After an eye-popping debut at E3 2012, Watch Dogs has remained one of the most talked about new video game IPs of the new (as well as former) console generation. Following in the footsteps of Ubisoft's other major open world game series, Assassin's Creed, Watch Dogs promised to a rich and timely story focused on the dangers and utility of networked technology while also iterating on established sandbox gameplay mechanics.
Unfortunately, a delay from holiday 2013 to May 2014 stole some of the title's momentum, as many gamers intended to purchase the title alongside new Xbox One and PS4 consoles. However, even if enthusiasm for the game took a slight dip during those added six months, actual launch sales for Ubisoft's hacker vigilante title remain strong - so strong that Watch Dogs has set a new 24 hour sales record at the studio.
The sales report comes directly from Ubisoft in an official press release. The publisher neglects to share actual sales data but ensures gaming enthusiasts that the new IP has topped every prior Ubisoft game in day one copies sold.
Commenting on the milestone Ubisoft CEO and co-founder Yves Guillemot expressed his gratitude to the development team as well as reiterated his confidence in the Watch Dogs brand going forward:
“Watch Dogs is an amazing achievement and our teams should be proud that the creativity, innovation and long hours they invested in making this game are paying off. It’s great to see so many players enjoying the game, and it shows that Watch Dogs has cracked the code for developing a new blockbuster IP and a thoroughly new-gen experience.”
Considering that Ubisoft is responsible for a number of record-setting franchises, including the Just Dance, Rayman, Splinter Cell, and Assassin's Creed series, among others, it's impressive to see the publisher once again raise the bar with Watch Dogs.
That said, the game still has a long way to go before it beats-out similar records for first month or first sales - especially since the title launched to mixed (albeit mostly positive) reviews along with a host of online connectivity issues. At the time of this writing, Ubisoft Uplay servers are still getting hammered - causing intermittent network issues on consoles as well as downright game-breaking obstacles for PC players. Without a doubt, the situation should settle down as less players are online, at the same time, attempting to connect to Ubisoft servers; yet, for a game that promised next-gen multiplayer concepts and online features, the launch has been anything but smooth.
As a result, while there's plenty of reason to expect that Ubisoft is already in the process of developing Watch Dogs 2, there's no guarantee that Watch Dogs will continue to knock down publisher records. 24 hour sales figures often set the stage for how a game will perform but do not always give a clear idea of whether or not a highly anticipated title will have strong legs. A lot of (albeit not all) launch day buyers were the same people who had pre-ordered Watch Dogs prior to its delay - gamers who were committed to the IP regardless of review scores and launch hiccups. Though, positive word of mouth is essential in convincing less-eager gamers - those who might still be deciding between Watch Dogs and other summer offerings (like surprise hit Wolfenstein).
Even the game's Creative Director, Jonathan Morin, acknowledges that some of the game's success (so far) can be attributed to players that have stuck with the title since its announcement:
“I once said that the buzz around Watch Dogs was driven by the incredible passion of our early fans. Today we broke the record for the biggest first day sales in Ubisoft history. I can never say it enough: thank you everyone! We love you all for your passion and your creativity.”
Without a doubt, Watch Dogs is poised to be very profitable (Guillemot asserts the publisher's investment is already "paying off") but it will take more than above average reviews to turn it into a record setter. Still, if nothing else, the launch sales figures (coupled with Guillemot's comments) are a strong jumping off point for the series - ensuring that the publisher will continue to invest in the IP. That's good news for everyone, even those who are disappointed with the first Watch Dogs title, since Ubisoft should feel confident in building on the existing foundation (and fixing lingering drawbacks) in the next installment.
The Assassin's Creed series faced a similar challenge - after the first game is often referred to as a "proof of concept" more than a fully developed game. Like Watch Dogs, the first Assassin's Creed was an innovative and creative technological achievement, one that was held back by an underdeveloped protagonist and head-scratching (not to mention repetitive) design choices. Fortunately, Assassin's Creed II addressed many of the hurdles facing its predecessor - and, as a result, remains one of the most enjoyable entries in the series to date.
We've got a long wait before a Watch Dogs sequel hits store shelves but, like Guillemot, we're excited that in a sea of sequels, spinoffs, and remakes, gamers are supporting a fresh IP - even if there are still a few wrinkles to smooth out.
MORE: Watch Dogs Game Review
Watch Dogs is now available on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. The Wii U version is aiming for a fall 2014 release.
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