With all of the home entertainment features that come with current and next-generation gaming consoles, it's easy to forget that their main function is to play games. Most popular games are produced for Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox and Sony's (NYSE:SNE) PlayStation, but each console also has its own exclusive games. These games can only be played on one console and can help push gamers to buy one brand over the other.
Say Halo to my little friend
Microsoft's best-selling exclusive games have been the Halo series. This first person shooter sci-fi series has sold over 50 million games on Microsoft systems since the original Halo release for the first Xbox. In addition to high sales volume, Halo games have also received stellar reviews; for instance, game site IGN gave the most recent Halo game a 9.8 out of 10. The game has a single player mode, but most of its appeal comes from online play. Gamers can play with their friends and strangers across the world indefinitely, which gives the game more value both economically and socially.
In addition to Halo, Xbox has a few other blockbuster exclusives like Gears of War and Fable. The most recent installments of each franchise sold 5.85 million and 4.87 million units, respectively.
Moving into the next generation of gaming, Microsoft has another Halo in development. However, before that Xbox One will have Titanfall, a first person shooter from some of the makers of Modern Warfare 1 & 2. Other exclusive games include Dead Rising 3, Forza Motorsport 5, and Ryse: Son of Rome.
Naughty dog, great games
PlayStation has had several successful exclusive game franchises that include God of War, Infamous, and Metal Gear Solid, but one of its most advantageous exclusives are the productions of Naughty Dog Studio. Since beginning Crash Bandicoot in 1994, Naughty Dog has produced some of the best and most successful game franchises for Sony. These include the Jak and Daxter series for the PlayStation 2, the Uncharted series for the PlayStation 3, and the most recent The Last of Us, which received a 10 out of 10 on IGN. Having sold roughly 3.34 million copies worldwide since its Jun. 14 release, The Last of Us is also one of the best-selling games of 2013. Naughty Dog has consistently evolved and improved game making and storytelling for itself and the industry.
While Naughty Dog has not announced another game, it can be expected that the studio will produce something for PlayStation 4. At launch the PS4 will release two exclusives, Killzone Shadow Fall and Knack. Killzone is a first person shooter, while Knack is a more family friendly platformer. Moving past launch, there will be more exclusives like Infamous: Second Son, The Order: 1886, and Driveclub. Sony Santa Monica, the studio behind God of War, is also expected to produce a top notch game for the PS4.
Not the only thing
While exclusive games can help sales, it takes a lot more than a cool character to have a successful console launch. Nintendo (NASDAQOTH:NTDOY) has several exclusive games like Wii U Zelda, Pikmin 3, and Super Mario Mii, but has only sold around 3.86 million Wii U's worldwide. That's bad when you compare this console to Nintendo's Wii, which has sold over 100 million units. The Wii U's exclusive games feature some of the most popular gaming characters of all time, but that was not enough to convince consumers to purchase consoles. This shows that while exclusive games are important, they need to belong to a console that consumers want to purchase.
Next steps for next gen
Xbox and PlayStation have high selling, critically acclaimed exclusive games for the current generation and a solid pipeline for the next generation. Historically, Sony has had a larger number of high caliber exclusive games, and I believe it has the advantage in this category. The PS4 and Xbox One will have a lot of bells and whistles, but the games will be a deciding factor for consumers choosing which console to purchase.
Ben Popkin has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.