Is Console Exclusivity To Blame?

Highlights

  • Baldur’s Gate 3 wins Game of the Year at The Game Awards, while Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 goes home empty-handed.
  • The game’s exclusivity to PlayStation 5 may have hurt Spider-Man 2’s chances of winning awards.
  • Previous Game of the Year winners were multi-platform releases, suggesting single-platform games have a disadvantage.

The Game Awards have come and gone, and we’ve got another exciting 12 months ahead before industry experts and fans decide on just what the best games of 2024 will be (and enough trailers to keep us hyped until then). To the surprise of absolutely no one, Baldur’s Gate 3 has walked away with the coveted Game of the Year prize and a handful of others, and latecomer Alan Wake 2 swooped in to steal some much-sought-after awards as well (Best Game Direction, Best Narrative, and Best Art Direction).

So … uhhh… this is awkward, but what about Marvel’s Spider-Man 2? Well, after being nominated for seven different categories (including three of the four listed above), the team at Insomniac Games walked out of The Peacock Theater in Los Angles with exactly bupkis. Probably not the night they were hoping for.

Of course, it’s an honor just to be nominated. That goes without saying, and it’s been a well-repeated catchphrase among the non-winners at awards shows since time immemorial. But I can’t shake the feeling that Spider-Man 2 being tied to the PlayStation 5, and only the PlayStation 5, may have hurt its chances at least a little. Let me explain.


Tallying Up All Those Votes

First, we need to look at how winners of the awards are actually chosen. There’s the Players’ Voice Award, which is 100% chosen by fans through online voting. But beyond that one specific category, every other award only gives public voting 10% of its weight, with the bulky 90% coming from a jury of industry experts, with some specialized juries for more specific topics like e-sports.

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That being said, the people behind The Game Awards are actually aware of the potential problem of console bias, and they’ve taken steps to keep it to a minimum. Namely, that’s why they keep the jury around instead of letting the fan vote account for everything. According to an FAQ on their official website, “Creating a 100% fan vote presents several challenges. First, given that some games are exclusive to one platform, a public vote puts single-platform games at an inherent disadvantage over multi-platform titles. In addition, it is important that winners cannot be ‘socially engineered’ in any way. We find that a blended vote is the most credible and authentic way to select winners.”

Even so, it doesn’t eliminate the possibility of a swing in the votes, and if fans don’t have access to a certain game because they don’t have a machine that can run it, then its almost impossible for that section of the masses to throw their support behind it.

Looking Back At Past Winners

Bioware Dragon Age Inquisition Solas

This year marked the 10th iteration of The Game Awards. That gives us a little bit of history to work with, so I want to go over every game that’s taken home the Game of the Year title just to see how much availability each had at the time.

In a way that I don’t find surprising, the majority of the Game of the Year winners all released on at least two different platforms in the year that they won. The inaugural winner, Dragon Age: Inquisition released on PC as well as two generations of both PlayStation and Xbox consoles. The same can be said for It Takes Two, which took home top honors in 2021, as well as last year’s winner Elden Ring. Three games on the list — The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Overwatch, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice — didn’t span different console generations at launch, but they all came out for PlayStation, Xbox, and PC in their respective award-winning years.

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Even The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, an obvious Nintendo exclusive, released simultaneously on the Switch and Wii U, and I’m not sure the Wii U is any more real than Shazam! starring Sinbad, because I’ve never seen one in person.

Wii U console

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While this year’s big winner, Baldur’s Gate 3, had been console-specific to the PlayStation 5 until its Xbox debut on December 7, it’s also had a strong and historic following on PC and Mac, where it spent nearly three years in Early Access — plenty of time to build up a loyal fan base.

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 was good, but not GOTY good.

Really, the only games to ever manage to walk away with the grand prize while releasing on just one platform were 2018’s God of War and 2020’s The Last of Us Part 2. The former released exclusively for the PlayStation 4 and didn’t get a PC port until almost four years later, while the latter has a PlayStation 5 release planned for January. That’s not a great track record for games that are only playable on one specific machine when it comes to winning Game of the Year.

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Likewise, not only was Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 a PlayStation-exclusive console release, but it was exclusive to PlayStation 5. Full stop. That means no Xbox or Nintendo, No PC, and perhaps most importantly of all, no PlayStation 4. I can understand Insomniac’s reason for pushing the game onto the current generation only, and I’m sure the quality is all the better for not having to make it work on antiquated hardware, but times are tough, and there are still PlayStation loyalists out there plugging away on last generation’s console who got left out in the cold. Unfortunately, I fear that’s a two-way street come awards time.

Time To Weight In Myself

Still of Spider-Man standing next to a statue of a dog in Spider-Man 2

I was actually trying to keep my personal opinion out of this as much as possible, but from my own perspective, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 was good, but not GOTY good (and I say this knowing fully well that I’ll have to sleep with one eye open from now on, waiting for my colleague Matthew O’Dwyer to smother me with a pillow for saying that after his perfect 10/10 review). It was a fun action adventure title with an enthralling new take on the Spider-Man story, but in the end, it’s not going to edge out a sprawling RPG masterpiece like BG3.

Would I have personally given Spider-Man 2 any of the awards it was nominated for? Frankly, no. I’ve got a pretty strong opinion about four of the six awards that were mostly decided on by the jury, and I think they nailed all of them (especially Neil Newbon getting acknowledged for his spectacularly heartwrenching performance as Astaraion). The other two (Best Sound Design and Innovation in Accessibility) weren’t categories I had a strong opinion about, and the last was Players’ Voice, which seemed like another easy pickup for BG3.

Still, my opinions are just my own. I’m not retroactively stumping for Spider-Man 2 or saying Insomniac got robbed, but I’m sure there are plenty of people who disagree with me, and maybe their opinions could have shifted the vote just enough for the pair of Spideys to walk away with some gold. And I bet there would have been more of those peope too, if only they’d had the chance to play it.

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