For a vocal group of fans it's not just a business move, but a killing blow. Microsoft's claim to Rise of the Tomb Raider, as an Xbox-only game for Holiday 2015, is incurring the sort of backlash and petition-signing flurry (seen above) that's well known to veterans of the infamous console wars. And it's not even the first time a Tomb Raider sequel has been through this – just ask Sega Saturn owners who had to get a PC or PlayStation if they wanted to a keep their streak of unearthed relics.
The fallout comes from a good place: Long-time raiders have grown up with Lara Croft and her tomb-trashing style of archeology, still fondly recalling their first encounter with a Tyrannosaurus Rex, or the fatal result of a badly judged swan dive. Those moments belong to them, stored in a box that runs regardless of which console sits beneath the TV.
But you buy a console for the games, and Rise of the Tomb Raider is a good thing to have if you're in the business of selling consoles. That means Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo.
"Our focus, of course, our job, is to provide a bunch of value for the Xbox customers," says Mike Nichols, Corporate VP of Marketing for Xbox. "And Tomb Raider is a great way to do that, so we're very excited about the announcement and that they came out on stage and had made that decision."
Speaking to me during Gamescom in Germany, Nichols says Crystal Dynamics, the Californian developer that revitalized Tomb Raider twice over since it left the hands of Core Design in 2003, has been a standout partner to Microsoft for years.
"We hope people are going to react well to it in the end. Once things roll out and people get a chance to see – we're excited to see what [Crystal Dynamics] can do with the game, and what they can do especially on Xbox, so we'll see how it goes from there."
Meanwhile, Darrell Gallagher, Head of Studios at Crystal Dynamics had this to share on the Tomb Raider Tumblr:
"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."
Gallagher spells out the big benefit: Tomb Raider will reach the developer's benchmark, landing "on top of action adventure gaming," with the "help, belief and backing of a major partner like Microsoft." If you could boil this down to an exchange, it would be trading Rise of the Tomb Raider – a strong player in a genre the Xbox One needs – for support from a marketing behemoth.
Microsoft and Crystal Dynamics aren't saying how long exclusivity will hold, but nothing stays the same forever. As her greatest fans can confirm, Lara Croft's been killed, buried, resurrected and rebooted in all her years of formative work. The sobering ascent in games, however, is becoming a product of your time – good enough to sell consoles.
[Images: Square Enix]