Tomb Raidin’ tomfoolery at it’s finest!

So is everyone enjoying the Tomb Raider fun and frolics this week? Been entertaining, huh? Well, as someone who enjoyed the first game, I’ve been particularly interested in Crystal Dynamics Rise of the Tomb Raider. But it’s not exactly been the content of the title that’s been getting everyone talking lately, oh no.

RotTR

In a brief nutshell, since the initial ‘is it/isn’t it exclusive?’ fiasco that’s swept the Internet after what was clearly an intentionally ambiguously worded statement that Microsoft wanted everyone to think meant the new Tomb Raider game is only going to be on Xbox consoles, further information has come to light. Mainly because the Internet exploded and the majority of the Tomb Raider community flew off the handle resulting in Microsoft having to begrudgingly admit the deal they’ve paid for only covers a period of exclusivity with a limited duration. So basically they’ve paid to block the game from it’s fans on PS4 for a bit. Bit of a shame, as if the recent Tomb Raider Definitive Editions are anything to go by, the PS4 version will be superior as they failed to get the One to keep up with it’s rival console in several aspects, so fans will now have to wait for the likely better version. Some think it’s a low-blow from Microsoft. Some think Crystal Dynamics/Square have sold their soul. Some are crying ‘boycott all Squeenix products!’. But I’ll leave that at the wayside for now. After all, nobody said console wars were gonna be pretty I guess.

But what’s the deal with this current-gen-news-fandangoing, I hear you cry! Skirting a little close to matters of relevance, don’t you think? Well don’t worry my Grigadiers. There’s a retro-shaped edge to the tomgriggery afoot here.

Y’see, all this hoo hah has reminded me of the sly dealings of Sony back in the days of yore. Something seemingly lost on the whippersnappers of the day who declare Microsofts underhand tactics as being proof in convicting them as the scum of the earth. Let’s take a perusal at some of the wonderful comments the youngens have been scribing from the message boards of the web.

‘The Tomb Raider brand is now stained with unforgivable betrayal and greed.’ – Justerthought, CVG

‘I hope they burn.’ – Kiddoblivion, CVG

‘A franchise that was born and bred on playstation is now an exclusive on the inferior console! Microsoft obviously paid big bucks for this! Way to be loyal to Tomb Raider fans Crystal Dynamics! You’ve just alienated most of your fan’ – SilentJoe68za, Eurogamer

‘Where did Tomb Raider begin? Traitors! Also, Xbox One is doing awful… bad move Crystal Dynamics and Square, bad move!’ – DC_igloosmile, CVG

‘I can see the death threats and what not actually making them re-think their decision and make it into a multiplat.’ – Gamermania, Kotaku

‘f**k them as a life long tomb raider fan since the PS1 they can go f**k themselves. I hope it fails, money talks and MS have a s**t load of it.’ – Fenbobs, CVG

Entertaining stuff, huh? And don’t get me wrong – I’m as much of a non-fan of Microsoft these days as the next man, especially after 360 afforded them an inch and they tried to take a mile over the One’s initial policies. But MS have stirred up a bit of an eyeopening hornets nest here. I’m just enjoying how short the memory is of Playstation fans who once upon a time found hilarity in Sony hand picking big games for exclusivity on their machines. Or in fact, the surprise that it may be to todays gaming youngens who might not remember the distant likes of 1997, that this is not the first time this has happened with Tomb Raider.

TR1

Respect to da lens flare! The staple of any good 90’s artwork!

For indeed, what this all harks back to for me, is the console war of the mid to late nineties. Saturn vs Playstation.

‘Twas a time of excitement! Of youthful hope! Of Merrydown Cider for £2 a bottle! Of vomiting! Those last two went hand in hand. But even more excitingly, the dawn of a new generation of consoles! That’s always a fun time…

Or it was. Until Sony had to RUIN EVERYTHING!

SatPSX

Y’see, Sega, much like Microsoft, were coming off the back of a very strong showing from the previous gen, sorta like 360 for Xbox. They thought this allowed them to do what they wanted. It didn’t. Sorta like the One for Xbox. Everyone flocked to Playstation and ignored the competition. Sorta like the One for Xbox. Sega’s machine kinda fell on it’s ayne. Kinda like the… well, we’ll just wait and see.

Part of the success Sony had in capturing the majority of the industry was down to the games they managed to secure. Wipeout, Final Fantasy, Ridge Racer, Tekken and more relevantly, Tomb Raider, all ticked the right boxes with the gaming masses. Most of these big hitters were only to be found on Sony’s machine… except for Tomb Raider. The game was afoot.

