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How Watch Dogs' delay helped marketing

Ubisoft's Tony Key looks on the bright side of having a new IP delayed at the last minute

Last October, with just weeks to go before the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One hit shelves, Ubisoft delayed its anticipated launch title Watch Dogs. As difficult as it might have been for gamers to get the news, it was probably a bit worse for Ubisoft's own marketing team. Ubisoft senior vice president of sales and marketing Tony Key spoke recently with [a]list daily about the last-minute move, and how it may have ultimately helped him.

"The decision was made very late, and we were rolling along in a lot of areas on the marketing side," Key told the site. "Any time a game slips, there are marketing inefficiencies. We are still executing, for the most part, the plan that we had had. It was a lot of late nights and crazy reactions to putting everything on hold at the last minute. It's the least of our problems to put marketing on hold, compared to getting the game right, but it's a lot of work for a marketing team when something like that moves. You have to reallocate all your resources on a new schedule, you've got your retailers to deal with, who are already running marketing for your game in some cases. Slips like that are incredibly inefficient."

Inefficiencies aside, the delay may have been beneficial. Besides giving the developers more time to work on the game, it gave Key more time to get the word out about the new IP.

"[W]e've had almost seven extra months to get more pre-orders, which has been a really good story for us," Key said. "One of the main positives is that pre-orders were very much rushed from E3 on when retailers started taking pre-orders on next-generation, because most retailers weren't even taking pre-orders on next-generation games until June. I think all the games that launched had less pre-orders than they would have expected to have for such a large launch."

Those extra months have given the marketing team more time to bring preorders up to speed, which in turn gives retailers a bit more confidence in the game's launch performance. Key said the campaign has been able to not just recapture the momentum lost by the delay, but actually add to it. On top of that, the delay has pushed Watch Dogs into a much less crowded release window, with the game now set for a May 27 debut.

"One of the benefits of the move, and we didn't know this when we moved it, is we have a very [large] share of voice in the marketplace right now," Key said. "There are very few other titles shipping in our launch window. We've got just enough time before E3 when lots of new games, including Ubisoft's, are going to be on display. We have our moment, and that's something you really don't always get at the holiday with your brands. Sometimes you have other giant AAA games shipping the same day as you."

For more from Key, check out the full interview at [a]list daily.

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Brendan Sinclair avatar

Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined GamesIndustry.biz in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot in the US.