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PS4, Xbox One take "painful body blow" from Watch Dogs delay

PS4, Xbox One take "painful body blow" from Watch Dogs delay

Wed 16 Oct 2013 3:08am GMT / 11:08pm EDT / 8:08pm PDT

Chris Morris looks at the ramifications of Ubisoft's last-minute delay of one of the hottest new IPs in the industry

Nintendo will be the first company to tell you about the importance of must-have titles at a console launch. The more you have, the better - as it not only increases the initial frenzy (attracting the wandering eye of the mass media), but keeps demand alive long after Christmas has come and gone.

With Ubisoft's announcement on Tuesday that it would be delaying Watch Dogs until Spring 2014, both Microsoft and Sony saw their new systems take a painful body blow.

The game has been high on the radar of gamers since June 2012 - and the buzz has never faded, a remarkable feat for any title. Sony was so high on the game, it announced a SKU that bundled the game with the PS4 - and GameStop put together a similar (though unofficial) pairing with the Xbox One.

Sony is officially declining comment on the issue, but pointed GamesIndustry International to statements from Amazon, which said people who ordered the bundles will still receive their consoles on time. (GameStop is making similar assurances to people who ordered the Xbox One package.)

"Knack might be an amazing game, but it isn't being positioned as a system seller. Ryse, similarly, simply doesn't have the crucial upswell of support needed to lead the Xbox One"

Bundles aside, it's not unreasonable to assume that many buyers of both systems had Watch Dogs on their "must purchase" list. While next generation versions of established franchises (like Call of Duty, Battlefield and Ubisoft's own Assassin's Creed) will certainly be big sellers, gamers have been hungry for a new IP for a while now. And while plenty are coming to the next-gen systems, Watch Dogs was set to lead the pack.

Knack, for example, might be an amazing game, but it isn't being positioned as a system seller. Ryse, similarly, simply doesn't have the crucial upswell of support needed to lead the Xbox One (especially after its boneheaded Tweets Tuesday bragging about crunch time).

Ubisoft, as might have been expected, is being punished for the announcement. Fans who were looking forward to Watch Dogs can appreciate the declaration that a title simply wasn't coming together as planned - and needed extra time for polish. But that excuse comes across a bit thin when the publisher has been touting the game as heavily as it has for the past 16 months.

Investors, meanwhile, aren't happy about the financial ramifications. Ubisoft, in revealing the delay, slashed its sales expectations from between €1.42 billion and €1.45 billion this fiscal year to between €995 million and €1.05 billion.

"Our long term goal is to win the next generation," explained CEO Yves Guillemot wrote in a press release announcing the games' delays. "The tough decisions we are taking today to fully realize the major potential of our new creations have an impact on our short-term performance. We are convinced that, longer term, they will prove to be the right decisions both in terms of satisfaction for our fans and in terms of value creation for our shareholders."

While the delay of Watch Dogs is frustrating for gamers and painful for console makers, it may actually have been the smartest move Ubisoft could have made.

1

Everyone knew Grand Theft Auto V was going to be huge, but even the most optimistic observers underestimated its impact. Analyst retail checks show the game has legs - and the online component of the game is just starting to run as planned. That creates an enormous blast zone - one that could impact Watch Dogs (which shares the GTA open world design) if it were to come out this fall.

By waiting a few months, Ubisoft can distance itself from GTA - and wait open world player anticipation to build up once again.

At the same time, the installed base of next generation consoles will, naturally, be bigger next year than it will in the waning parts of 2013. A bigger base means potentially bigger sales, which should quiet down those investors who are wringing their hands over the reduced sales expectations.

Finally, pushing Watch Dogs into the spring (or early summer) of 2014 protects Ubisoft's most important existing franchise. Players won't have to decide between a new IP and Assassin's Creed IV now. While the delay of Watch Dogs may not steer people over to Assassin's Creed if they weren't fans, it could nudge people who were thinking of bypassing it "for now" in favor of the new franchise back into picking up a copy.