Lara Croft, contrary to what the youth of the day seem to be spouting on message boards far and wide, began her gaming life on Sega Saturn… three months ahead of the PSX version.

Triangle boobs

Lara circa 1996: pointy

With the finest set of triangular knockers that gaming had ever seen, it was not long before Crofty was winging her way to becoming a household name. Overseeing proceedings, Sony with a wicked glint in it’s eye, then saw fit to play a merciless hand.

Tomb Raider 2.

TR2 w Lara

As mentioned, the first game found it’s way to both rival 32-bit machines. However, after a few disagreements with Core Design, tensions with Sega were beginning to swell. Cue Sony approaching Core with a bit of an idea. The idea being a fine looking fee that ensured the developers put the Saturn version of the sequel firmly in the bin. But it’s only now that they’ve shafted Sony that they are traitors you say? Hmm.

TR2

This was one of the first shots released of TR2. I actually remember this pic from CVG boasting a caption along the lines of ‘Apparently Saturn can’t do this’. Buh!

Even worse, the companies put word out that the cancellation was due to the Saturn being unable to handle the game, thus damaging the image of the flagging machine even more. Since the Saturn version of the original was undoubtedly less swish than the PSX version having been rushed out to get a head start, and missing a few parts of the game in order to make release, this was something people saw as believable. Perhaps it was. Particularly as many developers struggled to get the most out of the Saturn due to it’s strangely designed architecture. Maybe Core did lack the ability to get the results they desired. I guess we’ll never know now. But let’s face it. It’s more likely the money from Sony.

As stated by one gentleman, Calvin Gill on Kotaku, seemingly swimming against the tide of cluelessness, the following truth-fuelled quote he sought out and proceeded to decree.

‘In September 1997, Sony Computer Entertainment America signed a deal with Eidos to make console releases for the Tomb Raider franchise exclusive to the PlayStation, preventing the Sega Saturn or the Nintendo 64 from having any Tomb Raider game released for it until 2000, a deal that would prove very beneficial to Sony both in terms of revenue dollars and also in further cementing the PlayStation’s growing reputation as the go-to system for must-have exclusive titles.’

If you may remember, it was with the expiry of this deal that Core then released a conversion of Tomb Raider Chronicles on Dreamcast, shortly followed by Tomb Raider The Last Revelation.

TR DC

So… the backstabber returns huh? Well who needs you. Oh yeah. I own this game. But I only played it for half an hour despite paying full price, so the joke is on you! Sigh…

Amusingly now, I considered these releases as Core finally removing the knife from Sega’s back. I guess I’d have been lighting up the message boards with rage on the Internet had I had much access to it back in those days!

But what other games fell into Sony’s financial trappings? Let’s have a butchers…

Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3

The first recollection I have of the dreaded limited exclusivity deal, was Mortal Kombat 3, held back 6 months on the Saturn by Sony’s lowbrow deal wrangling. Actually, I’m glad to document this as it’s one of those recollections that’s incredibly hard to find any other information on and is in danger of becoming lost to time. Either that or I just made it up and am talking buh and that’s why nobody else remembers it. But I swear it’s true!

MK3

MK3. Probably. I actually don’t know that game well enough to know that this is actually it as I was busy playing SF Alpha in the 32-bit days which was infinitely better.

Mortal Kombat 3 released early in the life of the PSOne, and with the series still commanding a high level of interest and praise, was a great coup for Sony when they secured a 6 month exclusivity period. Whilst this was a tough blow to take, even though I thought the game was garbage and nothing compared to Street Fighter, the Saturn, along with Playstation as well, was only served an aged Kombat scraping in the form of a conversion of Mortal Kombat 2. Fair enough. But the whole thing had a sense of being disadvantaged at the hand of Sony who were not just doing fine work in ensuring their console had all the top new games, but were making it so that us paupers on Saturn did not. Grig!

UMK3

There was a brief bit of reprise when the Saturn version launched sporting all the updates from the Ultimate edition whereas PSX only had bog standard MK3. But by this point, with the advent of 3D fighting games like Tekken, Mortal Kombat was becoming increasingly irrelevant as punters far and wide were being wowed by the polygon pushing power of Playstation, and anything 2D was being considered old and crap as ‘the camera doesn’t zoom in’ as I was reliably informed (sarcasm) by a classmate at the time.

Ghostbusters.

Whilst not a particularly old game, ’twas only last gen that Sony were still plying their hands at the ol’ limited period of time exclusivity shenanigans. This was a bizarre one, as it applied only to the European market and was frankly a bit pointless. But still they doth persist!

GB3601

Wait… why didn’t J. Edgar Hoover appear to destroy them again?

