If you’ve read our breakdown of which platform holders produce the best games, you might be having a little deja vu. But wait! This is a very different question. What we want to do here is look at each of the three major systems while applying a specific set of filters that, in theory, should give us a good idea of each console’s exclusive offering.
These filters are simple. Rather than looking at firstparty software only, as the platform holders analysis did, this time around we’re going to look at all exclusive titles. From that data, we’re going to look at games that satisfy two criteria: they have to be ‘big’ games, which means they’ve received 40+ reviews on Metacritic; they have to be ‘good’ games, which means a score of 80+. Whenever you see the words big or good in this article, they are used with this meaning.
This analysis asks a simple question. Which console has the highest number of big and good games?
How We Did It
As with our previous pieces on the best first party games and the Switch vs WiiU comparison, we took the data in this piece from Metacritic: We downloaded data on over 18,000 games and over 200,000 games reviews (across all systems) to draw these conclusions. Obviously this means there’s a number of important things to bear in mind - and so with which to calibrate the number of grains of salt you take this analysis with. For example, our data is only as complete as Metacritic’s was when we took our snapshot of their data the end of last year. This means that if a game isn’t correctly listed as not being multiplatform, it would impact the data here. Though this said, we’re fairly confident that Metacritic’s data is robust - especially for Xbox One, PS4 and Switch, given they are the newest and most closely watched consoles.
When it comes to scoring and working out averages, Metacritic normalises scores from different publications on to a scale of 1-100 (so that 5/10 becomes 50, and 3/5 becomes 60, and so on). We took all of the scores and worked out a mean score for each game (which is slightly different to Metacritic’s weighted Metascore), which is what we used in our comparison below.
What The Numbers Say
We’ll run through the raw results before any analysis.
Out of 1385 total games on the platform, there were 22 exclusives which had 40+ reviews and an average on Metacritic of 80% or higher.
Those stats break down as follows: 548 big games, 192 good big games, 140 exclusives, 32 good exclusives, and 44 big exclusives.
10.11% of games on PS4 are exclusive, and 8.03% of big releases are exclusive. 1.59% of all games on PS4 are exclusives with 40+ reviews averaging a score of 80% or higher.
Out of 955 total games on the platform, there are 4 exclusives which had 40+ reviews and had an average on Metacritic of 80% or higher.
Those stats break down as follows: 416 big games, 156 good big games, 41 exclusives, 10 good exclusives, and 7 big exclusives.
4.29% of games on the Xbox One are exclusive, and 1.68% of their big releases are exclusive. 0.42% of all games on the Xbox One are exclusives with 40+ reviews averaging a score of 80% or higher.
Out of 192 total games on the platform, there were 7 exclusives which had 40+ reviews and had an average on Metacritic of 80% or higher.
Those stats break down as follows: 62 big games, 25 good big games, 39 exclusives, 11 good exclusives, and 12 big exclusives.
20.31% of games on the Switch are exclusive, and 19.35% of their big releases are exclusive. 3.65% of all games on the Switch are exclusives with 40+ reviews averaging a score of 80% or higher.
Xbox One didn’t do too badly in our first analysis, but under these criteria things don’t look nearly so good. Xbox One lags behind PS4 on total number of games, and pretty much every comparative metric the two share.
Considering they've been out for almost exactly the same period of time, it does back up the perception that PS4 has a healthier gaming ecosystem than Xbox One, and a larger number of high-quality exclusive titles. This may explain some of the sales disparity between the two machines.
Everyone’s favourite plucky underdog, Switch, can’t be so easily compared to the big two – because it’s been out for much less time. With that said, Kyoto’s wonder machine blows the competition away on percentages.
The Switch has almost double the numbers of the PS4 when it comes to what percentage of games are exclusive, what percentage of big releases are exclusives, and what percentage of the full library is good big exclusives. Again this lines up with the perception that Nintendo systems tend to live on exclusive software and the mothership delivering consistently high-quality games.
Here’s an amazing stat. Switch has been available for less than one year, and the Xbox One has been out for more than four years – but Switch already has 39 exclusive games, nearly catching up with the Xbox One's 41.
It gets even more savage. Where Switch has 11 exclusives with an 80% + on Metacritic, the Xbox One only has 10. Where Switch has 12 exclusives with 40+ total reviews, the Xbox One only has 7.
This suggests that, in less than a year, Switch has overtaken the Xbox One’s exclusive offering. However, there is one quite important caveat to the Xbox One stats, which we’ll come to in a moment.
A Nerdy Diversion on Xbox
When the Xbox One initially released, the system had exclusive releases. The problem is, over time, Microsoft made a push for any Microsoft Game Studios titles to release on PC and Xbox One on the same date going forwards. This is an explicitly pro consumer move, it gives players more options for how and where to access their games and does not have any drawbacks. But it does affect perception of the Xbox as a gaming platform, and our stats.
Today, any Microsoft firstparty game is multiplatform as far as Metacritic, and any gamer with multiple systems, is concerned. If you own a gaming PC, the Xbox literally serves no purpose. The games don’t feel like exclusives any more – mainly because they’re not.
It doesn’t help that some of the system’s supposed flagship titles have disappeared – the closure of Lionhead and the end of Fable Legends, the cancellation of Platinum’s Scalebound. Regardless, Xbox One ends up looking like a far more barren environment for exclusives than perhaps it might have been.
Switch has easily the highest percentage of good and big games, while Playstation 4 has the highest number of good and big games in its library. Poor old Xbox One loses out no matter what way you shake the numbers – but with the caveat that a pro-consumer move has negatively affected their stats by making Xbox exclusives a thing of the past.
Yep, Nintendo has done it again. But what is also becoming clear as we dive deeper into this data is just what a consistent performer Sony has been in recent years. Playstation 4 really is for the players.
If you enjoyed this article, check out our comparison of the big three platform holders' software production, and our breakdown of the Switch's library compared to the Wii U's.