When Ubisoft pulled the sheet off of Watch_Dogs at E3 in 2012 it looked amazing. The game’s city of Chicago looked like a living metropolis and the images were breath taking. The next time we saw it, it didn’t look quite as amazing. There was a significant backlash against Ubisoft when the final version of Watch_Dogs didn’t live up to the hype of the original trailer. That backlash has apparently led to some policy changes at the publisher.
Speaking to The Guardian Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said that the situation with Watch_Dogs has led to some changes in policy regarding how they will show early games in the future.
With E3 2015 we said, OK, let’s make sure the games are playable, that they’re running on the target machines. When we show something, we ask the team, make sure it’s playable, make sure gamers can immediately see exactly what it is. That’s what we learned from the Watch Dogs experience – if it can’t be played on the target machine, it can be a risk.
Shows like E3 are all about building the hype which can lead many developers and publishers to limit what they show in order to be sure it all looks good. Cinematic trailers are beautiful but they tell you just short of nothing about the game. Even game play demos are so heavily scripted at press events that it can be hard to tell how close to reality they really are.
While a new policy is a welcome change the fact that a policy like this is new for a developer is disconcerting. Why wasn’t this always the policy? Do any other developers have a policy like this. Does Ubisoft even really have a policy, or is this just PR?
Games will always go through changes during development and we don’t expect games to always look exactly like they did two years previously, but in the end the great press they got with that first demo is meaningless when the game is released. Their goal is to sell games, to do that, in part, they need to make us excited for the game they are making, not the one they dream about.