Watchdogs – were Ubisoft wise to delay?

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If you’re anything like us, you will have been following the development and news surrounding upcoming Ubisoft game,Watch Dogs very closely.

The game looked awesome at E3 last year and eyes lit up when the release date was timed with the launch of next generation consoles (November 2013). You will also have noticed that after a sudden announcement that the game would be delayed, the Watch Dogs release date slipped well into 2014 and news of the game started to dry up.

Many theories have been given for the reason they delayed the game. These have been wildly speculative and have ranged from the fanboy driven perspective: “GTA V scared them off!” To the analytical: “They didn’t want to go up against CoD Ghosts and Battlefield 4!” To the, frankly, bizarre: “They’re going to remove half the finished game to release as DLC!”

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Every theory carries with it a grain of truth. GTA V was still selling like the proverbial ‘Hot Cake V’ at the time they had the release scheduled. Ubisoft releasing a brand new open world IP set in a modern era, when half the gaming world was already playing a modern open world game in Grand Theft Auto V (and the other half waiting until Christmas), might have left it feeling a little over looked.
Similarly, trying to make a splash in the small gap GTA V left in the market was going to be a tough enough task – but when you factor in a major Call of Duty release, a new Battlefield release AND Assassin’s Creed IV (also from Ubisoft – essentially competing with themselves) were all slated for the same release window – you start to wonder why Ubi put Watch Dogs in that slot in the first place.

As for the DLC, I very much doubt they will have removed any content to release as DLC. They will, however, have DLC planned for what they hope to be their next big franchise.

Ubi themselves have always claimed the delay was to put finishing touches to the game. There is probably a grain of truth to this too. Many PS4 and Xbox One launch titles have been criticised for being not new, or not ‘next-gen’ enough. Mere graphical upgrades that offer very little in terms of gameplay innovation are par for the course for launch titles. So much so that along with the chorus of “These launch games suck!” there was a hearty round of “Launch games always suck, they never offer much over previous generations! What did you expect?

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Valid points they may be, but problematic also. With so many people expecting the next-gen launch games to be nothing more than glossy current-gen games, why allow your brilliant new franchise to be tarred with the same brush? Ubisoft stepped back from the limelight (a little late for the liking of those that pre-ordered the PS4 Watch Dogs bundles) and away from the competition. Now when they step back into the light, they will have a more polished game, that is also free from the trappings of being considered a ‘launch game’ which people seem to consider synonymous with ‘sub par.’

Stories of its development – or even just reminders of its existence surface every so often. Most recently, the fraudulent abandoning of the ‘Watch Dogs‘ trademark sent rumours that the game was cancelled swirling around the internet. This coupled with the industry rumours that it may no longer be coming to Wii U meant that suddenly everyone was talking Watch Dogs again.

The trademark confusion was soon settled, the internet was sated. Everyone was relieved that Watch Dogs was right on track, even if you are waiting for the Wii U version – now confirmed as in development, but with a later release date.

On any console, Watch Dogs doesn’t yet have a fixed release date beyond ‘Spring 2014’. Despite the potentially distant release date (June at the latest), it’s still managing to remain in the public eye. It rattles around in the background just enough to remind people it’s on the way – but also allowing Ubi the freedom to develop the best marketing strategy they can muster.

Make no mistake, when Ubisoft have pinned down the release date, Watch Dogs will not sneak onto the shelves quietly. We are going to be seeing and hearing a lot more from this game. Loud and proud, Watch Dogs will make its presence felt.

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