Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. Fallout 4. Star Wars: Battlefront. These are arguably the largest video game releases of 2015, and they all release one week apart. Sitting in the middle, along with Fallout 4, is Microsoft’s big Xbox One exclusive Rise of the Tomb Raider. What an unfortunate position to be in.
Michael Pachter estimates that Microsoft paid roughly $10 million for Rise of the Tomb Raider’s timed exclusivity on Xbox One, which isn’t a small chunk of change. Xbox has been touting the latter half of 2015 as the “greatest holiday games lineup in Xbox history”, and since the month of August we’ve seen at least one major exclusive each month thereafter.
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition and Rare Replay co-headlined August, with Forza 6 launching in September, the colossal launch of Halo 5: Guardians in October, and Rise of the Tomb Raider closing out the holiday season in November. This is a major exclusive for Microsoft, and clearly one they’ve paid a significant amount for, but (in my opinion) it couldn’t have been released at a worse time this year.
Rise of the Tomb Raider’s release date was confirmed for November 10th prior to E3 2015, but was met with immediate concern during Bethesda’s Fallout reveal the same day. Fallout fans are rabid, and after showing off some pretty cool features, it was then announced (to everyone’s surprise) that Fallout 4 would be releasing sooner than we thought. The date? November 10th. The same day as Rise of the Tomb Raider. I have to wonder if the folks at Microsoft felt their collective hearts sink a little.
But hey, look on the bright side. Chances are that folks in to Tomb Raider and folks in to Fallout may be in different camps altogether. And maybe the general population within the Xbox One community doesn’t have 200 hours to devote to Fallout 4. Tomb Raider’s shorter length may appeal more to the busy folks who only have their weekends to devote to gaming. “Do I want to chip away at Fallout or knock out Tomb Raider in a weekend?”, for instance.
If Xbox was that unconfident, they could have always bumped the release date up a week, but in doing so they’d be contending with Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. Although the release date wasn’t confirmed too early, a leaked post on NeoGAF showed a pre-order poster from GameStop confirming November 6th (an unconventional Friday release).
Well shit. What about the following week?
Back on April 17th, well before E3 2015, EA confirmed that Star Wars: Battlefront would be releasing on November 17th.
With both of these dates confirmed prior to E3, I wonder what made Xbox choose the week between two of the biggest games of the year? Did they bet the farm on Papa’s Mustache (a David Cross reference) and then get blindsided by Fallout 4’s release date confirmation? And now with the biggest launches of 2015 releasing in three consecutive weeks, would it have been smarter for Xbox to delay Tomb Raider until December (or beyond)? Or was it best to just ride out the storm and brace for impact?
If you’re not familiar with Amazon’s Best Sellers feature on their website, it basically updates hourly to reflect the top selling items within a certain category. As of 9pm Eastern time yesterday, the day of its launch, Rise of the Tomb Raider was sitting at #18 (with a downward red arrow, indicating a sales decline over the previous hour). Now, at 5am, it’s already fallen out of the top 20 (#24).
According to Amazon’s Top 20 best selling video game items, Rise of the Tomb Raider is currently being outsold by different variations of Fallout 4, current-gen versions of Black Ops 3, pre-orders for Star Wars: Battlefront, and (surprisingly) 30 day pre-paid subscription cards to Runescape 3. It’s also being outsold by the Xbox 360 version of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, which was confirmed to only account for 5% of its physical sales thus far.
When asked about this decision during the Kinda Funny Gamescast, Xbox’s Aaron Greenberg basically said they had to choose their poison (stating what I’ve already mentioned above about consecutive major releases). Rise of the Tomb Raider wasn’t ready to go two weeks early, but bumping it up a single week would have contended with Black Ops 3. Staying put contends them with Fallout 4. Delaying it a week contends with Star Wars: Battlefront. You can even look at the week before Black Ops III, which saw the release of Halo 5: Guardians. Again, what an unfortunate position to be in.
Hopefully it doesn’t come down to this, but say Rise of the Tomb Raider fails. What then? Regardless of its unfortunate release date, you know as well as I do that the gaming press will run a train on the sales figures and if it’s one thing Xbox One doesn’t need anymore of, it’s negative press. Looking even further ahead to the game’s PC release in April and its inevitable PS4 release around this time next year, say it releases in a more convenient time frame and sells significantly more on the competitor’s home console. Will this deter third parties from getting in bed with Xbox One exclusively in the future? It’s probably not that detrimental. Microsoft did pay for exclusivity, of course.
After all of the money Xbox paid to secure timed exclusivity, I’m honestly surprised Rise of the Tomb Raider wasn’t delayed until the first week of December. The game looks absolutely phenomenal and has so far been met with widespread acclaim, so we (as Xbox fans) surely wish Microsoft and Square Enix the best in terms of sales. If the current Amazon numbers are anything to go by though, they may be in some serious trouble. Only time will tell.