Of course, the delay isn't without risks. While fans are unlikely to lose interest in Watch Dogs, Ubisoft won't be the only new IP hitting the streets next spring. In deciding to skip the launch of the new consoles, Ubisoft has set the stage for a battle with Respawn's Titanfall.

Different games, certainly. And both new IPs. But instead of being the presumed king of the hill, Watch Dogs may have to fight harder for people's attentions in 2014.

20 Comments

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,193 1,170 0.5
Hmmm. The article should have started from this point:
While the delay of Watch Dogs is frustrating for gamers and painful for console makers, it may actually have been the smartest move Ubisoft could have made.
And finished with what followed as for me, that's the only take away here. I don't give a crap what non-gaming speculators, whiny gamers who will have TOO MANY games to choose from when those new consoles launch (not to mention the pile of current gen holiday games AND any GTA players getting into the game late as a holiday gift) and anyone else has to say. Ubisoft delaying it may piss some folks off, but I'll have more time to actually complete more games as opposed to hopping back and forth between them.

That and I also think comparisons to GTV and W_D are silly as they're CLEARLY going to be different on a number of fronts. But whaddever - the gamer's mental shorthand will make it seem just like GTA to the less intelligent player who automatically thinks open world means GTA clone...

Posted:A year ago

#1

James Prendergast Research Chemist

735 432 0.6
@ Greg, I disagree with consumers having "TOO MANY games to choose from" at launch. I pulled out of getting a PS4 near launch precisely because there isn't anything in the release window that really interests me. I think, downloadable titles aside, that both consoles have a weak launch line-up.

I also disagree with your thought on the comparison between GTA V and Watch Dogs. Clearly, they are different games but they are equal in terms of money consumers have to spend on games. With more people shelling out full price and not returning/exchanging GTA V that's less money in the pot to buy other new games on current consoles, such as Watch Dogs.

Posted:A year ago

#2

Justin Shuard J - E translator

45 176 3.9
Popular Comment
"The game has been high on the radar of gamers since June 2012 - and the buzz has never faded, a remarkable feat for any title."

Maybe I'm in the minority, but while I was initially excited for Watch Dogs I'm kind of over it now. That's not to say the game won't be good, but maybe they went a little too hard on the advertising too early.

Either way I don't think the delay is such a big blow to the next gen consoles. If it was exclusive then yeah maybe, but the launch lineup for next gen consoles is already bigger than I can ever remember it being.

Posted:A year ago

#3

Zbigniew Lebkowski 3D Artist & Animator

11 18 1.6
Maybe I'm in the minority, but while I was initially excited for Watch Dogs I'm kind of over it now. That's not to say the game won't be good, but maybe they went a little too hard on the advertising too early.
I'm with you Justin. The first trailer was breath taking but later on they didn't really show much of anything interesting.

Looking at the trailer below it seems to be a good move to postpone the launch if they can polish the game some more to live up to the expectations. Sure, some people will be unhappy, but in the end if the game is good all will be quickly forgotten.
Better to delay a few months than rush an unfinished product.

http://youtu.be/YZahmJIhE90

Posted:A year ago

#4

Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,269 942 0.7
I was looking foward to this at launch. If it makes for a better game then I support Ubi-Softs decision to delay it. However with Second Son also delayed, Im having a hard time deciding which game to pre-order. So far I had only pre-order BF4 and Watchdogs. Maybe Ill go for killzone. But its another 1st person shooter. I hope SONY makes new announcements. However this puts both new consoles in a similar situation of the WiiU, lets see how they fair in sales. But Im ok with waiting. It usually makes a better game and doesnt mess up my decision to get the games.

Posted:A year ago

#5

Tom Keresztes Programmer

683 335 0.5
Painful blow ? Its very likely both MS and Sony will have trouble to meet the demand for the console in the first few months even without Watchdogs.

It might even sell much better in the spring when the installed base of the consoles will be much higher.

