It has been more than a year since Gaming Target's last analysis of exclusive titles coming to the PS3, Wii and Xbox 360. In that time the Wii has cemented itself as the king of exclusives (and shovelware) while the Xbox 360 has managed to force a multiplatform release out of two of the PS3's biggest games (Tekken 6 and Final Fantasy XIII).
In this update, we focus solely on exclusive titles scheduled to be released in 2009. But what does and does not constitute an "exclusive"? Our rules for inclusion in the Exclusive Arms Race are:
1. These are "Console Exclusives." If a game appears on the PC and only one console, it's exclusive to that console. Also, due to the limitations of the DS and PSP, any game that appears on only one console and a handheld is considered exclusive to that console.
While the list is made up of "Console Exclusives," starred games (*) are titles that are also available on the PC.
2. Downloadable games and content packs will not be included. Only disc-based games qualify for inclusion.
3. "Next-Gen Exclusives" are counted, but noted with a hash mark (#). For example, the PS2 game Rygar: The Legendary Adventure is being remade on the Wii as Rygar: The Battle of Argus.
4. No "fantasy games." These lists only include formally announced games by a publisher and have at least a working title.
5. The list focuses on North American games. Import titles that are likely to come to America, but are officially unannounced, are still counted. Future updates may drop these titles if no American release date is announced.
But to extract any meaning from these raw numbers we have to dig deeper. What follows is an in-depth analysis of each console's exclusives and what it means in relation to the others:
PlayStation 3 (16)
As is usually the case, the PS3 has the fewest exclusives by a wide margin. First party games also continue to make up a high percentage of its exclusives. In fact, only four titles aren't being published by Sony: LA Noire (Rockstar), Warriors Orochi Z (Koei), Cross Edge (NIS America) and Quantum Theory (Tecmo). And rumors abound that LA Noire is going multiplatform. But Sony itself has a lot of fingers in a lot of different genres and plans to bring a lot of great exclusives to the PS3 in 2009.
First and foremost are the next iterations of the God of War, Killzone and Uncharted franchises. There is also the impressive Heavy Rain and intense Infamous. But after that, things get a bit shakey. A title card at the end of Ratchet & Clank: Quest For Booty revealed that more Ratchet & Clank will be coming in 2009, but will it be another downloadable game or a longer, disc-based title? White Knight Chronicles, The Agency and DC Universe Online could all slip to 2010. And the complete lack of information about Zipper's MAG: Massive Action Game and the next Twisted Metal do not bode well for a 2009 release for either of those games either. With Sony's penchant for announcing their release schedule years in advance, it's unlikely they have any more surprises in store for the PS3 in 2009.
And then there's Afrika, the real Gran Turismo 5 and the untitled Team Ico game, three big games that could be released in 2009, but likely won't (and again, are all published by Sony). As time goes on, it looks more and more likely that Afrika will never leave Japan. There were rumors that the game would be published in America as National Geographic: Africa after the magazine announced they would be publishing games, but that looks like it was more wishful thinking and speculation than anything concrete. Gran Turismo 5 would be a nice 2009 release seeing as how the "taste" of GT5, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue was released over eight months ago, but Polyphany Digital has said a 2010 release is more likely. Finally, PS3 owners are excited over the next Team Ico game, but right now it has no title, no release date and it doesn't even officially exist. All we have is a single screenshot of a rope going down a hole.
Almost seems like a metaphor for Sony's tumble into third place in market share and number of exclusives.
Xbox 360 (23)
The golden goose and the achilles heel of the Xbox 360 is its ability to effortlessly accept ports of PC titles. This creates a boon for Microsoft's console by allowing it to host games that would be too much of a hassle to bring to the PS3 and Wii. However, this also hurts the console because these games are available in near identical form on the PC. While the PC may have become a niche platform in recent years, it still has a lot of passionate users who are dedicated to finding quality releases.
This leaves the Xbox 360 in the somewhat strange position of having more console exclusives, but fewer full exclusives. This is great for Xbox 360 owners without a hardcore gaming rig, but now so great for those that have an Xbox 360 in addition to souped up PC, as the platforms are almost identical.
