This Isn’t A Post About Rise Of The Tomb Raider

Everything is so bloody stupid. In a world where major publishers like THQ can fold, and even something of the scale of Activision-Blizzard couldn’t find a buyer other than itself, you’d imagine Square Enix wouldn’t be doing absolutely everything in their power to reach as few customers as possible. But the company that recently suffered financial woes, and complained the first Tomb Raider didn’t sell enough copies, are doing exactly that. Rise Of The Tomb Raider is the sequel to the morbidly overrated Tomb Raider reboot and was previously revealed as an Xbox “exclusive” release, ensuring the vast majority of its potential sales are instantly removed. And now they’re tying up their marketing with in-store promotional brochure, Game Informer.

Square lamented that the just-above-average Tomb Raider (lots of potential, excellent movement and action, but a sodding awful script that wouldn’t ever leave you alone) “only” sold 3.4m copies in its first month. So their solution? Massively limit access to its sequel. We learned last August that the game was to be an Xbox exclusive. Sure, they’ll have received a giant wad of cash from Microsoft for the deal, and perhaps they considered that necessary to fund its development. But the result is that only those owning Microsoft consoles will be able to buy the game within months of launch.

Microsoft reckon around 10 million XBONES have sold so far. That’s a big number, but it’s also a very small number. The lifetime sales of the 360 by 2013 were around 78.2 million. The PS4 is in about 15 million homes, and the PS3 found its way into 80 million by 2013. PCs are impossible to count, but the general rule of a cross-platform release is that the PC version will make up between 5 and 10% of the overall sales. For a series as established on PC as Tomb Raider, let’s assume that’s nearer the 10% figure. That means you’ve cut off 50% of your console audience right away, as well as the 10% of sales that would have come from PC. Microsoft must have given them so much money. (And this isn’t even accounting for how few will want to get the game for 360, which will obviously have to be massively scaled down, and likely review more poorly as a result). Getting a ton of funding up front may seem like a way around troubles, but when it comes at the price of sacrificing more than half your sales, and fracturing your future audience, it’s such short-term thinking.

It gets stupider. Because we know that the announcement that Rise Of The Tomb Raider would be “released exclusively on Xbox” was a deliberately obfuscated phrasing to mean, “It’s a timed exclusive, but we’re pretending it isn’t”, we know that it’ll come to PC and PS3/4 eventually. And knowing that, as a site that wants to discuss potentially interesting PC games, that makes it relevant to us to keep track of the development of this game. But no, we can’t do that, because Square Enix has – like so many publishers so idiotically do – signed an exclusivity deal with Gamestop’s in-store magazine, Game Informer. I cannot speculate on what deals may or may not go on behind the scenes, when it comes to the largest distributor of boxed copies of videogames in America, and publishers giving their magazine exclusive information about their games. But what I can say is, despite the disturbingly large numbers in which GI is distributed, it still makes up a tiny, tiny fraction of the publications covering videogames. It therefore reaches a tiny, tiny fraction of the potential customers for Rise Of The Tomb Raider, for whom such marketing material is surely aimed.

We also know just how possessive Game Informer can be with these marketing materials they’ve procured, appropriately enough in relation to this bullshit with the last Tomb Raider. Even jokes about it result in threats of legal action, as we experienced when we pretended to be nicking their assets. This is about publishers entering an exclusivity deal for promotional information about their game with a publication that threatens legal action if said materials are shared.

This is beyond ridiculous. Exclusives, whether they be for consoles, for magazines, whatever, are always harmful to the players. (To be clear, yes, we do turn down exclusives at RPS. The closest we get is learning information about a game ahead of an announcement, so we’ll have more useful information about it for our readers at the point when that information becomes available to everyone. And we certainly don’t try to stop anyone else from repeating it. Generally, when we’re offered exclusives that would mean the information would be ours alone for a length of time, we reply pointing out how this would be unhelpful to both them, and people interested in the game.) In this case, not just to those who simply want to be able to learn about the new game, perhaps get excited about it, but even to more than half the people who would consider buying it.

So no, we’ve no news for you about Rise Of The Tomb Raider, despite its inevitable appearance on PC. However, if I were to speculate, Crystal Dynamics’ games have dropped in quality with each release, from the utterly wonderful Legends, to the great Anniversary, then the quite good Underworld, that trilogy was on a downward trajectory. 2013’s Tomb Raider was okay, but woefully flawed, so if the trend continues, maybe it isn’t worth getting excited about anyway? We’ve no way of knowing.

Bananas image courtesy of Steve Hopson, ducklings by J Marsh, and jellyfish by Tom Hodgkinson.

120 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Lexx87 says:

    For some ridiculous reason some companies like the idea of not earning money. There has been many a time i’ve wanted to give a company money, but not been allowed to for an arbitrary reason.

    I really don’t understand the world.

    • iucounu says:

      Well, here’s the thing: it might be a ridiculous reason, but it won’t be arbitrary. It won’t be no reason at all.

      I work in book publishing, which is one of those industries that, from the consumer’s point of view, looks simple and understandable – you pay authors to write books and then you make books and give them to shops to sell – but which is of Byzantine complexity when you work inside the machine.

      Here’s a good example which is understandable from the outside: why do ebooks cost, say, up to fifteen quid when just the hardback is out, and up to a fiver when the paperback is out? The ebook doesn’t cost more to print; you’re getting the same file; surely the publisher is taking the piss with the price differential?

      Of course, if you think about it for a bit, you realise that the publisher probably wants to protect the sales of the hardback when the hardback it out by not undercutting the price massively in the ebook format. Cannibalising the hardback sales is indeed the assumption that is being made, though you could, if you wanted, argue that the two formats don’t compete directly with each other; here’s the reasoning being arguable, but not actually arbitrary.

