Sometimes gamers just can’t wait for a game to come out, and some publishers can’t wait to release it and start raking in the dough (just look at the growing popularity of early access). Although it’s difficult to wait a long time for a great-looking game, the wait is probably far preferable to having a first playthrough ruined by bugs, performance issues, and an overall sense of the game having been rushed out.
A need for extra polish was the common reason cited when Ubisoft’s open-world RPG Watch Dogs was delayed for six months from its original release date, which was set to coincide with the arrival of the Xbox One and PS4. Bundles had to be reshuffled and there was a great deal of grumbling from gamers who had been looking forward to hacking their way through Chicago, but ultimately the extra development time was probably for the best.
Speaking to Examiner, Massive Entertainment’s Managing Director David Polfeldt commented on the Watch Dogs delay and what it means to the development team currently working on another Ubisoft open-world RPG, The Division. According to Polfeldt, Ubisoft’s decision did a great deal to help build trust between the publisher and its developers.
“It’s tremendously important for us as a developer studio, to know that the owner and the publisher are ready to take that hit, and [the Watch Dogs delay] was a massive hit. I think their shares fell 25% on the day it was announced it was being delayed. It takes so much courage to live through that day and still think that was a good decision. So for us in the development [side of things], that’s an important message that ultimately the management will back up the goals that we have, which is the game has to be great.
“Definitely when we go to the internal milestones, we’re constantly being pushed for more innovation, thinking further, what could you do that surprises even ourselves? What are we not doing that we could do? Have you studied the competition? So there’s never a discussion about ‘just get it done guys, hurry up, we have a deadline, and it doesn’t matter if it’s really perfect, just get it done.’”
Of course, Ubisoft may not have had to take a hit at all if the publisher hadn’t developed a habit of jumping the gun when it comes to video game reveals. Watch Dogs was reportedly unveiled far sooner than the development team would have preferred, and the projected late 2014 release date for The Division has been described as “laughable” by a source close to the project, who says there’s no way it will be ready before 2015.
It seems that Ubisoft may have made the same mistakes with both projects, assuming that they could be pushed out earlier so long as the crunch time was crunchy enough. Gamers should probably count themselves lucky that Watch Dogs was delayed instead of being released as a potentially unfinished mess, but it remains to be seen whether Ubisoft has learned from their handling of these two major upcoming titles, or whether The Division will be shown the same leniency as Watch Dogs was.
Watch Dogs releases May 27, 2014 for the PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. The Wii U version is aiming for a Fall 2014 release.
The Division is currently expected to release in late 2014.