After a glut of interest swelled across the ol’ www after an unlicensed Xbox 360 demo from Zootfly hit YouTube (in very bad quality video), gaming bosses hit upon a profound revelation – that people wanted a Ghostbusters game. You don’t say. Featuring the Ghostbusters looking more like the marines from Aliens, their proton pack wands were akin to huge chain gun kinda things. An interesting take on things, and possibly one to appeal to the growing dude-bro COD crowd that was gaining momentum. Urgh, I hate that term. Anyway, ’twas not they of the tech demo fame that got to ply their hand at the full release.

GB 360 beta

Another game that never was! Man this is a bad shot. Alas the video is so ropey this is the best I got. Seemed to be taking it’s cues from the fairly new at the time Gears of War. I was hyped for this!

GB Ecto-1 beta

Ecto-…2? Who knows. But this is certainly not the car we know and love, so I’m glad this vehicle never blighted the series. Ugly little spud.

GB beta art

What could have been the Ghostbusters in 2007. Had they actually acquired the official I.P. Which they didn’t. A good thing? Guess we’ll never know now!

But i’m getting off topic. Back to the Ghostbusters game that actually did come out. Terminal Reality handled the ‘next gen’ version, whilest Red Fly Studio dealt with the characature-esque more cartoony version for PS2, Wii, PSP with Zen studios making a DS game.

GB Wii

‘Yes it’s true. This man has no pee pee.’ Well it is the kiddie version after all.

Sony struck up a deal that bought them a six month head start on the PS3 version in Europe, which at time really ground my Grig as the PS3 version was markedly inferior with oodles of screen tearing abound, sub par frame rate, and not even technically being HD with it’s 960×540 resolution. All in all, it was buh. Which, by the way, was particularly hilarious when the dev teams started slating the 360 as some kind of inferior-to-PS3 pile of junk during the development process… before releasing the superior version on that very machine. More Sony influence at play? Get Jessie Ventura on these conspiracy theories! Anyhoo, so the PS3 version was what we had to stomach, at least for a while. Thanks Sony.

marshmellowman

PS buh! A sub HD Marshmellow Man scaling Terminal Reality towers to get to the bottom of this catastrophe yesterday.

Of course, everywhere else in the world received the game at the same time, so it felt distinctly like we were getting the shaft again. In fact, at one point it was very hazy as to whether Xbox 360 was even going to get the game in Europe at all due to some vague communications. But at last, we received the better version on 360, much to the delight of nobody who cared since fans had probably imported the U.S version months ago. But hey ho! Such is the buh you have to shovel when these things happen!

So there we go. A brief foray in to the world of a few exclusive dealings. Whilst Sony was the bigger boy bullying all the other kids in the playground in years gone by, it’s interesting to see the reaction now an even bigger boy has entered the fray and started throwing his weight around. Of course, the instances I’ve listed above are only a small snippet of these type of deals from Sony. History contains all the big hitters being involved in trying to secure big names exclusively for their machines over the years. Just look at when Resident Evil went Gamecube exclusive. I mean, that only set the series back about ten years and lost most of the public interest in it while shifting literally dozens of Gamecubes, so that worked out great. Tssk!

Good luck Lara. You’re gonna need it.

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2 Responses to Tomb Raidin’ tomfoolery at it’s finest!

  1. bedgell says:

    Nintendo were the original criminals. When those nice fluffy family friendly fellas rehabilitated the console gaming market in the mid 80s, they also instigated a raft of protectionist measures like including not just game exclusivity but developer exclusivity. Until the plucky Sega crew bust their monopoly in the early 90s, Nintendo were known to cripple devs who dared to code on another brother’s machin’. And those they liked still had to pay a ridiculous royalty to Nintendo, but all their game paks from the Yamamoto clan, and even then were only allowed to release a limited number of titles per year. They really were utter buh-stards. But thanks to Sega, all that broke down. Sort of. And of course, Sega didn’t really do a lot for years – unlike Temco who burned their whole business on trying to undo Nintendo’s reign of terror by backwards engineering the NES. But we can’t laud them too much as a certain EA then did exactly the same with the Megadrive. Punks.

    What I basically don’t get is why suddenly this one exclusivity deal has hit a nerve. In mean it is so common.

  2. lartens says:

    Man I forget Sony used to be the big bully, nowadays it’s the delightful one that bring out the less obvious games. I still need someone to play ib and ob with me or whatever it’s called. Actually I can’t eben remember if its ps3 or steam. But Ni no Kuni , Sword Art Online, Persona 4, other nice looking rpgs, Sony does it. Shame they still have the most awkward controller.

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