Watch Dogs 'downgrade' controversy is a lesson learned for Ubisoft

Pixel Boost Watch Dogs Bad Blood 21

Ubisoft had a pretty rough 2014, but if you can cast your mind back further than the Assassin's Creed: Unity debacle, you'll remember people weren't too happy about Watch Dogs, either. Compared to the game's hype-building 2012 reveal, the graphics in the final build fell short of breathtaking. It's not a phenomenon unique to Ubisoft: many publishers show off idealistic vertical slices at game conventions to sate the market's appetite for bleeding edge tech, but the practice has proven damaging for Ubisoft, according to CEO Yves Guillemot.

In an interview with The Guardian, Guillemot said the publisher's E3 2015 showing deliberately featured gameplay footage playable on target machines, ie, systems they're optimising the game to actually run on.

“With E3 2015 we said, OK, let’s make sure the games are playable, that they’re running on the target machines," Guillemot said.

"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.”

Guillemot also addressed the question of why Watch Dogs turned out the way it did, and why it was delayed.

"It’s a real challenge to create those types of games,” he said. “When they come out, especially the first iterations, they are not perfect on everything. We think we launched a good quality game for a first step in a new brand with a new technology. It’s just so complex – seamless multiplayer, connectivity with mobile and tablets, so many things – it was maybe a bit too much for a first iteration.”

Despite all the fuss, Watch Dogs is actually a pretty decent game. "Creative hacking and covert multiplayer modes bring exciting new life to otherwise familiar open-world man-shooting," Christoper Livingston wrote in his review.

Shaun Prescott

Shaun Prescott is the Australian editor of PC Gamer. With over ten years experience covering the games industry, his work has appeared on GamesRadar+, TechRadar, The Guardian, PLAY Magazine, the Sydney Morning Herald, and more. Specific interests include indie games, obscure Metroidvanias, speedrunning, experimental games and FPSs. He thinks Lulu by Metallica and Lou Reed is an all-time classic that will receive its due critical reappraisal one day.