Rise Of The Tomb Raider An Xbox Exclusive? What Was Square Enix Thinking?

During Microsoft’s press briefing at Gamescom, it was revealed that Rise of the Tomb Raider will be exclusive to Xbox One. A sequel to the Tomb Raider reboot released in 2013, and developed by Crystal Dynamics, the news comes as a surprise considering that the previous title was available for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC platforms. So what was Square Enix thinking when making this deal?

Tomb Raider sold 3.6 million units within its first four weeks - a number that many developers and publishers would be happy about. However, Square Enix, the publisher behind Crystal Dyanmics, revealed in a financial briefing that it had expected the reboot to sell around 5-6 million units and were disappointed in its performance. Since then, the company also released the Tomb Raider Definitive Edition for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

So why broker a deal with Microsoft that makes Rise of the Tomb Raider an Xbox exclusive? Crystal Dynamics head of studios Darrell Gallagher explained the developer’s reason, “Tomb Raider in 2013 was a success due in large part to your continued support. Our goal has always been to deliver something truly special with Rise of the Tomb Raider. Today’s announcement with Microsoft is one step to help us put Tomb Raider on top of action adventure gaming. Our friends at Microsoft have always seen huge potential in Tomb Raider and have believed in our vision since our first unveil with them on their stage at E3 2011. We know they will get behind this game more than any support we have had from them in the past - we believe this will be a step to really forging the Tomb Raider brand as one of the biggest in gaming, with the help, belief and backing of a major partner like Microsoft.”

Make no mistake, this is a great coup for Microsoft considering that the Xbox One has been lagging behind Sony’s PlayStation 4. Microsoft is looking for its next big exclusive considering that its last one, Titanfall, has been underwhelming. It could also be that both companies are hoping that the Tomb Raider sequel, and additional follow-ups, will be the Xbox console’s equivalent to Sony’s Uncharted series on the PlayStation.

However, there is a problem for Square Enix. Microsoft has been silent on how many consoles have been sold since we were informed back in April that it had shipped 5 million units. Meanwhile, Sony revealed today at Gamescom that it had sold 10 million PS4s. Given Square Enix’s high aspirations for the series, why would it limit itself to the Xbox platform and, presumably, Xbox One’s smaller consumer base?

The biggest theory we can come up with is that Microsoft has been financing a huge part of the game’s development. If that is the case, it would certainly decrease the need for Rise of the Tomb Raider to sell a lot of units for Square Enix. The other theory is that this will be a timed exclusive but neither company wants to announce that yet and are taking a wait-and-see approach.

But if Rise of the Tomb Raider is an Xbox exclusive, then Square Enix is taking a huge risk. It risks alienating fans of the series and, possibly, poor sales on a platform that has half the consumer base of its competition.