What A Video Game 'Exclusive' Means In 2017

Merriam-Webster defines exclusive as "limiting or limited to possession, control, or use by a single individual or group". If you follow video games, your understanding of the word is probably more refined.

Above: Microsoft presents a game that people have been playing on PC for months.

At Microsoft's big E3 conference on Monday, most of the game trailers were preceded by a booming voice uttering the word "EXCLUSIVE". In truth, not a single game announced at the show was actually exclusive to the Xbox One. In fact, each time the announcer said the word, it often meant something different than the last time he said it.

Nebulous exclusivity is not a new thing in video games — we've been talking about it for years. Game companies have always been cagey about whether something is truly exclusive. Good exclusive software can help encourage people to buy one game console over a competing one, and even if a console maker doesn't have many exclusives, they want you to think they do.

Here now, a breakdown of what the word "exclusive" might mean in 2017.

Actual Exclusive

It will be on one platform only, forever. That's usually because the console maker either directly funded the game or owns the studio that made it. The PS4 and Switch still get Actual Exclusive games such as Horizon: Zero Dawn and Arms. The Xbox One currently does not, since all Xbox One games now also come out on PC.

Timed Actual Exclusive

It will be on one platform only for a period of time after it comes out. It will eventually come out on PC and on other consoles. It will probably come out on PC sooner. Full games aren't the only things that get this type of timed exclusivity — publishers will often brag about timed exclusivity for downloadable content, a particularly bullshitty practice that sucks.

Console Exclusive

It will launch on one console and also on PC, with both versions coming out at the same time. It won't ever come out on other consoles.

Timed Console Exclusive

It will launch on one console as well as on PC, with other consoles coming at a later date. A lot of indie games do this, making games for PC while trading timed console exclusivity for help with funding or promotion. Microsoft used the term "Console Launch Exclusive" for this during their show on Monday, so file that one away. Most of the time when that booming voice said "EXCLUSIVE", this was what he meant.

PC VR Exclusive

It will work natively with either the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift, until someone who owns the other headset comes up with a way to get it to run on both. This does not apply to PSVR exclusive games, which will only work with that system.

Exclusive Dating

You and your significant other are no longer seeing other people. If one of you were to find out that the other had slept with someone else, that would be a significant problem for your relationship.

I'm guessing the word "exclusive" has lost all meaning to you at this point, which, maybe that's sort of the point? The most important thing is to remember that just because something was announced as an exclusive doesn't mean it will always be one, and the word doesn't necessarily mean what it seems like it means. Good luck out there.


    I'm guessing the word "exclusive" has lost all meaning to you at this point, which, maybe that's sort of the point?
    "Exclusive" as a word is temporary in nature. It doesn't define a period of time, just a state so all of those terms can be broken down into "It's exclusive for now but a any point in the future that can change."

    Maybe this was exclusive to Microsoft?

    I'm very confused by the "Exclusive Dating" idea.
    Does this mean I should tell my partner I'm also seeing other people?

    Sigh ... still comparing PlayStation (platform) exclusives against Xbox (service) exclusives. PC games are not necessarily 'not' Xbox games. Xbox One is the platform.

      Crap! That makes it even more complex! Is it XBox exclusive or Xbox One exclusive or console launch exclusive or console exclusive or just plain 'ole exclusive? Will the madness never end!?

    The whole lot of them are stupid. Anti-consumer. And frankly self indulgent.

    No game or collection of games or bonus content is enough to warrant me to buy X console. If the makers actually focused on what makes their console unique, not the content on it, people might be invested to get involved in both worlds.

      I don't think that's totally fair. I think that the game developers that the platforms choose to support is something we need to take in to consideration. If we're honest, the PS4 and the XB1 are essentially identical hardware, the game experience is largely similar. But I prefer PlayStation because they have a history of supporting the devs that make the kinds of games I like. I think they should be rewarded for that support with my money.

      What makes them unique is *drumroll* exclusives! Games consoles are primarily for games, so games will be the biggest factor when deciding which to buy. One game might not be enough, but dozens or few good ones might be. Do you think that the Nintendo Switch would sell nearly as well as it did if Breath of the Wild was on the other platforms? That console certainly is unique but without games - exclusive games - there's no really good reason to get one.
      Heck. Last gen I was an Xbox fanboy, but this gen PS4 is killing it so now I own a Pro and have bought 3 games (all exclusive), with another 3-5(exclusive) that I'm looking to pick up as they come out over the next year.
      Everything that's not exclusive I get on my PC

      If the makers actually focused on what makes their console unique, not the content on it
      Literally the content that is released for the system is the only important part. I don't care if your console is unique, I care if it has good games. Not to mention, creating "unique" consoles will only bring more exclusives into the world. Studios would have to design their games around the "unique" aspects of the consoles' hardware.

        I was referring to things like Xbox back compatible, the fact that PS4 doesnt shove advertising down our faces in the UI. there is more to a console than the games, but how those games are delivered to you and the experience in doing so.

    I don't subscribe to streaming services because they have exclusive access to something I want to watch. I don't preorder games from particular stores because they have exclusive preorder bonuses I want to have. And I don't buy gaming hardware because they have exclusive access to games I want to play.

    Exclusives are cancer. They're cancer when the only way to legally watch Game of Thrones is to pay Foxtel through the nose for it, they're cancer when the bonus content you want is only available through scum like EBGames, and they're cancer when a great game is trapped on one platform because the platform maker decided to throw money at it to force people to buy their hardware.

    The more choice we have, the better off we are as consumers. Exclusive arrangements artificially limit that choice. Screw that.

    I get all my gaming news exclusively from kotaku*

    Exclusivity is a mixed bag. On one hand missing out on titles because you bought the "wrong" platform sucks. But on the other hand exclusive games are, as a general rule, better than the multiplat siblings. Exclusivity allows game devs to cater to the particular hardware, infrastructure and consumer of that platform. Multiplats often lose something when they have to be generalised for the open market.

    Can someone explain to me why anyone would ever choose to make a game that is exclusive to 1 system? I know the big companies do deals to get exclusives but surely its more lucrative to release a game on multiple platforms?

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