PlayStation 4

Microsoft is supposedly struggling. According to reports coming out of Kotaku overnight, the platform holder is as much as six months behind on producing content for its next generation console. The site’s sources claim that the company recently canned a number of internally developed titles for its impending machine because they weren't coming together as expected. However, the firm’s aiming to compensate for that by pulling out its cheque book, and is aggressively targeting third-party exclusives for its machine. That spells danger for the PlayStation 4.

One high-profile title that’s being touted as an exclusive for the Redmond-based manufacturer’s system right now is the unannounced shooter from Respawn Entertainment, the Californian studio established by former Infinity Ward founders Jason West and Vince Zampella. The report lines up with previous rumours, seeing as the developer is currently aligned with Electronic Arts, who is rumoured to have something brewing for the next Xbox. Assuming that there is substance to the reports, the loss of such a large title could be a huge blow to Sony’s system.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

The game itself – believed to be called Titan – is supposedly a futuristic first-person shooter featuring nimble mechs and a multiplayer focus. The title will apparently require an online connection, but not necessarily due to sinister means. Supposedly, much like Sony’s own MAG, the game will only be playable online – there’s no single player campaign, according to Kotaku’s sources. It doesn’t sound particularly appealing on paper, but it would be foolhardy to underestimate the next title from the studio behind the groundbreaking Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. However, it’s the precedent that has us more concerned.

While there have been some attempts from Microsoft to bolster its first-party portfolio over the past couple of years – it added Max and the Magic Marker developer Press Play to its roster not long ago, in addition to founding a new Canadian outfit named Black Tusk – it’s a long way behind Sony in this regard. The PlayStation maker has access to a seemingly limitless pool of top-tier developers, with the likes of Naughty Dog, Guerrilla Games, and Sony Santa Monica currently divided into multiple teams. That means that the PS4 is unlikely to be starved of exclusive content, but if its primary competitor opts to invest in third-parties to counteract its shortcomings, it could spell trouble for the console.

Xbox 360

The real problem is that the Japanese manufacturer still doesn’t have a single bankable brand. Gran Turismo comes close, but the next entry in that series is thought to be in production for the PlayStation 3. God of War and Uncharted are both also on the cusp, but outside of that, the platform holder’s struggled to produce titles that make the mainstream market sweat. inFAMOUS: Second Son is certain to be a quality game, but it would never be able to hold its own against a franchise such as Grand Theft Auto, and depending on how aggressive Microsoft’s getting, that’s the kind of series that Sony could cede to its closest competitor.

Of course, aligning with third-parties is a risky and expensive venture, which is why blockbuster exclusives from multiformat publishers have all but faded out over the past decade. In addition to covering the costs of ‘lost’ sales, manufacturers are also generally expected to foot some of the marketing bill. It’s an expense that may have little long term incentive, too. Mass Effect started life as a Microsoft Game Studios franchise, but has subsequently spread to the PS3 and even Wii U. And the likes of Gears of War – which remains owned by Epic Studios – could quite easily be next on the agenda if the Xbox maker fails to pony up again.

Mass Effect 3

But if this generation has proved anything, it’s that the first few years are the most important. Mass Effect may have gone multiplatform eventually, but it’s a franchise that still enjoys most of its success on Microsoft’s platform. Perhaps that’s an isolated case due to the manner in which the series maintains progression between sequels, but a similar phenomenon also occurred with the likes of BioShock, too. The Xbox maker may feel that if it’s able to establish a large fanbase for certain brands on its platform, it doesn’t really matter if those games release on other formats at a later date.

Of course, we’ll need to wait until the 21st May to see what the firm’s actually got in the pipeline, but there’s no denying that the addition of a handpicked roster of third-party exclusives – timed or otherwise – could really hurt the PS4. Sony will put up a fight with its own selection of software, of that there’s no doubt – but it may not be enough. Its competitor has deep enough pockets to really the damage the impending console if it wants to, and the failure of its own first-party endeavours may prove the catalyst that the company needs to flash its cash.

Are there any third-party franchises in particular that you think would be a huge loss to the PS4? Do you think that Microsoft is likely to spend heavily on securing exclusives for its console? Let us know in the comments section below.