However, that hasn't stopped Microsoft from attracting a variety of nifty titles for 2009 including a quartet of MMORPGs in the form of Huxley, APB, Age of Conan and Champions Online. This is in addition to another Square-Enix RPG (Star Ocean 4) and the first Onechanbara game to come to America (Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad). Is a game where girls in bikinis slice up zombies with swords a potential blockbuster? Of course not, but it's these kind of niche, second-tier games (like fellow Xbox 360 exclusive Earth Defense Force 2017) that gamers remember in the future.
And then there's Halo. With three Halo projects on tap for 2009, gamers may be Master Chiefed out by the end of the year, but it's unlikely that all of them will be released this year. In fact, I would be hugely shocked if Peter Jackson's Halo: Chronicles makes it out this year and a part of me thinks it will never be released.
Microsoft's Xbox 360 also has a few other exclusive aces up their sleeve that they could play in 2009. BioWare has begun prepping Mass Effect 2 for public display (it'll be at this year's Game Developer's Conference) even though it has yet to be officially announced. With Star Wars: The Old Republic still a year or two away, Mass Effect 2 could be BioWare's next big release, and there's been no hint of a PS3 version.
It's also important to note that this list is just a portion of the exclusives the Xbox 360 will have available in 2009. As is Microsoft's custom, a good portion of their (and their third party's) 2009 releases have yet to be announced. As Aaron Greenberg, Microsoft's Director of Xbox Product Management, recently told Eurogamer: "I can safely say that if you're an Xbox 360 owner today, you will end 2009 with a whole slew of new features, new content, new partners, new games that today you don't know about."
Finally, no analysis of Xbox 360 exclusives should end without a mention of the Grand Theft Auto IV episodes, particularly Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned. While this list does not count downloadable episodes, I believe that Rockstar will collect both episodes in a retail release for Christmas.
Unsurprisingly, the Wii will see the most exclusive releases in 2009. This is understandable as there will be plenty of games available for the PS3 and Xbox 360 that won't be on the Wii (anti-exclusives, you could say). But that's not to say the Wii's large quantity of exclusives comes from castoffs and shovelware (it's important to note this list does not include any of the shovelware that's been announced for the Wii). Instead, I say 2009 is the year that third parties finally get a handle on the Wii and start producing good games that even hardcore gamers can't ignore. Just look at some of the titles that are coming...
With a storyline inspired by The Running Man and a visual style that looks like Sin City on steroids, MadWorld looks like it will break the M For Mature barrier in a way that Manhunt 2 could only dream of. But first, it will have to fend off two other Sega releases, House of the Dead: Overkill (the first original HOTD console game ever) and High Voltage Software's first person shooter The Conduit.
There is also a trio of titles coming from distinctly Japanese developers including Square-Enix's Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time (the company also assures us that Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Crystal Bearers is still in production), Namco Bandai's Fragile and Fatal Frame IV. I know Fatal Frame IV doesn't have an American release date yet, but one analyst who wishes to remain nameless has said that the game will be released in the US in 2009.
Even the games that don't seem like they'd be much more than quick cash-ins could hold some promise. For example, what would you say to a Smash Bros.-style game starring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Yawn. Now how about a Smash Bros.-style games starring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that's being developed by former members of the Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Dead or Alive teams? Where do I pre-order?
Nintendo also has plenty of games to augment the third party releases and they weren't kidding when they said they had several hardcore titles in development. The Punch-Out!! series will return for the first time in over a decade. Treasure has been tasked with making Sin & Punishment 2, a sequel to one of the greatest rail shooters ever. Shigeru Miyamoto has put the productivity software of Wii Fit and Wii Music behind him to start work on Pikmin 3. And that's not even counting the New Play Control! Wiimakes and the new Mario and Zelda games that are in production. They don't have release dates yet, but the smart money says a new Zelda game will be released in 2009.
So that's where we stand today, but that's not to say that things won't change between now and December 31. Between the Game Developer's Conference, E3, Comic-Con, the Penny Arcade Expo and the Tokyo Game Show, there's still a lot of time for more exclusives to be announced. Beyond Halo, Microsoft has kept their 2009 cards pretty close to the chest. It stands to reason that something else will be announced. Rumors abound that Nintendo has a few other games in secret development as well.
Whatever happens, the Wii is unlikely to be dethroned as the undisputed king of exclusive titles anytime soon.