Ubisoft have announced that both Watchdogs and The Crew will both be delayed, although an official date has not been set for either game. Watchdogs was tipped to be one of Christmas’ big hitters and Ubisoft have acknowledge this by stating pre-orders were “looking very healthy.” However the delay is going ahead due to the poor sales of both Rayman Legends and Splinter Cell: Blacklist. According to IGN Ubisoft’s CFO, Alain Martinez, stated;
As we have said, we have experienced lower sales than we anticipated when we gave our targets…..Already released games such as Splinter Cell, Rayman and others.”
Interestingly Alain Martinez did not divulge just how big Splinter Cell’s and Rayman’s shortcomings were. Martinez did manage pinpoint the reason for the lack of interest in these two titles. The studio believes that consumers are reluctant to spend on current gen titles with all the exciting prospects of next gen just around the corner. This is an argument we have heard from Activision, who recently explained the reason for the somewhat underwhelming amount of pre-orders for Call of Duty: Ghosts. They too believe that consumers are conflicted about investing in current gen vs next gen.
Yet there is overwhelming evidence from both Naughty Dog and Rockstar who saw their sales of current gen titles The Last of Us and GTA 5, respectively, soar through the roof and that current gen is not a wasted investment. Both of these titles sales would be the envy of any next gen game and with both the Xbox One and PS4 both expected to sell around 1.5 – 2 million units each worldwide, how can companies believe in this ethos? Even with such demand for the next gen consoles there are plenty of people who will either be happy (or stuck) with their current console. Even with the massive sales of PS4 and Xbox One combined surely they will not equate to the amount of Xbox 360 and PS3 owners out there?
However, Ubisoft’s business strategy does make sense. Delaying Watchdogs certainly gives Ubisoft more time to advertise and push their new I.P in the face of the public. Also, depending on the exact release date which is still to be announced, Watchdogs may find itself a window in the calendar year that has little in the ways of competition. Whilst Watchdogs undoubtedly would have been a huge seller over Christmas it may be an even bigger seller come early 2014. On the other hand companies like Square Enix choose to closely fill their new release calendars, much to their detriment. Square Enix had such high expectations for Tomb Raider, Sleeping Dogs and Hitman: Absolution, and while these all sold relatively well, they appeared to fall increasingly short of the financial line. If a publisher as big as Ubisoft, who were announcing record breaking profit last year due to the success of Farcry 3 and Assassin’s Creed 3, have to be tentative in their next investment, it really highlights the delicate position publishers are in and that the need to prosper has never been so tight a line.
Ubisoft finally declared that as a result of the change in dates their predictions for the financial year had changed from $1.94 billion profit to a mere $1.38 billion profit. Tough times ahead indeed. Currently there is no word on whether Ubisoft’s The Division has been delayed.
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