      Here’s an interesting thing about the hardback window, though: retail price doesn’t scale linearly with production cost. It doesn’t cost that much more to print and ship a hardback than a paperback. The markup is because of when the book is sold and who it is aimed at. You buy hardbacks if you simply can’t wait to read the new book by a favourite author. You might also buy it if it is a beautiful object – hardbacks usually look and feel nicer and furnish a room more appealingly.

      We all know from using Steam that the price of games decreases steadily from release, even though you’re getting the same files. You pay more the less happy you are to wait.

      There are people who angrily vote down books on Amazon because the ebook edition is, in their eyes, too expensive on release, even though it decreases over time like most entertainment products. You even get them saying that the price of any ebook at any point should be as close to zero as makes no odds, because the cost of copying an ebook is almost zero. To them, these kinds of practices are arbitrary and ridiculous.

      In this case? There’s probably a reason for the exclusivity, and it will boil down to: they’ve decided that they will make more money this way. They may be getting a better cut of sales while it’s exclusive. They might be getting more of their marketing spend taken care of this way, or being able to target it better. They might want to wait and see how the game does on a single platform before revising their sales estimates on other platforms and thus making porting it less risky. Who knows. They might be good, well evidenced reasons, or ridiculous voodoo, but someone will have made an actual argument at some point.

      I think publishers in all kinds of areas need to think about what they tell their customers about their own decisions. It’s dumb to say things which are clearly at least 50% bullshit when simply explaining what’s going on might take some of the heat out of it. But then they might well have signed contracts with other firms that prevent them from talking about it, because anything that comes out is commercially sensitive, etc etc. This kind of thing is always annoyingly complicated.

      (Sorry about the wall of text, by the way, it’s so cold in the flat I’m trying to keep my hands warm by typing.)

      • Risingson says:

        *Applause*

      • dsch says:

        Wonderful to know that, actually, companies do always want to make money, and they won’t think twice about inconveniencing and exploiting customers to do it.

        • iucounu says:

          Define ‘exploit’. I’m seeing people arguing that ebooks ought to be priced so low that it’s actually a loss on any reasonable sales projection. We could argue with the sales prediction, sure, but here I’m not taking a decision to exploit the consumer, I’m taking a decision to not lose money. I’m not sure how that works as ‘exploitation’.

          Look: at a certain point, if you stick a video game in the Humble Bundle and committed to an average revenue of pennies per game, it outweighs what you would get from selling it at a higher price. You get more sales, you get more money. If we were always at that certain point, you should release all AAA games as pay-what-you-want and make more money. That this delightful state of affairs does not obtain should be put down, not to sheer greed and evil, but to a rational analysis that this is a great way to go out of business.

          The price that consumers pay for an entertainment product like a book or a game follows a curve trending towards PWYW Bundle. Sometimes it’ll be priced too high relative to demand to make the optimal revenue, because someone has slightly miscalculated. Sorry about that. Book publishers are conservative with that sort of thing. We have razor-thin profit margins (at least in the books world) and it’s always tempting to err on the side of caution.

          I don’t disagree that exploitation sometimes exists in book or game pricing. ln games, most all of the F2P microtransaction thing on mobile is ghastly. There are Certain Publishers in the PC and console space doing fairly horrid things based on poor assumptions and bad models. To put it mildly. Thing is though, I don’t think this stuff is good commercial strategy in the long run. If I’m faced with a choice between exploiting my customers and not exploiting them, I tend towards the latter.

      • Hmm-Hmm. says:

        Good post, interesting read. I read the Wheel of Time series, and mostly because of size constraints (the hardcover versions are rather large) I always buy the paperback versions. But it is a tad annoying they make you wait at least half a year. But it is more clear towards the consumer than selling them expensively at the moment the hardcover appears on the shelves.

      • Premium User Badge

        Skabooga says:

        Nice, thanks for sharing. It’s nice to have a look into another person’s world and see something from another angle.

      • malkav11 says:

        Yeah, there’s always some reason for decisions. Always. Doesn’t mean it’s a good or reality-based reason, like in the example of ebook pricing.

        • bill says:

          Not always. I forget which was the major game publisher whose games were regionally blocked on steam in some regions for many years. Until someone finally managed to point it out to them and they basially went “Really? Whoops. We’d better fix that” and unblocked them.
          (and, I assume, increased their profits).

          Or like the way Lucasarts essentially abandoned all their beloved classic games and franchises, but now disney is bringing them out everywhere (and I assume making a profit on doing so).

          There MAY be some kind of reason why some game and movie trailers on youtube are region locked. But I somehow doubt it.

          the ebook pricing reasoning I understand, and there are some other things that I understand, even if I don’t agree, but I think there’s a lot of other situations where there was NO reason or decision taken, it just ended up like that and noone have ever rethought it.

  2. Sakai says:

    I like little duckies.

    • DeVadder says:

      I know right?
      Those ducklings are the best!
      Believe the hype!

    • Scumbag says:

      I like the picture of bananas.
      I really, really, really fucking love bananas.
      Oh god I love bananas.
      If Tomb Raider is about bananas, I will buy it and get married to it.
      I fucking love bananas.

      • Rizlar says:

        I had a huge banana the other day. Like, it was ridiculously big. The size of a small child’s arm.

        Disappointed that this is not an article about bananas.

        • Scumbag says:

          My banana envy is almost as big as the banana you described.

      • Samwise Gamgee says:

        Meet your dream girl. You’re welcome!

    • Premium User Badge

      X_kot says:

      Careful – Squeenix might think they’re a promo for their next Hitman: Subtitle and send more threats.

  3. Cockles says:

    Please cease and desist this nonsense, I urge you. CEASE & DESIST!