Posted:A year ago

#6

Caleb Hale Journalist

155 231 1.5
If anyone is like me, you breathed a small sigh of relief with the delay of this high profile game. On top of the usual game glut that hits this time of year, new consoles are launching. That's a lot of money to throw around, especially if you're a hardcore gamer easily compelled to play all the new titles.

Otherwise, Ubisoft might have wanted more development time for Watchdogs, but since they are so franchise-focused, moving this game to early next year might be setting up the cycle for Watchdog releases in the spring and Assassin's Creed releases in the fall. This would give them at least two anchor points in the fiscal year in which they would likely anticipate strong sales.

Posted:A year ago

#7

Kevin Patterson musician

187 103 0.6
I am all for polishing to make the game better, so I can wait. I am sure many people who pre-ordered their consoles for watch Dogs are disappointed, but there are other good games right now so it's not all that bad. It is surprising that about a month away from release they would decide this, after all the marketing and PR regarding this game as noted in the article.

If they wait to release it too long, they could again find themselves competing with GTA5, who may release a PC and next gen versions of GTA5. I am betting that they aren't worried about that though, the games are very different in style.

Posted:A year ago

#8

Barrie Tingle Live Producer, Maxis

386 184 0.5
This is both good and bad news.

Bad in that it is delayed, good in the fact that I have more games on pre-order this generation than ever before. Plus it gives them time to work on polish and bug fixes which are always welcome especially in games like this.

Posted:A year ago

#9

Del Hartin Senior Designer, NaturalMotion

9 24 2.7
Popular Comment
"painful body blow"
You're putting your own quote, written by you, in quotation marks in the title of your article, as if it was stated by someone else commenting on the impact for Sony and MS?

Allow me to counter with some more quoted speculation (see below for the original quote) by saying that I think Sony and Microsoft are probably "not that bothered" by the news.

They're probably not that bothered because this was just one game, albeit a game that quite a few people were looking forward to.

I think the main impact here is on Ubisoft, a position backed up by the share drop. I think it's the right decision - better a delay than a flop.

Posted:A year ago

#10

Gregory Hommel writer

91 53 0.6
When high profile games are delayed there are 2.5 things that can happen. One, they benefit from the extra polish. Two, they disappear forever. Three, they Duke Nukem Forever. I see option one.

If the writer or anyone else thinks the earliest Sony adopters care at all about Ubisoft defining their experience, you must not have had a PS3.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Gregory Hommel on 16th October 2013 6:45pm

Posted:A year ago

#11
Shame, but although I was looking forward to playing Watch_Dogs very much on my new console, it's not a deal breaker for me, I'll be just as happy playing some of the other launch titles, knowing that along with a multitude of others there's some decent games to look forward to.. Polished games always offer a better experience than unpolished games, so I'm happy to wait.. :)

Posted:A year ago

#12

Andy Gahan Managing Director, The Pixel Bullies

8 12 1.5
Congratulations to Ubisoft, instead of rushing out a game and launching something that isn't ready, they've been brave enough to push it back.

Sure it's a disappointment, but not nearly as disappointing as buying a game that is buggy and unfinished (Total Ware: Rome 2 springs to mind).

What we should all be asking is what else is going to miss launch? And how will that affect the new console war?

Posted:A year ago

#13

David Serrano Freelancer

300 272 0.9
At the same time, the installed base of next generation consoles will, naturally, be bigger next year than it will in the waning parts of 2013.
What evidence supports the theory that outside of the approx. 30 million hardcore action - shooter, multiplayer or sports game fans in the 360 and PS3 installed bases, the remaining 110 million console owners have a tangible reason or incentive to purchase either of the new systems? Because if 87 percent of 360 and PS3 owners didn't purchase GTA V for the systems they already own... what would lead anyone to believe a significant percentage of them planned to spend $400 to $500 for a new system so they could spend an additional $60 to play Watch Dogs? Or any of the other launch titles for either system?

