It seems like the age of the big third party exclusive is as dead as the dinosaur. Shock, anger and despair rocked through the fanboy communities in the last generation as some iconic PlayStation franchises like Grand Theft Auto and Final Fantasy migrated to the Xbox 360, and, for the more protective elements of the PS2 fanbase, it was a dark time, watching one exclusive after another make the jump to the new kid on the block. By the time we got to the end of the last console generation, the conventional wisdom was “Third party exclusives no longer exist; only first party exclusives can really define a console’s library.”
That’s still largely true in the newest console generation. The Xbox One is going to be defined mostly by Halo, while the PS4 now has Uncharted as its flagship franchise. Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed and many other third party games will be available on both systems. However, that doesn’t mean that third party exclusives are dead. In fact, for fans of Japanese games, the PS4 might still be the place to go for the more hardcore, niche titles that attracted some gamers to the medium in the first place. We’re seeing this with announcements that, to the mainstream gamer, would hardly be considered “megatons,” but to the more old school, hardcore gamer, is still pretty big news. Persona 5, for example, has been announced and the JRPG/geek cred of this franchise is massive. It’s only coming to the PS3 and the PS4, because Atlus is a small developer that simply doesn’t have the resources to work on multiplatform games, and the consensus is JRPGs don’t sell well on Microsoft consoles anyway, since that’s primarily a shooter crowd.
Other franchises, like the Yakuza series are also exclusive to the PS4 and Bloodborne, the spiritual successor to the PS3 exclusive Demon’s Souls is has already been confirmed as coming to both the east and the west. Even Bandai Namco, who has been pretty platform agnostic of late, is still putting out a few titles—notably more Otaku oriented, JRPG games—that are only going to be on the PS4. There’s a Gundam game of some kind currently in the works, while Godeater makes the jump from the PSP and Vita to the PS4 as well. And then there are the old reliable studios, like Nippon-Ichi, who has been dutifully cranking out Disgaea games on PS platforms for many years now.
It’s given that none of these titles are big, AAA productions with budgets like Call of Duty or Destiny. However, AAA budget games are “event” games. They only come out a few times a year, and most people that play games are using their consoles far more often than just the month of November. Mainstream gamers might buy Call of Duty and simply play the multiplayer all year until the next COD game, but many gamers play a variety of different things and, for fans of games off the beaten path, the quirkiness of Japanese titles is hard to ignore. Yakuza, for example, is not anywhere near the same scale of technical ambition as Grand Theft Auto, but it tells an extremely engaging, compelling story about Japanese organized crime that goes toe to toe with Rockstar’s crime-story antics. Bloodborne comes from the mind of the creator of Demon’s Souls and embraces difficulty and challenge the same way its predecessor did, something most western games shy away from. These are unique, niche games that still have a lot to offer a more open minded gamer, and when it comes to consoles, the PS4 is shaping up to be a better alternative for these kinds of experiences. There’s also the 3DS, which is a superior alternative for sheer numbers, but that’s another story.