  4. SlimShanks says:

    In the end, I think that whenever you have a company in which the decisions are made by hundreds or thousands of strongly disagreeing investors, headed by people who have never played a videogame and have no interest in doing so(they may also be white collar criminals), mix in some mundane human confusion and failure, and then distort the whole industry with the promise of huge piles of cash… you are gonna have this problem. And all the other absurd things that we have seen from the games industry.
    Oh, and I forgot to mention this is all exacerbated by the fact that (no offense) gamers are generally really weird people who tend not to stand up for ourselves when companies shit on us. This sort of customer abuse does not happen in other consumer industries.
    Also, those ducks are friggin’ adorable. Mwaaah! Sometimes I make duck noises at ducks in the park and then they follow me around.

    • joa says:

      Hey if there’s one thing you can count of business folks to do, it’s to try to make the most money they possibly can – so if they go with the exclusivity thing, it’s because it’s the best option financially.

      Plus ‘customer abuse’, are you having a laugh? Gamers are some of the most entitled people ever. ‘waah, I’ve got countless companies fighting to sell me products they’ve poured years of development and millions of pounds into, that they probably won’t even recoup, waah!’

      • dsch says:

        ‘waah, I’ve got countless companies fighting to sell me products they’ve poured years of development and millions of pounds into, that they probably won’t even recoup, waah!’

        Thank god for the altruism of publishers, pouring all those year and millions into products they can’t sell!

      • frenchy2k1 says:

        No, for most business people, you can count on them choosing what makes the most money *in the short term, without counting intangible assets such as brand reputation, quality, customer relationship and trust*.

        A lot of companies, particularly in the US, have managers making decisions when:
        – they do not understand their product
        – they do not understand their market
        – they do not understand their customers
        and worse of all
        – they do not care the least

        They only concentrate on short term profits to boost their stock price and reap their bonuses before jumping ship.
        This mentality almost sunk great companies like Boeing (management cut R&D to improve short term profit and pump stock) or Nokia.

  5. Ooh_Aah_Mark_Carter says:

    I didn’t get past the bit where it said Tomb Raider was over-rated.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      I’m pretty sure the comment box is below it.

      But yes, it’s always good to boast about not tolerating opinions that differ from your own.

      • joa says:

        Kinda ironic, given that you just got done talking about how you don’t tolerate the opinions of Tomb Raider

        • Lacessit says:

          Bloody hell, Lara Croft has opinions now?!

          • Monggerel says:

            *her name is Larry Kraft, alright?
            we’ve gone over this already
            for fuck’s

    • gabrielonuris says:

      Good for you, I wish I’ve had stopped reading too, because after that you would read that Tomb Raider was “just-above-average”. Ridiculous and extremely pathetic.

  6. kael13 says:

    Well I hated every other Tomb Raider, and found the gameplay in last year’s release to be some of the best I’ve ever played. It was just so… Satisfying. So I guess you just don’t like games, John!
    Sure the writing was a bit bleh, but it still made me care about Lara.

    Anyway, since when has Squenix made a good decision about anything?

    • Zaxwerks says:

      …and you’ve hit the nail on the head. I LOVED all the previous Tomb Raider games, and really wasn’t that keen on the reboot… and the reason is simple, despite the title it’s not a Tomb Raider game. The Tomb Raider games are puzzle platformers, whereas the reboot was a cover shooter more like Uncharted.

      It was a Tomb Raider game for people that don’t like Tomb Raider, and they did it because they didn’t sell the volumes of the previous title TR: Underworld they had forecast over the Christmas period it was released and had to let go of a number of Crystal Dynamics staff.

      Basically like all things previous games failed because the accountants that work out the budgets for these things based on projected sales just haven’t got a clue (as it happens so often these days).

      • thekelvingreen says:

        I suspect they also did it because the Uncharted series is quite popular and they wanted a piece of that pie.

      • Premium User Badge

        Henke says:

        “the reboot was a cover shooter more like Uncharted.”

        No no no, the reboot is simply more methodical in it’s tomb raiding. You see, the first step to tomb raiding is putting people into tombs. It’ll all pay off in the next game which’ll be all about raiding the tombs of everyone you killed in the first one!

      • MisterFurious says:

        “It was a Tomb Raider game for people that don’t like Tomb Raider”

        That’s certainly me. I despised the first ‘Tomb Raider’ when it came out. I quite liked the reboot. I get the complaints from old fans that there weren’t enough tombs to raid. That’s a fair criticism. I hated the quick time events, like everyone else, too. Still, most of the game was surprisingly good. The guy that wrote this article is really bashing the game, though, and I don’t get that at all. ‘Woefully overrated’? It’s a bit overrated and flawed, sure, but ‘woefully’? This wasn’t even a review of that game.

    • MisterMumbles says:

      “Sure the writing was a bit bleh, but it still made me care about Lara.”

      Excuse me while I shall restrain myself from laughing. Care about her how? “Oh, look at me! I’m so vulnerable!” … Five minutes later: “Oh, look at me, Ms Rambo, but I’m still all touchy feely!” It wasn’t just a bit bleh, it was absolute tosh. Good thing the gameplay was quite fun although I could have done without the unnecessary super gruesome death scenes, particularly when she got impaled on stuff.

      I really can’t give a damn about the new Lara. I liked her so much better when she was a badass and didn’t pretend to be anything but. That’s very much why I still love the old TRs, even with those ridiculously large bazongas which may poke one’s eyes out, which honestly was never actually a selling point to me even back when the franchise was new.

      • Bereil says:

        Yeah. I enjoyed Tomb Raider 2013, but until Lara turns to her badass self there was this massive disconnect between the characterization and the mechanics. Where she would be all “oh noes! bad things!” and then do it anyway, and then kill all the people (was there any other choice?).

        The death scenes made me both cringe, and laugh at how horrible they were. If anything should suffer those deaths it should be the terrible quick time events.

