There’s nothing in particular wrong with platform exclusives in general. Companies pour millions of dollars into R&D and manufacturing to bring hardware to market, and exclusives are another way it encourages install base growth in the hopes of bringing more third-parties to the platform – which is where a lot of those costs are recouped. First-party exclusives represent an investment in a platform.
No, what bothers people about exclusives is when they cut out an existing fanbase. The most memorable example right now is Rise of the Tomb Raider. The Tomb Raider franchise first really took off on consoles on a PlayStation platform. When games started coming out for Xbox, that was all for the good: as long as we didn’t have to deal with dodgy ports (see next page), there’s no reason beyond full on mental fanboyism to deny games to people just because they can only afford one console.
When Microsoft secured an Xbox exclusivity deal for Rise of the Tomb Raider, though, that was a different matter: suddenly a bunch of PlayStation fans were told they could either buy a new console, or miss out. It’s a timed exclusive, of course, so nobody will miss out forever (except maybe Wii U owners, but gosh, that’s a tough sell all round), but if you’ve been playing Tomb Raider games for two decades suddenly having to wait a year (or whatever) feels like an insult.
Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have all been guilty of securing exclusives, and often the end result is quite good – more money to build a better quality game, extra goodies for players on one platform that don’t take any resources from the core game everyone gets. In reality, having to wait an extra 12 months for a game isn’t that much of an ask, and happens all the time when developers can’t afford to focus on more than one platform, with no backlash. But by gum, it makes people angry when it’s announced ahead of time.