The Lies We Tell: BioShock's Exclusivity
The cat is now out of the bag, people finally knows that BioShock is coming to PS3, after it was 'confirmed' not to.
Well, I worked on the PS3 version, I was even lead programmer for the PS3 SKU at one point, but then there were a lot of lead programmers that worked on the PS3 version, but that's a sordid tale for another post. Today's post is about one of the lies of the games industry, the exclusivity deal.
Nowadays, almost all high profile games from 3rd party publishers are planned from the beginning to be multi-platform and simultaneous release. The extra cost of developing for multiple platforms can easily be recouped since both PS3 and 360 has a big enough installbase. The simultaneous release makes the most of the marketing money by spending it on one big campaign rather than two smaller ones months apart.
Remember Sony claiming that most developers are creating the PS3 version first? That is not because PS3 is more popular, or easier to code, it is purely because from a technical point PS3 is harder to create good code for. Once you've created a good code base for PS3, it is easy to turn that into a well running 360 version.
So how did BioShock's 'exclusive' come about and why PS3 version a year later? Well, you've got to follow the money, which leads us to Microsoft.
After BioShock made a big splash during Microsoft's XFest '06, they approached the studio to negotiate a exclusive. This actually worked out really well for us, since our PS3 development was still very early and wasn't going well. I am not sure about the actual number, but Microsoft paid for a lot of BioShock's marketing in return for a timed exclusive.
A timed exclusive is good deal for both sides. From Microsoft point of view, they can claim it is exclusive and get all the benefit of a PR hit against PS3 without paying the cost for a full exclusive. After all, no one knows if BioShock will really be a big seller at that point. From the point of view of the studio, we can concentrate on the 360 version without worrying about PS3 for a while, and if the game is a big seller, we can always port to the PS3 later.
So the exclusive deal isn't about the foresight of Microsoft as it is about the unsureness about the success of BioShock at the point the contract was signed.
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