        • DanMan says:

          And that’s the only complaint I have about it. Dorothy Gale during cutscenes, and Joane Rambo during gameplay after about an hour into the game. Everything else was top of the line. Insane production values.

      • Det. Bullock says:

        Personally when one of those death scenes happened it felt a lot like it was happening to me, it was quite an incentive in trying not to get killed, and the main reason I hated certain QTE with instadeath as I almost never managed to connect those stupid icons with the right key on the keyboard.

        I didn’t particularly feel the disconnect, it’s not different from many “everywhatever” action movies protagonists who start my taking out the trash and end up shooting countless baddies with even less handwaves than there were in TR, perhaps it’s this b-movie vibe that made me appreciate the story better than other people.

      • epeternally says:

        I wasn’t bothered by the disconnect at all. It’s not like playing Booker in Bioshock Infinite where you’re a person who is wracked by guilt for the atrocities he has committed… and so goes out and murders hundreds of relatively innocent people. That was an almost laughable level of gameplay narrative disconnect. But the fact that it’s a story about Lara struggling with the fact that she’s had to kill a couple dozen people in order to survive and in reality that number is closer to a couple of hundred? That’s just gameplay. For me, the sentiment of the story is close enough to reality to still feel perfectly coherent. It’s not like the narrative and the gameplay are doing completely different things, they’re only separated by the scale required to make an action game. If they had wanted to handle her reacting to every single kill, they’d have needed to make a hard stealth game which would have been a marketing disaster. The notion that Tomb Raider is in any way overrated is unfathomable to me. It is on the same level as Super Mario 64, Bioshock, Resident Evil 4, and so on as far as I’m concerned.

    • Reapy says:

      I liked the first two tomb raiders a lot. Nobody makes games like that anymore though. I don’t know that I could go back and really enjoy them now a days though.

      For this new one I picked it up on a steam sale for 5 dollars and played through it. I tend to avoid AAA 10 hour generic games, but the price was right and people had written a lot about it so I wanted to get to it eventually.

      I have to say I had a real good time playing it. I thought the art assets in game were really great, some huge set areas that yes, were corridors, but really great explodey corridors.

      It was really a fun game on cruise control that I’d play once and never again, but none the less a neat game. I didn’t think there was much to invest in laura croft as a character as opposed to say a well written fictional character, so whatever they were rebooting or what not was more a back seat to the gameplay.

      The beginning I thought was a nice sequence that felt like you were on a weird island with a bunch of big scarey wierdos. Then it lost its narrative towards the mid/end but that was fine…wasn’t looking for one to begin with, is that what people do with these games.

      The programmer and non artist in myself will always appreciate the work of these big games though, no way to ever take that away the sheer amount of assets/artwork created for one of these things.

  7. pepperfez says:

    I, for one, am quite pleased to see RPS move into the important business of long-form reporting on adorable ducklings and weird floating alien things. The bananas may be a bit much, though.

    • Premium User Badge

      Skabooga says:

      What? It seems like every other article they post is about bananas. I still think they under-report on jellyfish.

      • pepperfez says:

        Oh, I should have been clearer: I totally agree with you on the banana over-reporting problem. I meant it’s a bit much to be shoehorning them into unrelated articles on important, little-discussed topics.

  8. ansionnach says:

    Graphics look great, I’m guessing Rise will be a flick-scrolling PR multimedia adventure game that uses Macromedia Something-Or-Other. Comes with a free banana or half a roast chicken. Tough choice.

    I really liked Legend as well. It’s the only one I bothered with other than the first two. Of those, perhaps I enjoyed Legend most, although I prefer the character-relative controls of the early games.

    • All is Well says:

      Those are, like, ducks, man. You can’t eat those.

      • Zunt says:

        You can eat ducks! In fact, John has given you a classic recipe for duck right there: jellied duck a la banana.

        • Gap Gen says:

          When you buy duck in a restaurant it’s almost certainly just guinea fowl.

        • All is Well says:

          Eww

        • Ejia says:

          Well, I always thought you could eat all three, just not together. Jellyfish as appetizer, roast duck, and then some sort of banana pudding.

      • DeVadder says:

        Eating more duck was my New Year’s Resolution!
        And i can tell you, so far it is going great!

        • Premium User Badge

          Skabooga says:

          It’s only been since January? You adopted your resolution so quackly.

      • ansionnach says:

        They do look pretty small… might be negative calories… a bit like rashers…

        Anyway, I’m not a big fan of duck. It’s too greasy. Might go with the bananas, but only if I can get half yellow, half green so some of them last the week.

  9. Beanbee says:

    I’ll throw out a few possible reasons.

    First, exclusivity means a lower marketing budget is required. Xbone will promote nearly any exclusive game for free & you can target your market.
    Second, I’d hedge a bet that you get a little bit extra in reviews and sales simply from that feel good ‘ours alone’ glow.
    Third, lower development costs. Ports can be deadly.
    Fourth, I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsofts normal fees (cut on the price tag, dev tools/kits) are reduced or waivered.
    Fifth, nothing seems to be exclusive forever now. They’ll be on PS3 or PC in a year-two.

    All in all, it could make better business sense for a variety of reasons.

    P.s. Come on, Acti-Blizz wanted to buy themselves.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Sixth: They’re either not sure about their sales potential right now or they still are quite confused about how many copies can amount to a good performance, so they’re accepting some easy money from MS with all the extra benefits you mentioned to guarantee a safe landing.

      This trick might cost them in the long run and it surely isn’t something you can pull too often, but when you’re scared about your multimillion company and you see huge numbers flying at random, you can easily get paranoid.

