EDIT: Hey all! OP here - Well this became bigger than I thought it would.
I wrote this wall of cringe yesterday because I was a bit annoyed at this clear moneyhat, timed exclusive for a classic Xbox title that was one of defining reasons of many of our passions for this hobby - and more precisely, why some of us have found our gaming home on Xbox. I have become very invested in the community here and on the other era - I love talking the ins and out of the industry. The console horserace, and the back and forth of the moves that each platform make on a day-to-day basis. In fact, I have taking to writing to explore this passion and have tried to develop a personal blog to express this interest. But I think this was infused with an irrational concern and fanboy rhetoric in the original post that I made, and it spoke rather poorly to what I actually want to do.
I stand by that I think this was a mistep on Xbox’s part to let it slip through their hands (assuming they even were in the room - obviously, they have no ownership on the IP), but this post was an overreaction and fanboyish and I would definitely not write it in that manner in hindsight. It was a childish mistake - I don’t want to flame the console wars anymore than we typically see in these sorts of discussions. With reflection and hindsight, I would approach this topic very differently.
At this point, those feelings have faded and I am just excited we have a KotOR remake to experience - and I look forward to playing it on the Playstation 5 when it releases!
TL;DR: A KotOR Remake is great for gamers generally, but it is embarrasing that it is skipping Xbox at launch. I don’t hate exclusives, and will be playing this on PS5, but this is part of a worrying trend for Xbox and we should talk about that.
Lucasfilms Games Presents
The original Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is commonly included in lists that document the best games of all time. For many, it is the reason why they fell in love with roleplaying games, with Star Wars, and/or with Xbox. This classic RPG was Bioware’s big coming out party to the many console-only players who had never gotten around to playing their other bonafide classics, like Baldurs Gate I and II.
So you can imagine the surprise one might feel to find out that its long awaited Remake would not only be unveiled on the stage of Xbox’s biggest rival, it would be announced as a timed console exclusive for the PS5. Now this is certainly a moment of celebration: A legendary roleplaying title is being remade for a new generation of players on a new generation of hardware. For veterans of KotOR, this a renewed chance to explore the streets of Taris or battle in the dark underbrush of the forest world Kashyyyk (likely, with outstanding new visual and audio effects to take in) I definitely count myself as part of the latter, as a fan of the original who has played through the title too many times to count.
But I can’t help but linger on the other component of this unveiling: That Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - Remake is an exclusive to a platform that has never seen the original titles. This is ultimately a tremendous steal for Playstation, as the console maker enacts its counterattack to Xbox’s newly expanded suite of first party studios. It is a testament to the success that Disney has had in licensing its most prized IP - KotOR now joins a multitude of other announced titles from Disney’s slate of blue-chip brands, like Marvel’s Spiderman and Wolverine and Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones. It is a huge win for Aspyr, a game developer who has specialized in porting other developer’s projects to new platforms, as they look to build out a AAA title of their own.
Ultimately, however, it is a stunning embarrassment for Xbox.
Anniversary and Legacy
We find ourselves in 2021, the twentieth anniversary of the Original Xbox’s launch. This past year has largely been a celebratory experience for Phil Spencer, Xbox Game Studios, and the entire platform team all around the world. We have seen an incredibly warm response to the latest Halo Infinite test flight - the latest entry in the epic shooter franchise that is similarly celebrating its twentieth birthday. We witnessed an incredible showing of new games for the Series consoles at Xbox’s summer showcase in June. And Game Pass has definitively established itself as the premier gaming subscription with day 1 launches of games such as Outriders, MLB The Show, and Psychonauts 2.
So when one of the best Xbox games of all time finds itself announced as an exclusive on a competitors stage for their shiny new hardware during the anniversary year of its original platform’s release, I am left with a whole host of questions:
How could this happen?
Did Xbox not know that Aspyr was making a KotOR remake?
Did Xbox know that Aspyr was making a KotOR remake, and choose not to prevent an exclusivity arrangement with Playstation?
Regardless of whether they did know, or if they didn’t, I can’t describe this situation as anything other than a complete embarrassment for Xbox. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and its sequel, are integral to their story as a platform holder in this industry. An unveiling on their rival’s stage would have been enough of a coup to raise questions as to strategic orientation in Redmond. The fact that a timed exclusivity arrangement has been secured for its release is on a different level. Xbox will now see a beloved title from its past release skip its player base at launch.
