When Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration took the cover of Official PlayStation Magazine with style in the September 2016 issue, the re-launch of the second instalment in this rebooted series was hard to miss.
Subtitles on the cover accurately described Lara as “The First Lady of PlayStation” – so why is it that she went temporarily exclusive to Xbox, only to return? Here’s a brief recap of all the recent drama surrounding gaming’s golden girl. Fans were left heartbroken when at Gamescom 2014 it was confirmed that Rise of the Tomb Raider would be released as an Xbox exclusive the following year.
Naturally, the internet flew into uproar. Fans took to angrily jumping on publishers, Square Enix and developers, Crystal Dynamics, to demand answers for taking away their access to the leading lady of gaming. Lara has a long history of not only being an icon of the PlayStation brand, but also as a multiplatform heroine, available widely to fans. Titles in the franchise have previously been released onto platforms spanning PlayStation, Xbox and PC, the first instalment which reached Xbox being Tomb Raider Legend (2006). Even titles Tomb Raider Anniversary (2007) and Tomb Raider Underworld (2008) were both released on the Nintendo Wii.
To say the least, Xbox exclusivity came as a big surprise for fans of the franchise, new and old, especially when some could argue that the PS4 offered better exclusives at the time. With the likes of Naughty Dog releasing the outstanding The Last of Us: Remastered and having also announced the fourth (and now maybe last) instalment of the smash hit franchise Uncharted at E3 2014, consequently many were not willing to buy a new console in order to enable themselves to invest in a single title.
To add to the confusion, at the time of the announcement, PS4 was out-selling Xbox One quite significantly. Xbox was in need of an iconic character to rival the likes of Nathan Drake, and a triple-A title to rival the likes of Uncharted. Exclusivity was a method thought to help boost Xbox sales. Exclusive games sell consoles, effectively. However, despite rave reviews the game initially failed to sell as well as its predecessor, not to mention in essentially only appealing to one side of participants in the ever ongoing console war.
Further impacting sales, Rise of the Tomb Raider was released on the same day as Fallout 4, another long anticipated instalment to a very popular series. After some scrutiny of a statement from Darrel Gallagher (Head of Development at Crystal Dynamics at the time) on their “friends at Microsoft”, many suspected that Microsoft had basically offered the studio a rather large chunk of money, at the expense of fuelling the rage of many disappointed fans.
Yet after long debate, confusion and suspicion as to whether the game would ever arrive onto other platforms, July 2015 saw Square Enix reveal a PS4 release date of late 2016. This gave the Xbox version one year of exclusivity. On the plus side, and it is a big plus, the 20-year celebration edition literally comes with everything, including VR support, an art book, all previously released DLC, new multiplayer modes, character skins, and more. It seems good things do come to those who wait!
After a quiet E3 this year in which Rise of the Tomb Raider was mentioned hardly at all, it’s a relief that Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics are finally making a big deal not only about the launch onto PS4, but also celebrating the 20th year of the series as a whole. Lara is a gaming legend, and it’s only right that the franchise be celebrated in such a way that lets more of the fans have the best experience of her latest adventure.