    • simontifik says:

      That’s pretty much the way I see it. Project is straining its budget and the company asks how can we cut costs and inject a bit of cash back into development? Exclusivity deal means cash and less work optimising for other platforms, the marketing deal shifts some of the costs for pushing the game onto another company. Sometimes you can’t have every game on every platform.

  10. quarpec says:

    but microsoft hasn’t abandoned pc gaming! why, they’ve said so themselves many times over the last 15 years!

    • vorador says:

      Well, DirectX, the dreadful xbox live for windows client and a generic app store with games.

      That’s it. The entirety of their pc gaming contribution in the last decade.

      • ansionnach says:

        You forgot the new, 3d-accelerated solitaire and other card games released for Vista. Would have been system-sellers had they got the marketing right!

        • vorador says:

          I forgot, they released last year a twin stick shooter in the halo universe that was a port of a mobile game. But i think that was an insult since nobody plays Halo on PC. Mainly because they don’t want us to.

          • ansionnach says:

            I played the first Halo on PC until something else caught my attention and then I lost the save file. Next time Microsoft want to announce that they’re back behind PC gaming they need to back it up with something real. Like a proper sequel to Flight Simulator… and it had better be a booter!

    • Zaxwerks says:

      Indeed – Microsoft wuv us sooooo much – Take their signature Halo series for example, they release Halo, then they release Halo 2 which requires DirectX10 for no reason other to try and force people to upgrade from Windows XP to Vista because DX10 wouldn’t run on XP, the game ends on a cliffhanger and then they don’t bother releasing any other Halo games on PC, and now are releasing all the previous games remastered in the Master Chief Collection, but it’s only for XBone and not for PC. For all I know Master Chief had a baby with Cortana, she gave birth to fluffy yellow ducklings that are thermonuclear and explode when they quack and they obliterated the galaxy.

      • welverin says:

        Well, technically, they did not re-release all of the previous games for the Xbox One. The Master Chief Collection doesn’t include ODST or Reach, I’m still baffled by that.

        • Da5e says:

          They haven’t got the Master Chief in. Keep up!

          • Volcanu says:

            PEDANT ALERT!!! Actually Reach does have Master Chief in. He can be briefly glimpsed in stasis at the end of the game.

            Pedant alert over.

            But I know what your point is. Shame though, Reach is the best Halo game in my humble opinion.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Ducklings are not fit for the thermonuclear upgrade, due to a variety ot technical reasons that i won’t list there as it would be too boring, really.

        Penguins, however, are perfect for the job.

  11. Urthman says:

    Shorter John Walker:

    “My broad guesstimate of sales figures sure seems like it must be bigger than the amount of this exclusivity deal, the size of which I am completely ignorant of. Therefore the people who actually have all those numbers right in front of them are idiots who made the wrong decision.”

    This is a subset of the “We have no idea how much companies make from PC sales, but we’re pretty sure there’s lots of us and companies are just completely ignoring huge numbers on their sales spreadsheets when they make business decisions” rant.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      Apart from the bit where I didn’t say that. But hey ho, eh!

      • Urthman says:

        Ok, I’m exaggerating. But given Microsoft’s huge cash reserves and their desperate market share position, it seems silly to just assume that these deals are money-losers for developers, even long term. They know exactly how much they’ve made, long term, from PC sales of Tomb Raider games.

        Sure, make the argument that it sucks for gamers and we hate it. But don’t try to convince us you can do the math with made up numbers better than the people who actually have them.

    • SlimShanks says:

      If you think that professional, highly trained, and highly paid businessmen don’t make absurd decisions that are obviously stupid even to people outside the company, you’ve got another thing coming.

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        teije says:

        A company has much in common with a cult, where group think and agreeing with the directive of the month – no matter how inane – is essential for survival of its members. Except it’s for profit – so exactly like Scientology, come to think of it.

    • All is Well says:

      I think John was talking more about how they were cutting off players than losing money on the exclusivity deal. As in, he’s not trying to argue that they’re losing money on the deal or that it doesn’t make business sense, but that it’s bad for those who want to buy the game but don’t own and Xbone.

    • Zunt says:

      Well, sure, companies are often motivated exclusively by money. But let’s say EvilCorp decided to pay Square Enix twice what Microsoft paid them not to make Tomb Raider at all. Should Square accept that deal? Would that be in their shareholders’ interests? It certainly wouldn’t be in gamers’ interests.

      I think this come from companies not wanting to take risks and not trusting their customers. Indeed, they seem to regard their customers as chumps.

      All this does help answer the question of whether games are art. Some might be, but some are extruded ludic product that only has value by the kilo.

    • KenTWOu says:

      Yeah, I’ve got the same feelings reading this article. Just look at Remedy, they already did Alan Wake for X360 and they’re still doing Quantum Break for XO console. Either they’re pretty stupid too or Microsoft has an ace up its sleeve. I think it’s the latter.

  12. Drake Sigar says:

    Microsoft must’ve given them an enormous ridiculous titanic gigantic sum of money. Like, Minecraft ridiculous, so absurd they’d be utter berks to refuse.

    That’s the only explanation I can fathom for basically cutting off your own limbs. Nobody does that. Nobody says ‘Tomb Raider isn’t selling enough!’ and then proceeds to tell over half their fans (the Playsation was Tomb Raider’s biggest selling platform by far) to bugger off. That’s pants-on-head insanity. Nobody can run a billion dollar company that way and expect to survive.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      With the way Square-Enix was blaming the first game to save face when it came to their failing mmo and mobile divisions I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t going to make a sequel at all until Microsoft offered the money.

      S-E might give their projects more freedom than Ubisoft or EA but they’re idiots it seems when it comes to financing projects.

  13. Hypocee says:

    ‘This food is terrible! And such small portions! Why would anyone use such sour grapes to cook with!’

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      No, not quite. CD can make fantastically good games. And the practice is a larger trend that needs discussion.

