Well, you can file this one under "annoying announcements." At Gamescom today, Microsoft announced that 2015's Rise of the Tomb Raider will be an Xbox exclusive, at least "for holiday 2015."
This isn't the first time a previously multiplatform game has gone console exclusive, but it's certainly a high-profile example. Additionally, its very popular predecessor, 2013's Tomb Raider (a prequel/reboot of sorts), launched simultaneously on PS3 and Xbox 360, so the announcement of its sequel's single-platform future comes as more than a bit of a surprise.
While many associate the Tomb Raider brand with the PlayStation ecosystem, keep in mind that even the original game launched on the original PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and the PC. So it's really always been a cross-platform affair, making it that much more of a bummer that the broader fan base for the series won't get to experience this entry.
At least...not at first.
I honestly suspect that this is merely a timed exclusive. It simply doesn't make much financial sense for Square Enix (Tomb Raider's publisher) to not release the game on Sony's latest console, especially given one of today's other Gamescom announcements—namely, Sony has now sold 10 million PS4 consoles through to consumers. Of course, the business reason they can afford to ignore the PlayStation ecosystem is that Microsoft clearly paid a pretty penny for the exclusivity. Even so, I just can't help but wonder if they could have actually paid enough for this to be a permanent situation; my gut tells me we'll see a PS4 version in 2016.
Let's not forget that Square Enix was very publicly disappointed with the sales of 2013's Tomb Raider, despite that title selling 3.4 million copies in less than four weeks and over 6.5 million copies at the time of this writing. To go from such lofty sales goals for the original to announcing a move that more than halves the potential reach for the sequel must have been the product of some extraordinary back-room negotiations.
But the end result of deals like this is a resounding loss for gamers. Sure, a few message board trolls can boast about the announcement if they happen to be an Xbox owner; but I'd bet the majority of Xbox owners would be just as happy if their fellow PS console owners could grab a copy of the game, too. Of course, Nintendo's choices in hardware strength have put them in a unusual spot regarding multiplatform titles during the two most recent console generations, but that's a topic for another post.
Everyone who buys a console accepts that there will be a certain amount of first party exclusive games (i.e. games published by the console manufacturer). Nintendo only releases Mario games on their consoles, Master Chief only shows up on Xbox, and Nathan Drake adventures exclusively on PlayStation. But there is a general understanding that the rest of the games ought to be equal opportunity experiences—especially if they have a major publisher backing them.
It's simply disappointing that such a large publisher would play favorites in a way that clearly has angered and upset the fans of this series. It's one thing for a first party to swoop in and help an independent developer bring a game to market that might otherwise be lost to development hell; you need look no further than a title like Unfinished Swan and their "incubation deal" with Sony to see how third party exclusivity can be done correctly. But a company like Square Enix should have the gumption to stay neutral with such a major release.