And for the installed base of core console players to be bigger next year, new players will need to enter the market. So what evidence supports the theory that players in other segments of the games market who find core games inaccessible and unappealing will spend $400 to $500 for consoles that will exclusively feature the games they find inaccessible and unappealing? And what evidence supports the theory that consumers who are not currently in the games market plan to purchase and use the new consoles as core gaming devices?

The reality is until the games library for both systems is massively diversified, the percentage of the installed base using the next gen consoles as core gaming devices will be far smaller than it currently is. And since developers and publishers are still clearly focused on minimizing risk by delivering the same types of games and custom tailoring them for the same demographically narrow subsegment of hardcore fans, the core console audience, active and inactive, will be far smaller for the foreseeable future.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by David Serrano on 16th October 2013 8:15pm

Posted:A year ago

#14

Paul Jace Merchandiser

937 1,417 1.5
At first I looked at this as good news. It's one less big game I have to make time for between all the other big holiday releases and it will most likely be much more polished with the extra development time. But then I read and remembered this:
In deciding to skip the launch of the new consoles, Ubisoft has set the stage for a battle with Respawn's Titanfall.
Theres no way that nearly everyone with a 360 and XBO won't be salivating over the release of this in the spring. That means Watch Dogs will have another big fight on it's hands. Luckily I plan on getting both but Titanfall will be the one I pick up first because of the online-only nature of the title. I don't want to give other players too much of an advantage by picking the title up too late. So the delay is still a good thing for the most part.

Posted:A year ago

#15

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,193 1,170 0.5
@James: Trust me, launch games for the most part aren't for old fogies like me nor guys like you who aren't easily impressed by them. My retail experience doing a few too many launches will bet you a penny that even the "worst" PS4 or XBO launch title will be hard to find in some areas. Many early adopters will clear out stocks just to have stuff to show off to friends and yeah, any of them who are easily impressed will be fooled as well. eBay will be packed with these games selling at a small fortune, that's for sure...

I used "fooled" loosely here, as in those gamers tend to buy into the big dream that a new system's launch lineup is automatically better (visually, at least) than the last gen's launch lineup (which isn't always true)...

Oh, and I meant launch AND "launch window" titles, of which there are yep, too many when you include digital content and whatever PSN Plus is going to drop on the heads of subscribers as bonuses)...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Greg Wilcox on 17th October 2013 6:01am

Posted:A year ago

#16

James Prendergast Research Chemist

735 432 0.6
@ Greg. Fair points!

There are definitely games in the launch window I am interested in getting... but not enough to entice me to get the system for Christmas. I'll probably wait and spend the Christmas money on other things.

I understand what you're saying about launch games - Yeah, I agree they will most likely sell well because there isn't much competition and people need games to play on a games console! But losing one of those launch titles (a undoubtedly bigger one at that) is a blow for anyone who was thinking about preordering the systems.
In the forums I visit, there are now people either thinking about or actually cancelling their console preorders - not just because of this Watch Dogs release move but because of numerous factors that are putting them off the systems until early to mid-next year.

Posted:A year ago

#17

Richard Browne EVP Gaming and Interactive, Evergreen Studios

103 117 1.1
Did the author miss that Watch Dogs is coming out on PS3/360? How is it a "must have next gen title" when I can buy the same game for my current system? Clearly Ubi did this to get it out of the window from hell and allow their marketing dollars to go that much further, if rumors are correct the game was on schedule for its launch date. But it wasn't and isn't a system seller for Microsoft nor Sony.

Posted:A year ago

#18

Sandy Lobban Founder and Creative Director, Noise Me Up

315 208 0.7
I would be very surprised if someone didn't buy a console because one of the games was delayed. However, we may see other titles follow suit in the coming weeks that could collectively influence /change someone's buying decisions.

Posted:A year ago

#19

Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,193 1,170 0.5
@James: methinks this "next-gen" SHOULD have taken off NEXT year when titles could be spread out a bit more into and past the holiday crunch, but nooooo. We're sheeped into thinking the end of a year/Xmas is the ONLY big time for these things. Oh well...

Posted:A year ago

#20

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