    • Koozer says:

      I never understood why this is supposed to be droll. They aren’t mutually exclusive complaints.

  14. Wulfram says:

    Eh, they can promote their stuff how they want. It might not be the best way to sell video games, but I’m not qualified to know, and why should I care about their marketing as long as they’re not lying to me?

  15. vorador says:

    You say it like Square Enix have done anything sane in the last decade. They seem to be giving the finger constantly to their fans and customers, and then complain that they’re not kissing that finger.

  16. Cleave says:

    Uh, now eventually you do plan to have tomb raiding in your tomb raider game, right? hello?

  17. Soapeh says:

    I quite enjoyed the reboot but it really should have been called “Gun Shooter” because there were only about 5 actual tombs to raid in the game and each took no more than 10 minutes.

  18. faelnor says:

    In My Opinion™,
    1. Anniversary was better than Legend in every way, and is the best Tomb Raider ever made. That opinion aside, the Crystal Dynamics trilogy was indeed great, much better than the late Core games.
    2. Tomb Raider 2013 sucked hard in almost every meaningful way. Next to zero exploring, puzzling or tomb raiding, no freedom in addition to a disappointing story with a weird tone (dark, gritty yet unrealistic, mystical and… boring). On the other hand, though nobody asked for it the combat was fun, the engine was excellent and the visuals / setting very enjoyable.
    3. This kind of affair is exactly why we need more consumer revolts in the gaming world, even if they are poorly motivated or led, even if they originate from seedy places. The fact that journalists would accept and encourage exclusives is disgusting. We need more distance between producers and journalists (that’s true for all media) and if the only ones able to keep the industry in check are the media themselves, then it is our responsibility to keep the media in check.

    • Vandelay says:

      I would agree with this. Anniversary felt like the pinnacle of not just CD’s trilogy, but the series as a whole. Legend was a good reboot (of sorts,) that set the framework for the following two games. It was a little slight on its own, but it showed massive amounts of potential. Underworld fits somewhere between the two in terms of quality. Some really grand levels, but the plot was atrocious.

      2013, I enjoyed it. Solid action that did offer a couple of alternative ways to approach. It wasn’t Tomb Raider though. Better than okay, but not much.

  19. Sp4rkR4t says:

    Loved the Tomb Raider rehash and am looking forward to this, if Microsoft have any really intentions of making win 10 a gaming friendly OS they would do well to have this game in the win 10 xbox store as soon as possible.

    • ansionnach says:

      I disagree with you here. I don’t have any strong love or hate of Microsoft, but I have been using their stuff all the way back to DOS 4. Definitely don’t want to see them pushing the store any more or any other moves that close off Windows as a platform in any way (Steam, Origin, the lot). I’ll install and run my own stuff, thank you very much, without unnecessary clients.

  20. Barberetti says:

    As long as her hair’s fantastic, that’s all that matters.

    • DanMan says:

      I thought the wet-look-effects were kind of disappointing this time though.

  21. subedii says:

    Odd timing this. I only just recently started Tomb Raider (err, the reboot), after picking it up in a sale. Couple of hours and already the writing and the characters seem kind of naff and grating. Or maybe it’s not that they’re bad per se, not when compared to most other games. But I definitely wasn’t getting why it was so lauded on that front.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      The characters and writing are better than a lot of AAA games. Doesn’t mean they’re great.

      The game has excellent combat and atmosphere. A sequel would be awesome if they increase the exploration and lower the occurance of combat with humans.

  22. fish99 says:

    Well, if they don’t want me to play it at (xbox) launch, I’ll return the favour and not buy it until it’s £5 in a sale.

    (full disclosure, that’s what I was going to do anyway)

  23. Bradamantium says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever disagreed with an RPS article more. The exclusivity to Xbone is a bit ridiculous, but it’s also for a period of weeks, perhaps a month or two at most. Waiting is a prudent thing to do, and at least we’ll be amply well informed of whether the game is worth it by the time it gets to PC. The Game Informer exclusive stuff doesn’t bug me so much either. That’s how they’ve operated for over 20 years, no great surprise there except, perhaps, that print gaming media still exists at all in 2015.

    And that last paragraph is just petty when combined with the complaints preceding it, I think. Sounds entirely too much like a “This thing I don’t get to see and don’t really care about is probably not great anyhow!” pout.

  24. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    “(lots of potential, excellent movement and action, but a sodding awful script that wouldn’t ever leave you alone)”

    *names Far Cry 3 game of the year*

  25. Rikard Peterson says:

    Rise of the Tomb Raider? Really? That’s the title? Why not add a colon and a “Dawn of Justice” subtitle while you’re at it.

  26. derbefrier says:

    For those wondering what kind of thought process these guys have to be in to think these are good ideas I would reccomend wathcing Chris Roberts’ BAFTA. Presentatiom from a few weeks ago. Its an interesting perspective on the buisness from someone who has been around since pretty much the beginning and saw the AAA industry become what it has. Roberts draws quite a few paralells between AAA game publishers to Hollywood. Its interesting to hear it from someone who was actually involved in this on the inside. Johns article is basically a rant from an outsider who doesn’t really understand the thought process behind these descions but hearing someone like Roberts talk about it. in detail was quite fascinating.

  27. bleeters says:

    If their goal was to make me not buy their game, then mission accomplished I guess.

  28. mattevansc3 says:

    I agree with the gist of this article but do feel that some of the points are pushed a bit too hard and lacks that tiny bit of objectivity that would stop it from coming across as unbalanced.

    Just the little things like ” “Only” sold 3.8m in its first month”. That seems to suggest its shocking for a game to sell well in its first month when it is in fact normal for big releases to have a huge opening weekend and then sales drop off very quickly. Over a third of Skyrim’s sales figures over a two year period were made in the first week of release.

