It seemed like and endless span of time between the initial E3 2012 teaser for the game and its actual release last week. The executives at Ubisoft also hope that the game as a franchise will have an equally lasting lifespan, judging by some interesting comments coming out of the Montréal game developers. Although Watch_Dogs is new IP which is a refreshing change of pace for an industry that is becoming more and more reliant on the safe bet and established franchises. Ubisoft is seemingly taking a brave leap seen as they have becoming reliant on their now annual Assassin’s Creed franchise to boost their bank balance. However as far as Ubisoft are concerned Watch_Dogs is already been thought about in terms of an established franchise.
“The debut E3 trailer set the graphical bar high for the Ubisoft developers, as far as current gen is concerned they get a pass but the 360 and PS3 ports have come under a lot of criticism.”
The initial sales figures suggest that Ubisoft hopes of a new franchise to add to their development rooster might come to fruition. Over 4 million copies sold in its first week, making the game the best-selling new IP at launch. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot commented last month that they hoped to sell as much as the first Assassin’s Creed title which sold more than 6 million copies. At the current rate of 4 million in a week Watch_Dogs should easily surpass any of Ubisoft’s predictions and with a WiiU release still to come in September. With such impressive sales and generally positive reviews there is no doubt that the Ubisoft heads will be cracking the whip for their Montréal development team to get back to work on a sequel. In fact last year the Head of Sales and Marketing at the company Tony Key made the comment “That’s what all our games are about; we won’t even start if we don’t think we can build a franchise out of it. There’s no more fire and forget – it’s too expensive.” in reference to the then in development Watch_Dogs. A statement that reflects Ubisoft’s current catalogue of games that are mostly made up of sequels or games based on existing properties. Nobody can really blame the publisher from taking a conservative approach when faced with new IP, video game budgets have increased tenfold in the last decade. The likes of GTA V costing Rockstar over $250 million, with the company relying on the games accumulated reputation to shift copies and recoup the costs. Even if Ubisoft have to take a hit financially on the first release with planned sequels the can account for the initial loses in the franchise.
“A small hitch in the games release as arisen over a bug that causes players to get stuck on the games loading screen. Uplay, Ubisoft’s digital distribution service is suspected to be at fault.”
In an interesting move the publisher has also tasked their film division Ubisoft Motion Pictures to start drafting up a film script for Watch_Dogs. It seems a little earlier to planning a movie adaptation for a series that is so new but then again they are already thinking of the long term plan for this would be franchise. Ubisoft have already made plans for all their other major franchises to get the silver screen treatment, the Assassin’s Creed movie gathering steam with a late 2015 release date announced and Michael Fassbender attached as the lead. The video game industry in fact is beginning to mirror their Hollywood counterparts in some respects. At the top end of the industry the big players favour content that will be able to offer them significant return over a long period of time as opposed to a quick flash in the pan. It would be hard to envisage the pitch session for Goat Simulator with the executives at EA or Activision and the publisher drawing out plans for the game as a franchise. Disney planning out a road map for their highly successful Marvel series of films right through to 2021. The big movie producers favour adaptions over original screenplay, the video game industry taking a similar stance. At the other end of the scale the indie scene has exploded in popularity with new IP finding great success in what can be sometimes a swing and miss sector of the industry. For as many triumphs like Minecraft and DayZ there are there are ten times as many failures among them. The indie movie scene following a similar failure success rate among the films released over the last few years. However the more important issue surrounding Ubisoft’s movie studio is will we finally see a decent video game adaption in the cinemas, the video game community doesn’t needs another Prince of Persia movie.
“The film is still in early pre-production with no indication of what role Michael Fassbender might be taking on; Altair, Ezio or Connor?”
Taking a look at some of the other major publishers, paints a similar picture with already establish IP getting the go ahead and financial backing. EA like Ubisoft seemed to have taken a gamble with new IP Titanfall, but then again is it much of a gamble when working with Vince Zampella a proven hit driven developer. No doubt EA have plans for Titanfall to be what Call of Duty has become to Activision with Zampella the man behind that particular franchise. The same could be said of Take-Two interactive and their new IP Evolve that is set to release later this year. Not so much a gamble with Turtle Rock at the helm, the same team that was behind the highly successful Left4Dead franchise. These games also seem to be perfectly suited for a host of DLC releases and eventually sequels. It is becoming rarer and rarer that a game will be made with a definitive end point. Modern video games are developed with the sequel in the back of the developers mind or at least at the top end of the industry. When a publisher is given a hit by one of their studios they always want more. The video game fans also playing a part in this, the community endless speculating on sequels and follow ups. With E3 just around the corner the rumour mill is in full effect and rampant speculation abounds.
“E3 could have seen the big revel of the next Assassin’s Creed game if it wasn’t for those pesky internet sleuths leaking the news early. No doubt they will still have a few tricks up their sleeves for the event”
Watch_Dogs wowed fans at E3 2012 and the anticipation for the game only intensified over the following two years. The game has amassed encouraging sales in its first week of release and is surely on its way to recouping the development costs. Ubisoft might have been criticized for making such bold claims about the games future over a year prior to its launch. Most developers and publisher have future vision for their new IP but to come out and state those claims so boldly is not so common. If the games follow up can build upon the original and maintain the fans attention than their maybe hope for the future of the franchise. If not certain Ubisoft executives might have to back track on their previous statements.