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Editorial

Exclusivity Has Again Become the Battleground of the Console War

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PS4 Xbox One Exclusivity

Exclusivity has been a hot-button topic in the past two decades with the dominance Microsoft and Sony have had on the video game industry. Specifically, the different generations of Xboxes and PlayStations have sparked an interesting rivalry between the two home consoles. Sony, of course, had the advantage of being in the home console market earlier than its American competitor, but, since Microsoft debuted the Xbox in 2001, the vying for power between the two companies has pitted consumers against one another. Technical specifications were once the crux of the arguments favoring one console over the other. However, with the astounding advancements in technology that have made the graphical differences between the competitors’ modern consoles negligible, exclusivity has become one of the primary differentials between the two brands.

The divide between PlayStation and Xbox fans has never been narrow. Both factions offer plenty of reasons as to why their chosen side is superior. Nevertheless, when considering exclusivity, Sony has had the market all but cornered since the launches of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. While both consoles sport a multitude of titles that are only available for one console or the other, such as God of War and the Uncharted series for PS4 and the Halo and Gears of War franchises for Xbox One, many multiplatform games receive content that is either exclusive to PlayStation users or releases earlier for PlayStation users. Destiny and its 2017 sequel saw timed exclusive content come to PS4 at each game’s initial release, and that exclusivity has lasted for almost an entire year since Destiny 2’s launch. PS4 fans also find themselves with access to DLC in games such as Call of Duty: WWII earlier than their Xbox One-owning counterparts.

Much of this exclusivity has to do with the relationships between the platform holders and game developers and publishers, and, indeed, the positions seemed reverse in the days of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, with Microsoft holding a slight advantage over Sony—so, the dynamic shift causes gamers to wonder what happened to flip the script. The answers are not complicated and, in fact, have less to do with console quality and more to do with business decisions. The easiest answer is that Sony acquired more developers under its corporate umbrella than Microsoft in the years prior to the launches of the modern consoles. Sony also made deals with more companies it did not acquire (i.e. Activision and Square Enix).

However, as with all console wars, power plays were inevitable. E3 2018 was demonstrative of Microsoft’s most ambitious maneuver since the flag-waving of the Xbox One X unveiling at E3 2017—which was a relative failure in the attempt to inspire confidence in the company’s future endeavors. In an attempt to regain lost ground, Microsoft announced several exclusive games and developer acquisitions during its E3 2018 press conference. Furthermore, the company officially informed fans that the new Xbox is in the works, as if trying to get the jab in before Sony declares the PlayStation 5 a reality. Of course, whether or not a new Xbox is necessary with the recent release of the One X has also been a subject for debate, as discussed by OnlySP’s Ben Newman.

With titles such as God of War and the Uncharted series, along with the prevalence of opportunities to beta test AAA games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops IV before their Xbox-favoring counterparts, PlayStation loyalists may still find their favored brand coming out on top—not to mention the earlier release of DLC for PlayStation fans in other Call of Duty titles. That said, if Microsoft can step up its game with not only major franchises (Forza, Gears of War, and Halo), but also its upcoming releases—such as Session and Crackdown 3 (PC versions notwithstanding)—the industry may see a shift in the current console war. However, PlayStation and Xbox are not the only consoles vying for position.

Of course, the community must not forget the underdog, for Nintendo is still alive and well and pumping out additional installments in its decades-old franchises. Super Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart, and Super Smash Bros. are going strong, with the newest Super Smash Bros. slated to release in December 2018. While the Switch may not be a primary competitor in the console market, it is still relevant and has kept Nintendo healthy, especially given the major titles that have come to the platform (i.e. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Fortnite).

The industry’s landscape has become blurrier than ever before, with each brand’s fans constantly debating the supremacy of their favored console. Certainly, each device has its strengths and weaknesses, but, at the end of the day, which console someone prefers to play is a subjective matter, and no amount of bickering over the minute technical differences between systems is likely to sway anyone to one side or the other. Outside of exclusivity, the modern PlayStation and Xbox’s mechanical and graphical performances are not vastly different and the debate narrows down to one of customer loyalty and mere preference. Nonetheless, the exclusivity road is long and winding and will ultimately determine which brand thrives and which exists in its competitor’s shadow.

Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in July 2019

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Three Single Player Games (July 2019) - Sea of Solitude, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Wolfenstein Youngblood

July, the middle of winter down here in Australia. Even in the bizarre New South Wales climate, the biting cold makes for a great excuse to stay inside and play games. 

