The Fitzgerald Scale – Microsoft and The Story of One Million Sales

I wonder how Microsoft are feeling at the moment in regards to news that Rise of the Tomb Raider sold one million copies? Do they feel like they got their monies worth for staking claim to the game as a timed exclusive, or are they disappointed with the sales and feeling a shred of buyer’s remorse?

When I heard that the game hit the one million mark, my first response was to be relatively impressed. Considering ROTTR was released at the same time as guaranteed big hit Fallout 4, the fact it was able to hold its own that much was a reasonably pleasant surprise. I know that some people would have liked to have seen the game bomb for certain reasons, which we’ll cover below, but I was never really of that mind set. At the end of the day, I enjoyed the original Tomb Raider reboot on the Xbox 360 and, had ROTTR been released on the PS4, I probably would have picked it up. I still might do so when it finally finds its way to Sony’s machine at some point this year.

So no, I had no vested interest in ROTTR bombing out as others seemed to. I couldn’t help but sense a malevolent glee from some areas of the internet when it looked like the game was going to perform badly. I can understand this of course. I can see how certain video game enthusiasts would view timed exclusives as something we should all have a vested interest in seeing fail. Competition in the marketplace is, at its heart, a good thing to have. It’s an absolute pain in the nether regions that I now have to pay not just a Sky Sports subscription every month but also a BT Sport one just to ensure I can watch the Premier League on TV. It would make life imminently easier for me to just pay the one subscription and have everything in the same place.

However, when companies realise they have a fully captive and, most importantly, dependant audience, the drive to provide the utter-most service they can, will always inevitably drop. Look at the WWE these days and ask yourself if their product has been better or worse since WCW and ECW fell by the wayside and they established a veritable North American Wrestling Monopoly. I would strongly argue that not having a legitimate rival breathing down their neck has only caused complacency to creep in. Not only that, it’s given talented wrestlers less places to ply their trade and sustain a full time living doing so.

So in some ways, it’s a positive that Microsoft were prepared to slap the cold hard cash on the counter and showcase Lara Croft for a period of exclusivity, however brief. It gave a veritable reason for people to actually choose an Xbox One over a PS4. Yes, it was a cause of disconcertion for fans of the previous game who couldn’t afford both consoles, such as myself, but it at least gave a tangible reason for non Xbox One owners to actually bite the bullet and pick one up. Ever since its atrocious launch, the Xbox One has steadily improved its standing as this console generation has moved along. The PS4 is still the dominant horse in the race when it comes to shifting console units, but the formerly beleaguered XBO is at least developing a loyal and satisfied fan base. And this fan base now seems to have been motivated to pick ROTTR up, even when confronted with a multi-platform juggernaut like Fallout 4 as competition for the contents of their wallets.

I’m glad that Crystal Dynamics work putting the game together was not all for naught. At the end of the day, the game flopping would only have hurt the chances of any future games in the series coming out. As someone who is old enough to remember playing the very first TR game way back in the 90’s, I certainly hope the series can continue onwards. I even say this as someone who didn’t even like the original series of games that much. Tomb Raider II in particular drove me to the point of absolute insanity with its steep difficulty and positively rubbish combat (Yes, you read that right, the combat in the early TR games was utter mince. COME AT ME BRO!!!) and Tomb Raider III didn’t fare much better. I enjoyed the rebooted Tomb Raider more than any of the previous games and I’m genuinely interested to see where they take the character should they be given the chance to do so. From this perspective alone, I’m glad the game at least didn’t completely bomb.

The question is will Microsoft be satisfied with the sales? We live in times where SEGA were disappointed with an Alien: Isolation game that sold over two million copies. Will a return of one million be enough to convince Microsoft that they made a justifiable investment, or will they feel that they would have been better off saving their money and taking their chances alongside everyone else in a multi-platform wide release instead? If it is the former, will Microsoft be tempted to try this again with another popular game series? And if it’s the latter, will this go some way to convincing Microsoft that it’s best to avoid timed exclusives in the future?

I, for one, am very intrigued to see the answer to those questions. Ostensibly, I’m against timed exclusives. I really don’t see any particular worth in them. Actual exclusives, though I’m not a huge fan of them either, at least have a point to their exploitative existence. The fact you could only get Metal Gear Solid 4 on a PS3 made sense. Yes, Sony was essentially doing little more than holding content hostage, but it at least had a rational business reason for doing so. By making the PS3 the only console you could play MGS 4, Sony had an instant ace in the hole with which to tempt people to buying their console. This was a game you were never going to get on the Xbox 360, and if you loved Metal Gear it would be a constant sticking point at the back of your mind.

With a timed exclusive, the heartier amongst a fan base will be capable of waiting for the game to come to the system that they own. There will be some Lara nuts, fearful of spoilers and already on the cusp of buying an XBO, who may have shelled out the requisite 70 Bison Dollars to play the game before their PC and PS4 owning friends, but there will have been plenty who were prepared simply to put their feet up and wait it out.

In my opinion, timed exclusives effect nowhere near the same amount of audience that an actual exclusive would. In such a circumstance, an actual exclusive would be far more likely to bring money and sales to your company than a timed one would. For that reason, I would be loathe to spend a handsome fee to acquire exclusivity on a merely temporary basis. It’ll be interesting in the coming months to see if Microsoft agrees with that assertion or not.

Thanks for reading

Nil Satis, Nisi Optimum

The Urban Dictionary defines “The Fitzgerald Scale” as “A scale used to measure the awkwardness of a situation. The Fitzgerald Scale is divided into ten subunits, called ‘Geralds’. Each Gerald is in turn divided into ten Subgeralds, which gives 100 possible levels of awkwardness. One Gerald is a commonly awkward level, where a ten Gerald situation would be a scarring event.”

Example
Man, the atmosphere of that party was off the Fitzgerald scale when we decided to leave

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