    That’s also not a huge figure. Its barely double Kingdoms of Amalur’s sales for the same period and equal to Skyrim’s first 48 hours of going on sale. That’s why its sales were disappointing, a game with brand recognition, hype and a huge marketing budget sold only double that of a fun but generic RPG based on a new IP with a forgettable name released in the shadow of arguably one of the best games of that generation.

    Also you can’t really discuss Tomb Raider going timed exclusive without also discussing SF5. Street Fighter has always been one of, if not the biggest fighting game on the competitive circuit and yet a sequel only exists because of Sony bankrolling it. There’s also the the elephant in the room that is Uncharted. SE and Microsoft have skirted around it but Sony just waved away that exclusivity announcement by saying they’ve got Uncharted 4 as a PS4 exclusive and Tomb Raider doesn’t matter.

    Of course it sucks that Microsoft have screwed the PC audience out of the game but there are plenty of reasons why SE would look for a platform holder to buddy up with, especially when the other platform holder is going to fiercely push their in-house competitor.

    Now the advertising exclusivity is just bollocks for exactly the reasons you stated.

    • welverin says:

      There’s a difference between a game being exclusive because a platform holder is helping fund it (Bayonetta 2, SF5) and a game that was announced as multiplatform (I believe) and later made exclusive (even if only timed).

      • mattevansc3 says:

        Its was never announced as a multiplatform game. It was initially revealed at a Microsoft press conference with no statement of platform availability and then sites like Amazon started listing it as multiplatform for preorders.

        The first official statement of what platforms it was going to was when Microsoft said it was an Xbox exclusive. Its one of those misconceptions that has been turned into “fact”.

    • Hex says:

      RPS is in no way an objective or balanced game news site.

      • mattevansc3 says:

        But normally their opinion pieces are tempered by objectivity and why the quality of writing is very high in my opinion.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      * “Only” sold 3.8m in its first month”. *

      Wait, that’s what Square itself actually said, they complained about the “horrible” sales of not only this one, but Sleeping Dogs aswell and, don’t quote me on the last one, Deus Ex.

      Incidentally they’re all games in which some extra effort was put to make a decent PC version, at least technologically speaking. Let’s not turn it into a discussion about what constitutes a good port and a bad port, let’s just say that they poured some extra money in, for good or bad.

      Now the higher ups are probably self validating themselves with lines such as “See! We give ALL we can to the PC users and they still don’t know how to repay us. We wanted to bet on them, we wanted to develop TressFX so that the project sales estimates would be at 20 millions instead of only 4 out of PC gamers alone and they BETRAYED US, proving for the last time they are not worth even spending an extra thought on.”

      • mattevansc3 says:

        Its the quotation marks around only that imply the cynicism and disbelief about SE’s statement.

      • SpearM64 says:

        Just to follow up, what they SAID is that sales were “horrible”. What they MEANT is that “our expectations were way too high; we thought we were going to sell 5 to 6 million copies in the first month but only sold 3.4 million”.

        Simply put, TR 2013 cost close to 60 million quid (about $100 million USD) to make. According to their math, they needed to sell 5 million copies to break even. Their management thought that they would be able to do that in a month, probably in the belief that the strength of the franchise alone would drive sales up. Obviously, they were wrong. It was almost the end of the year before it broke the profitability margin (8 or 9 months).

        In fact, *all* their sales were far below expectations; between September 2012 and the end of March 2013, they expected to sell 14.9 million games (total). Their only three games that were released between those dates (as far as I know) were Sleeping Dogs (1.75 million), Hitman: Absolution (3.6 million), and Tomb Raider (3.4 million). That’s only 8.75 million sales, slightly below 60% of what they expected. All three games were incredibly good, in my opinion (and I bought all three), but Square Enix management overestimated sales by quite a lot.

        As a result, they reported ‘massive losses’ in that fiscal year, their longtime president was fired, and Square Enix initiated “major reforms and restructuring” throughout the firm. Most likely, that means shutting down a studio or two (or three), and reconsidering just how much money they’re willing to dump into a single game (both in development and advertising costs).

  29. XhomeB says:

    The TReboot was OK, fun to play overall in its own right, but it suffered greatly from a few things, which dragged the entire experience down:
    – horrendous, plothole-ridden plot/ painfully stereotyopical, uninteresting and hilariously multi-ethnic “just for the sake of it” character cast/ abysmal writing overall… it wouldn’t be that big of a deal had Crystal Dynamics not put the story to the forefront of the entire experience – they knew it was utter crap, yet did it anyway – the end result made campy shooters like Gears of War seem competently written in comparison
    – the complete lack of puzzles
    -gameplay revolving around mowing down enemies Doom-style. The emphasis on puzzle solving, exploration TR – especially the original one – went bye-bye.

  30. BLACKOUT-MK2 says:

    I felt really let down by the Tomb Raider reboot. Maybe it’s because my standards were lower, but as a kid I loved the first Tomb Raider on my PS1, but the reboot just didn’t do it for me. Most people liked the graphics, but I unfortunately picked it up on PS3 so I’d seen much better at that point, or they liked the gameplay, but the shooting felt incredibly unsatisfying to me. I couldn’t bring myself to finish it because I was so uninterested. It felt like a cover shooter with crap shooting so I couldn’t feel the ‘hype’ a lot of other people who played it did. Whenever I’m asked how I felt about it I always give it a shaky ‘eeeehhhh’ because I simply can’t see what so many others did. I remember the plane crash bit, being on a boat in the beginning, and that’s really it. To me it was a poor man’s Uncharted.

  31. Monggerel says:

    Uh… rise from your… er… tomb?