Weirdly for single players, quite a few prestige games this month include additional co-op modes. With acclaimed designers behind them, such games will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of accommodating multiple players, as too many games have done in the past.

Sea of Solitude

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

At first blush, Sea of Solitude looks like yet another story of a young adult struggling with questions of identity and mental health while exploring a beautiful but harsh fantasy world.

Actually, that’s what it is. ‘Quirky, life affirming indie adventure’ is a whole cottage industry these days, but the fact that such games are now more prevalent should never dismay.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a masterpiece of refined design and storytelling, and Sea of Solitude appears be something similar—this time dealing with a fantastical vision of depression that turns ordinary people into literal monsters.

Players take charge of Kay, who has sought out the eponymous Sea—or rather, a flooded city based on Berlin—in the hope that there is a cure for monstrosity. However, despite its name, she is not the only person in the Sea. Avoiding the other monsters of the Sea seems to be a major part of the gameplay. These tense encounters are likely to provide rhythm and variety to the adventure and keep it from being a just walking simulator. (Not that being a walking simulator is inherently a problem.)

Although published by EA Originals, one would do well to remember that EA the company does not actually profit off the Originals that they publish. With a focused story and themes that still are not often explored in bigger games, Sea of Solitude should be of great interest to single player fans in a month otherwise dominated by multiplayer titles.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Almost certainly the biggest single player release of the month, and tied with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as another massive Switch exclusive, Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be exactly what single players need right now.

Lately the Fire Emblem franchise has exploded in both its popular profile and sales success, buoyed by a hunger for both deep anime RPGs and polished tactics games. Three Houses seems to have doubled down on exciting trends and features in both genres: particularly a Persona/Harry Potter inspired magic school setting and an even deeper tactical battle system that ditches the rock-paper-scissors for more nuanced character progression options. As with many Japanese RPGs, the story is also a major focus and hinges upon a time-jump.

The early part casts the player as a teacher at the Officer’s Academy, situated in the center of the game world and attended by students from the three most powerful nations. Five years later, the second and likely larger part concerns the drama between the player’s teacher and their former students, whose nations are now locked in a massive three-way conflict.

As is to be expected for a series finally coming back to consoles after a long time on the 3DS, Three Houses is a massive technical leap over its predecessors. The game boasts better realised battlefields, more detailed armies, and a slick animated style that appears much more consistent compared with the three or four different art styles on the 3DS.

With such improvements, as well as the overall pedigree of the Fire Emblem brand, Three Houses should have no trouble satisfying single player fans looking for a meaty middle-of-the-year RPG.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

The recent Wolfenstein revival series is such a remarkable achievement in traditional shooter design and great, if goofy, sci-fi worldbuilding that the co-op focus of this latest instalment is somewhat disappointing.

Yes, as with F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3, following a well-received second chapter the Wolfenstein series now pivots to a co-operative focused chapter. Though the game is not a mandatory multiplayer experience, combat encounters and puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the two player mode, giving single players an AI-controlled partner and bullet sponge enemies.

However, all hope is not lost for Wolfenstein: why else would it be the third game on the list? The narrative has been pushed forward in time, as B.J.’s twin daughters are now in their adolescence, now giving players a glimpse at the 1980s of Wolfenstein‘s skewed universe. Additionally, the level design itself is more freeform thanks to development assistance from Arkane, the developers of the Dishonored series.

Will Wolfenstein: Youngblood successfully deliver more of the series’s goofy charm and crazy alternate reality? Almost certainly. On the other hand, will the game be as fun to play alone as in multiplayer? That remains to be seen. Last month’s E3 demo that raised such concerns was naturally only a snapshot of a game in development, so MachineGames and Arkane have had plenty of time to resolve these potential downsides to a co-op focused game.

Those are our three big single player games to look out for this month. Other interesting titles coming soon include Stranger Things 3 on July 4 and Attack on Titan 2 on July 5, both games hitting Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

On July 12 we will see the sequel to an almost-fantastic Minecraft-like RPG spinoff, Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch and PlayStation 4, as well as the Switch port of “anime Monster Hunter”, God Eater 3

The week after, July 19 brings us Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and at an undetermined time during the month Klei Entertainment’s anticipated survival-sim Oxygen Not Included will finally leave early access on PC.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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