T3 Opinion: Rise and fall of the Tomb Raider

Lara Croft and the Mystery of the Timed Exclusive... why did Microsoft put her head-to-head with Fallout 4?

Spare a thought for poor ol' Lara. She had a tough time of it a few years back and things really haven't gotten any better since then. In fact things are possibly far, far worse.

Off on her first ever adventure in 2013 - thanks to the time dilation granted by the current fad for origin stories and reboots - she was shipwrecked, beat up, brutalised and left without any real tombs to raid or endangered creatures to massacre.

She might have thought all that trouble was behind her though. Now a few years older and a few years wiser she had kind ol' Uncle Microsoft looking after her directly, guiding her through her next adventure.

But what do you know? This time around her ship's hits a frickin' iceberg. But this iceberg has a name: Fallout 4.

Whether consciously or not Uncle Microsoft foolishly steered her straight at that radioactive iceberg (she really should have noticed it herself, glowing eerily in the distance as it was) despite knowing that it was going to be there in the way all along.


Lara's problems all stem from jumping into bed with Uncle Microsoft...sorry, I'm going to stop this tortured metaphor before it takes a disturbing turn…

By signing up for a timed exclusive Xbox One deal with Microsoft Square Enix has perhaps catastrophically harmed Rise of the Tomb Raider. It's been terribly handled from the off with MS seemingly claiming total exclusivity before Square Enix quickly announced the release time frame for the PC and PS4 launches next year.

The PC and PlayStation have long been the spiritual home for Tomb Raider and, while it must have seemed like a great coup for Microsoft, it gently hobbled what could have been a real box-shifting deal for its beleaguered Xbox One console.

Lara could have survived that in isolation though; she is a tough cookie after all.

What she might not survive though is the bizarre decision taken by Microsoft to put Rise of the Tomb Raider directly up against the post-apocalyptic role-playing game, Fallout 4. Despite having complete control over the launch it was decided that the Tomb Raider sequel would release on the same day as the massively-popular cross platform game.

Poor lass, she never really stood a chance.

Is anyone playing?

That's born out by the sales figures. Rise has picked up a little less than 230,000 sales. Globally.

And if you think that's in any way consistent with the relative paucity of Xbox One consoles around at the moment, think again. Fallout 4 (released same day, remember) has sold over 1.7 million units on the same platform.

If you ever needed an example of the power of marketing, and of choosing your head-to-head release battles carefully, it's this very launch. Fallout 4 has been heavily marketed everywhere, with merchandise and strong Xbox bias in many of the TV spots around it. Rise by comparison has seemed like something of an afterthought, despite its exclusive status and console bundles.

It's certainly no indictment on how good the game is, however.

It's a marked improvement over the popular 2013 reboot, with a huge open world which makes sense to the Tomb Raider mythos. And actually now has proper tomb raiding too. It's been very well received by critics and gamers alike, with an impressive Metacritic score and our Gamesradar+ buddies getting more than a little excited.

“Intelligent, beautiful, varied and huge,” they say. “This is a very classy video game, and one that's surprisingly malleable.”

And yet comparatively few are playing it right now. Fingers are crossed for Lara that her latest adventure becomes something of a slow-burner on the Xbox One and the other platforms follow on to help bulk out her poor early sales figures.

On the PC it's got a chance of shifting a fair amount, but how many PS4 folk are really going to be interested in playing a year-old Xbox One exclusive when they're likely to be elbow deep into Uncharted 4 by that time? I'd argue not many.

Will that stop Lara from making a comeback? Hells no. Tomb Raider is too big a franchise - and Rise too good a game - for it all to be brought crashing down by some ill-conceived Microsoft exclusivity deal. But I doubt Square Enix and Lara are going to be too excited at jumping straight back into bed with Uncle Microsoft next time around.