Should First-Party Companies Acquire Third-Party Companies Just Because They Can?

I don’t know about you. But this doesn’t seem like a good move for anyone. 

As of late, there’s been a lot of talk about first-party companies picking up third-party companies. The efforts are to bolster their line-ups and trying to give their audience more games. Which is fine and dandy, however, the problem with this is that this ultimately does more harm than good. Mainly it takes games away that was normally available for all systems and moves it solely to a single platform.

We’ve seen this in action in the past. Most notably this happened when Sony and Capcom teamed up for Street Fighter V. Now, I know people are likely to chime in and say that it was due to Sony that the game was even developed. While I agree with this, it doesn’t detract from the fact that doing this landed the follow-up to one of the most influential games of all time on Sony’s PlayStation. It’s safe to say that Capcom could have made a bit more money if Street Fighter V made it over to Microsoft’s Xbox as well. It would have sold more copies which in term would have produced more capital. That’s a given, not speculation.

This has been the topic of an ongoing debate on who should acquire who. It’s all over Twitter, Reddit, talked about in countless YouTube videos, and only heaven knows where else. Should Microsoft buy Sega? Should Sony acquire Platinum Games? Will Nintendo buy up Playtonics? Sure, there’s nothing wrong with playful speculation. However, the actual practice could hurt countless gamers and potentially the gaming industry. 

Phil Spencer - Head of Microsoft's Xbox Division
Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s Xbox division

Everyone wants their gaming platform of choice to have all the cool and popular games. Who doesn’t? When I was growing up it was Nintendo vs Sega, but we still had plenty of this. I was primarily Sega for a while, but my friends were all Nintendo from the jump. Every so often we would go “It would be so cool if Sonic the Hedgehog was on the Super Nintendo” or “Super Contra would be so much better on the Sega Genesis”. Of course, Sonic was a first-party title at the time, yet the idea of gamers wanting their favorite games on their system of choice is something we’ve done at one time or another. Ironically enough we did get Contra: Hard Corps on the Genesis.

Those times were simpler back then. A large majority of games developed were to take advantage of the console’s strengths. I’m looking at you, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and your Super FX chip. However, there’s this thing called progression and through the ages of gaming, hardware has gotten better. To the point where third-party games run similarly on multiple systems. While first-party games are pushed as “must-have” or “killer software” that honestly could run on anything system.

Baring the first generation of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, I’m sure that Bloodborne (or insert any game) could run just as well on the Xbox One X as it does on the PlayStation 4 Pro. First-party titles are typically games from companies that are owned by the parent company or those that are closely aligned with them due to preference or stake in the company (second-party).

But what about the third-party games? Well, that’s a good question, isn’t it? The point is for these games to be multi-platform. All gamers, regardless if they own an Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, or PC can play these games. Nw, let’s throw a monkey wrench into the works. Let’s say that Microsoft or Sony acquires Sega, Ubisoft, Capcom, Ninja Theory, Platinum Games, or even Electronic Arts.

Suddenly the balance that once existed between all the platforms gets ruined. Now (insert gamer) isn’t able to play (insert game) on their platform of choice. Now he or she is upset or saddened, and now they’ll either have to do with not playing that game. Or shelling out more money to buy another console that they didn’t want in the first place. While some don’t see this as a problem, it most definitely is.

It’s also a sure-fire way to stop any chances of popular third-party characters crossing over into other games. I don’t know about you but I enjoy seeing Sonic the Hedge or Ryu in Smash Bros. or seeing Street Fighter Characters squaring off against Tekken characters. This is just another unseen and possible casualty in the equation. This is why I’m so adamant against Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo on gobbling up any major third-party companies.

It warps the playing field. But let me be clear, there are exceptions. Such as a company either on the verge of bankruptcy or if they’re selling off their IPs to stay afloat. Then, by all means, acquire away. I’d rather those games still exist in some form, instead of potentially going away forever. A prime example of this is what happened to THQ (the original) and when they sold off their IPs so that other companies could keep those games going.

3rd party game characters
If any 1st party company ever got a hold of these games, forget about sharing the love. Oh, wait…

I don’t want to be forced to buy the latest Call of Duty on the PlayStation or Xbox One. The idea alone makes me cringe, but if this nonsense comes to pass, then this is exactly what’s going to happen. Suddenly those multiplatform games will go the way of the Dodo bird and gamers will be stuck with buying multiple systems out of necessity, not because they can or want to. You might think the odds of this happening are slim. Yet we hear rumors and speculations on this very topic, more and more. And sooner or later, they may not just be rumors. Just look at the mobile carrier market if you think this isn’t possible.

I’d rather we keep it as it is. Let’s keep third-party games open for all platforms. If Sony or Microsoft or Nintendo needs some exclusivity, they can just toss in something that is system-specific. That’s something that’s been happening for a while and quite frankly I’d rather than continue if keeps the current third-party games available to everyone. The less of two evils, but one that could keep everyone happy.

Of course, if it does happen, then it is what it is. There are reasons why this will happen and the most we can do is be happy for those who will eventually benefit from it, mourn for those who won’t, and move on. Love that companies work that much, then they can either pick up the new system those games will come to next or simply pass on them. It’s not like anyone is twisting their arm, right?

How about you? Do you agree that third-party companies/games should stay out of the hands of first-party companies? Or do you think that moving those brands to first-party companies is a good move?