, Guerilla, Studio Japan, Relentless Software, Studio London and Team ICO). With the amount of development they entirely underwrite, it's no surprise they're a little stingier when it comes to third-party developers. Anyway, back to Vesperia.

"...the Xbox version won’t sell [in Japan], you can’t recoup even those lowered costs at all.

So we ported to the PS3, it’s cheaper as you already have the game done, but then Sony came back and told us ‘We won’t recognise it if it’s the same as the Xbox 360 version. Make sure you put in a lot of extra stuff!’

If we didn’t then they wouldn’t have let us pass their check…”

Again, this guy was a dev for Vampire Rain - what then, does this have to do with Vesperia? Well, like Vesperia, Vampire Rain also came out on the 360 before before being ported to the PS3 after a year.

Point is, now it's okay to be a teensy bit pissed with Sony. From the sounds of it, Namco was in the middle of working on the PS3 version of Vesperia when Sony told them "hold up, we won't let you put your game out on our system unless you put a bunch of extra stuff in."

"But... we've been working on this for months, and-"

"Sony cares not! Pirate Girls! New quests! Sony has spoken! Rrrrarrrrrr!" Whip-crack!

...of course, if you only own a PS3, it's kind of a win-win situation for you. Overall, it's good for gamers - if a title is good enough, it gets a "better" version down the line. It's good for developers, who get to tap into a new market with an already-complete game that Microsoft (or theoretically, Sony) subsidized - significantly cutting development costs, and accessing a new revenue stream.


  1. Those GTAIV DLC pain me so much.

  2. Well, you've got a 360 - why not buy the two-fer disk when it comes out this fall?

    You can play Lost & Damned and Gay Tony, and you don't have to have GTA IV on 360 to play 'em. Assuming they keep the price in line with its online counterpart, it should be like forty bucks - not too shabby.