Not to say this a wholly unexpected development. Imran Khan was one of the first in games media to beat the drum that Sony was going after traditionally Xbox franchises and developers for next generation partnerships. We could see this with the announcements that Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo from then independent publisher, Bethesda, would launch as timed exclusives on PS5. Even now, there are murmurs that the Bioshock reboot could be exclusive to Playstation - a far cry from the original’s initial launch exclusivity on the Xbox 360. Even Alan Wake, with its recently announced remake, was featured by Playstation (not to mention, that Remedy’s Control has been involved heavily in Playstation’s marketing beats over the past several years.) I had my fears that this could extend to Aspyr, but I remained appallingly optimistic in hindsight.
Now I understand the retorts here:
Xbox has spent vast sums of resources in building partnerships with developers and publishers of its own. That Deathloop and Ghostwire publisher I mentioned above? Well it is no longer independent - it is a part of Xbox now. It’s not like this is a one-way street. Xbox has made their own moves, including (reportedly) with traditionally PlayStation-aligned industry figures like Kojima. What does it matter that an Xbox-aligned game here or there finds its’ way to Playstation, or a developer with substantial history with Xbox’s publishing arm decides to seek out an alternative partnership? Plus, Xbox already has a great slate of first party RPG’s coming their way. Hell, even Xbox doesn’t have unlimited resources - a game that Xbox “saves” from timed exclusivity over here may mean a new and exciting project goes unfunded over there.
And I think in most cases, these would be compelling arguments. But this isn’t most cases - a remake of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic isn’t just some game.
Imagine if Xbox secured the timed exclusive remake of the legendary Japanese RPG, Final Fantasy 7 - I know, it is very hard to picture. The fact is, beyond the obvious that I don’t think Square Enix would ever undertake such a deal, Playstation would never let that happen if it were to be on the table in the first place. For Playstation fans, Final Fantasy 7 is a defining memory of their early experiences on the PS1. It is a cherished title, with iconic worlds, characters, and music that have persisted across time.
For many Xbox fans, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic was their parallel. And the remake deserved better than that from the decision makers at Xbox. From my understanding, while not a widely known game amongst the general audience, enough people knew that a KotOR project was in the works - I have difficulty believing that leaders within Xbox did not know that such a title was in development nor that Playstation was seeking its exclusivity. That such an arrangement was made is a colossal failure that disrespects the importance of the original to Xbox fans. If they didn’t, then that would an competitive intelligence failing on a fundamental level.
To be frank, I have no issues with exclusives - Timed or permanent. First, “second”, or third party. First or third person - they have been staples within the strategic operations of platform holders in this industry from before I was born, and they will likely exist well beyond the time that I can pick up a controller. The fact that Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is an exclusive for Playstation is nothing more than another reason for me to buy a PS5, which I planned to do anyway (and I suppose that is ultimately the point.) I had a similar attitude towards Xbox’s recent slate of acquisitions that have targeted popular third party developer and publishers across the industry. Their games were likely to be exclusive, and I ultimately thought it would be a net positive - after all, they would make Xbox a more compelling place to play, which would only force Playstation to respond with an ever increasingly competitive lineup of excellent games of their own. This is a win for gamers.
The fact that we are getting a remake of Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic is a win for gamers, but the wider context paints a more confusing picture for those who only own a Xbox Series console. These players are no-doubt getting access to an incredible suite of exclusive announced and unannounced titles, including amazing singleplayer RPGs like The Outer Worlds 2, Starfield, and Avowed. But you can’t help but be saddened at the fact that a remake of the game that may have made those gamers Xbox fans in the first place won’t be available to play at launch.
More definitively, this is a clear negative moment for Xbox as it continues to mount its comeback from the disastrous Xbox One years.
Don’t get me wrong: I am beyond excited for the future of Xbox - I eagerly anticipate the return of Fable, Perfect Dark, and The Elder Scrolls. And to explore the new worlds that Double Fine, Compulsion Games, and ID dream up.
But if KotOR isn’t worth securing for your platform, then what else could Playstation secure as timed exclusives: Mass Effect 4? Remedy’s next game?
I am left with a little bit of a sour taste as to what this means for the future of Xbox, and games that found their home there in the past. What are your thoughts?