    Fuck.
    No that won’t…
    Shit
    god fucking…
    gah

  32. shutter says:

    If you think a timed platform exclusive (heck even a permanent platform exclusive) is going to cost a game 50% of it’s potential sales, you really need to stop writing about the business side of the industry.

    I’ll give you the exclusive previews to dead tree magazines as being pretty boneheaded though, but we’ve got a lot of PR folks hanging around from the old days when magazines moved the needle, and some are having harder time adjusting than others.

  33. trjp says:

    I have said many, many times the the TR reboot was an OK third-person murder simulator but they forgot the Tombs – however I had a chance to play Uncharted for the first time recently and what it really is, is a MUCH MUCH better Uncharted

    Uncharted starts well but it is OBSESSED with gun battles with seemingly endless (and identical looking) enemies who just keep on popping-out-of-nowhere Even when you find the key to the ancient tomb no-one has visited in 400 years, the fuckers are in there ready to shoot back!!

    TR is WAY better because it remembers you’re alone and offers ways of killing people in stealth – wheras Uncharted is a “mostly” one man (sometimes you have dumber sidekicks) vs “an army” head-on every single bloody time (no, a few exploding barrels don’t count)

    Mind you, Uncharted has Tombs…

    • KenTWOu says:

      Just curious, which Uncharted did you play? The 1st, the 2nd or the 3rd one?

    • mavrik says:

      Oh yes… that’s what totally killed Uncharted for me (I tried all three on my PS3) – the ENDLESS combat and battles which weren’t even all that interesting. That totally killed immersion and exploration of environments (I still remember that rather cool WW2 sub) – I just couldn’t stand stopping for 5 minutes shooting people every few moved paces.

      TR was significantly more interesting that that, I enjoyed it most of the way through. Even though I did have rather obnoxious combat sections.

  34. Ejia says:

    But… I thought you had no bananas today?

  35. snowgim says:

    Looking on the bright side, at least by the time the PC version is out there will be plenty of reviews around, rather than having to play ‘pre-order russian roulette’ (prussian roulette?) like xbone people likely will.

  36. Premium User Badge

    Earl-Grey says:

    John, I really like you when you’re angry.

  37. mao_dze_dun says:

    I’m sorry but I completely disagree that the previous Tomb Rider was just above average. That is YOUR opinion. I’ve never been a fan of he series and never since the first one came out did any part of the series appeal to me, but the reboot was something else. The script wasn’t that bad – it was just mediocre. We’ve seen so much worse in other AAA games. And every other aspect of the game was great and the game was massive fun.
    Other than that the article is spot on but what can you do – big game companies love to make stupid decisions. Remember that time they decided to develop Duke Nukem Forever for 16 years, or that time they thought what the RTS series of Command & Conquer lacked was a turn based gameplay, or that time all AAA developers decided it was ok to skip the beta phase and release unfinished games at full price… Oh, wait, that’s still happening…

  38. buxcador says:

    Core Design understood what was the point of Tomb Raider: The lure of exploring mysterious places, wondering what was around the corner, how to break into secret areas, giving you a reward if you reached places were you were not supposed to be (even by exploiting bugs on the engine).

    Crystal Dynamics never got it. Tried all the time to turn TR into a shooter. A generic B class adventure movie.
    It never had mysteries to solve, but a series of linear checkpoints to cross.

    Core Design gave clear physics rules, so you could understand what you could do, and what not. Crystal Dynamics invented new rules on the run, made for a specific scene, and filled the game with disgusting quick time events.

    All Crystal Dynamics games were disappointing, and the last one was the drop that filled the glass. I asked myself why I bought his games, and the last iteration was enough. I lost interest in the franchise, so I don’t care at all if they make it exclusive or whatever.

  39. SailBlade says:

    Hi everybody.
    I live in germany. One of the biggest gaming-markets in the world… And this market often gets cut/low-violence versions of many games. One of the worst examples: “Dawn of War: Dark Crusade” (quite old RTS, some may know it). The retail version of this game is totally uncut while the steam-version(de) is cut. But they just cut out bloody animations without substitute so especially the godlike biggest units act faster than supposed which is gamebreaking. So sad I did not get me a copy before Steam shutdown cross-region-trading…

    Another example is “South Park: Stick Of Truth”. I would have bought it at full price but it’s low-violence and it started the trend for juvenile-law-affecting titles, not to be traded nor be activated for german customers. By the way, I am 35 years old… So for me these politics are only about rstricting matures NOT about protecting the youth what imho is a joke of itself since young people don’t care about illegal copies which are easy to come by.

    I have mixed feelings towards Steam but it is far better than Uplay or EA-Origin DRM. I own hundreds of games , over 200 AA/AAA, so I don’t need another DRM. I admit it is just laziness to some point but also I dont support forced online connection even for 100%-solo-(offline)-titles. That is another point that keeps me from buying games. Besides I don’t support EA-Origin because they are just trying to milk their customers by ingame transactions, delivering a new version every year (or less) instead of repairing/patching existing titles.

    So where is this heading? I guess it will get even worse till the death of innovatiive games. Only good thing is that with technical innovation of consoles the technical quality of games got better but it is still tied to the awful control-design due to console-controllers. I have been a gamer since the eighties, never was fond of the limitation controllers provide. Great times since games had to befinshed on release not abusing customers as beta-testers…

  40. vinnusaurus says:

    i never read after this dumb fuck shit said over rated lol :D don’t piss others by posting such words ok, it also clearly states that it’s your opinion and no body cares about yours and it just pisses people who like thae game because the fuck head non fans of the game will start laughing. idiot.

    • ChronosPraetorian says:

      If you can work up emotional response enough to be “pissed off” by someone’s opinion on something differing from your own then I’d say you pretty clearly care about what he says and are thus insecure about your own opinion. You probably shouldn’t use profanities and a “:D” emoticon either to be honest.