The Silly Story Behind The Weirdest Xbox Exclusive

Remember when the Xbox Series X and S launched with a Yakuza game, but the PS5 didn’t? That was weird, right? For such a long time the Yakuza franchise had been closely tied to PlayStation. But, at least for a few months, the then-latest game in the series skipped Sony’s next-gen machine for Xbox’s fancy console. Why? The answer just came to light today, and it’s both complicated and silly.

Back in November 2020, the Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5 launched with a handful of exclusives and a lot of ports. (It was mostly ports…) One of the oddest next-gen exclusives at the time was Yakuza: Like a Dragon, which was available at launch on PS4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. A few months later, this odd new entry in the popular Yakuza series finally landed on PS5. At the time, folks online assumed Microsoft had cut a deal with Sega to keep the game off the next-gen PlayStation. Others suggested the PS5 version had technical issues that forced it to be delayed. The real reason? Sega signed a few too many deals with too many companies.

As revealed in September 19’s massive Xbox leak, which included a load of emails and private documents from inside Microsoft, it seems Xbox boss Phil Spencer was just as surprised as gamers when he realized there wasn’t going to be a PS5 port of Like a Dragon.

In leaked emails from June 2020, Spencer is seen sharing this IGN tweet and asking if the game was “next-gen exclusive.” Another exec responds by telling Spencer that it isn’t, and that it will be available on PS4 as well as Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. Spencer then replies how it’s “funny” that Sega doesn’t even list the PS5 on its website.

A screenshot shows Xbox execs talking about Yakuza.

Screenshot: Kotaku

How two separate deals delayed the PS5 port

After some further chatter about possibly doing a Sega-themed Xbox in Japan, Damon Baker—then in charge of global gaming partnerships and development—laid out why Microsoft was going to have an exclusive next-gen port of Yakuza: Like a Dragon.

  • According to him, Sony had a 12-month exclusivity deal with Sega for the PlayStation release of the game in Japan and Asia.
  • This meant Microsoft couldn’t release an Xbox version of the game in Japan until that deal ended.
  • However, Microsoft also had a contract with Sega that included a parity clause that prevented Sony from releasing a next-gen SKU of Like a Dragon in Japan until Xbox did, too.
  • And because Xbox couldn’t release any version of the game in Japan until the PlayStation deal was done, Sony was unable to release a PS5 port in the region.

In that same email, Baker shared the news that Sega had no plans to launch a PS5 version in the United States, adding: “Sounds like we now have a timed exclusivity for next-gen.”

A screenshot shows Xbox execs talking about Yakuza.

Screenshot: Kotaku

At this point, after pointing out that Microsoft had the rights to market the game outside of Japan, Spencer wondered if Xbox could advertise that the next Yakuza game was a next-gen exclusive on Series X/S, adding that it’s a “big deal” and later saying that it “might even be worth some money from us” if they can push that news in future marketing. Which happened, with Microsoft posting blogs talking about how the game would utilize the “next-gen” power of the Series X/S and hyping up the game’s release on its consoles.

In February 2021, about three months later, the Sony exclusivity deal in Japan expired, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon finally launched on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S in Japan. The next month, it launched on PS5 in Japan and everywhere else, ending one of the weirdest bits of corporate contractual silliness I’ve seen in a long, long time.


Exclusive Persona 3 Portable Set Comes With Evoker

An image highlights the Evoker shadowbox that comes with Limited Run's collector's Persona 3 Portable edition.

Screenshot: Atlus / Limited Run / Kotaku

Role-playing game remasters Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden are getting physical releases through distributor Limited Run, with pre-orders for the former beginning September 29, and the latter coming to the digital storefront on October 27. Physical copies for Persona 3 Portable will be available to play on PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch consoles, and the priciest offering, dubbed the S.E.E.S. edition, comes with an Evoker replica shadowbox.

Though it would be funny for us and bad optics for P3P developer Atlus if it were distributing 3D replicas of the Evoker—a non-lethal, spiritual pistol Persona 3 characters use to shoot gunk out of their heads and call their Persona, a powerful alter ego—it’s not. The one-to-one replica is safely stuck behind shadowbox glass, above brooding, blue-haired teen Protagonist’s raging eyes.

Otherwise, the $200 S.E.E.S. edition, which takes its name from P3P’s after school club for Persona users, comes with a physical copy of P3P on a platform you choose, a steelbook case, S.E.E.S. armband, and other typical collectibles, like the P3P soundtrack. It also includes a checkered clothes patch and an image of its characters calling for an all-out attack in another shadowbox, which I assume has a $150 value in itself.

The standard, standalone P3P copies are priced a little more relaxedly—$35 each. None of the physical versions, including the collector’s edition and deluxe Grimoire Edition, have any purchase limits on them, though pre-orders for everything are set to close on November 12.

Read More: It’s Always A Good Time To Play Persona 3

Limited Run has not yet announced details for its physical run of formerly Vita-only Persona 4 Golden, just the fact that it was “coming to LRG on October 27th,” the distributor said on Twitter. It’ll share more information in the coming weeks.

Xbox’s Worst Exclusive, Redfall, Gets 60fps Mode In Major Patch

Vampire hunters catch one on the streets of a quiet New England town.

Image: Arkane / Bethesda

After months of silence, vampire shooter Redfall is receiving its biggest update yet following a disastrous launch back in May. The second big patch will add the Game Pass multiplayer game’s long-awaited 60 frames-per-second mode on Xbox Series X/S, as well as a host of gameplay improvements and bug fixes.

“Today’s update brings Performance Mode to Xbox Series X/S, stealth takedowns, a bevy of new controller settings, and a lot more changes to Redfall,” the development team wrote on Bethesda’s website. While the 60fps mode is the biggest addition, a raft of accessibility features and improvements to stealth gameplay and aiming sensitivity are also welcome changes. Whether it’s enough to begin addressing some of the deeper disappointment around Redfall’s lackluster enemy encounters and unfulfilling progression system remains to be seen.

Redfall was panned by many critics and players when it launched earlier this year. Expected to be the first-party blockbuster that would end Microsoft’s drought of console exclusives, it instead failed to live up to the months of marketing hype that preceded it. In addition to bugs, performance issues, and complaints about the core gameplay loop, it also launched on the “next-gen” Xbox Series X/S with a “next-gen” price tag of $70 but without the 60fps performance option that players on PC would have access to.

Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer apologized for the situation at the time, but a report by Bloomberg later revealed other issues underlying the game’s rough development. Made by Arkane, best known for immersive sims like Prey and Dishonored, Redfall was instead an online multiplayer game that at one point was planned to include microtransactions as part of a push by parent company ZeniMax into live-service monetization. While those features were stripped out, a lack of development resources and constant turnover reportedly made it hard for the studio to deliver on Redfall’s confusing blend of genres and gameplay mechanics.

Recently, Bethesda marketing head Pete Hines said in an interview that despite the harsh reception, Redfall wouldn’t be abandoned. Instead, he expected new players joining Game Pass a decade from now to give the game a shot and enjoy it thanks to ongoing post-launch support. With Cyberpunk 2077‘s recent 2.0 victory lap after a botched release, many are wondering if Redfall can pull of something similar, or if Microsoft will pour the money into it required to make that happen.

If it does, it will still have a big uphill battle to fight. The game only has a few dozen players on Steam at any given moment. Still, Redfall’s second update is a start.