Watch Dogs is now out; here's our Watch Dogs review.
We've already discussed why some publishers delay titles due to piracy, but Laurent Detoc, Ubisoft's North American President, had a much longer list of reasons when he spoke to IGN recently. The publisher's had some high profile delays over the last year or so, including both South Park: The Stick of Truth and Watch Dogs, and previously Splinter Cell: Blacklist.
"It’s a very intense decision," Detoc explained. "You have to say, 'this is in the best interest of the product, to do this,' because at the end of the day we’re going to be able to do this extra fine tuning." But the factors that lead to a delay vary from product to product, as does the length of the delay.
"I’ll tell you, at Gamescom, everybody was looking each other in the eye thinking we would be there at launch," admitted Detoc in regards to Watch Dogs, which was originally meant to have come out last month, but has been delayed until next year. "There were already some lingering doubts, but we were plowing through it. There were more than a thousand people touching that game. Then eventually, a month later, we said, ‘this is not gonna fly.’ Then it takes a few more weeks to decide how we’re going to package that news for everyone.
"It’s not just about delaying for the sake of delaying it. No matter how hard we try, we also put out games that are not good quality, unfortunately. It’s not because we go out and say, ‘great, let’s make a piece of junk and put it out there.’ It’s really painful to us. But some games, you just can’t make them that much better because of how they’ve been progressing. Part of the decision to delay Watch Dogs is also that. We know it’s not where we want it to be." In August, though, Ubisoft was sure Watch Dogs was almost ready to launch.
Had Ubisoft not delayed Watch Dogs, Detoc is still convinced that it would have been "the best-rated game on next gen if it came out at launch." But he wants to do even better than that.
South Park: The Stick of Truth, which was originally going to be published by THQ before it closed its doors, was slated for a Christmas launch, a potentially profitable time to release a game, but it's also been pushed back to next year. "It’s a huge brand," explained Detoc. "It’s interesting, because the South Park guys are extremely demanding. They’re very professional. They want the best for their brand. We get along with each other fairly well because we’re quite receptive to their requests. If we get to this level of quality, it’s going to be a bigger success. Their season ends at the beginning of December. We were all trying to lock this in. We looked at the game and we said, 'we need to delay this.' It was sort of preaching to the choir, because we knew they also wanted what was best for the product."
Detoc didn't want to be the guy who released a bad South Park game.
While the goal is for the delay to make a better game, Detoc admits that it doesn't always work out like that. Some delays just made people wait when the game was already good enough to launch. "We tend to favor what the people who make the games want to do in this company. Not every company behaves that way."