Ubisoft's Watch Dogs Will Flop

Source: ubisoft.com

New IPs are risky propositions in the modern gaming industry. The power that established franchises carry on the market makes it difficult for fresh faces to carve out their own spaces, and the skyrocketing development costs of the current and previous console cycles mean that publishers are justifiably hesitant to green-light titles that won't generate guaranteed returns.

Installments in major franchises eventually start to lose their luster, however. With the notable exception of the "Grand Theft Auto" series from Take Two Interactive (NASDAQ: TTWO  ) , last generation's heavy hitters are starting to show their age as they return diminishing sales on the market. This trend threatens Ubisoft (NASDAQOTH: UBSFF  ) more than any other games publisher.

"Assassin's Creed" is Ubi's marquee property, and sales of the most recent installment are down substantially over those of the preceding title in the series. Ubisoft's total third-quarter software sales were down 35% over those from 2012. Ubisoft's outlook looks even bleaker because its premier foray into new IP could be a massive flop. Watch Dogs could quickly go from being one of the hottest new properties in gaming to an industry-wide laughing stock.

Watch Dogs pulls an old trick
When Ubisoft first demoed Watch Dogs in 2012, its incredible visuals sent waves through the gaming press and online communities. The title was broadly put forth as an example of the promise inherent to the new console hardware. That the game was also slated to hit last-gen consoles was mostly brushed aside, as has frequently been the case in the marketing lead-ups to cross-generational titles. Now, leaked footage of the game has shown that the real Watch Dogs may lack much of the visual splendor featured in its 2012 unveiling.

Ubisoft PR has stated that the idea of a graphical downgrade is ridiculous, but the messaging on the matter is mixed. Ubisoft representatives weighed in on the controversy to assure fans that the final product on the Sony PlayStation 4 would match the game's 2013 E3 demo. The problem here is that many already viewed that build as a substantial downgrade from the 2012 demo.

Roll over and over and over
If the issues with Watch Dogs were limited to a drop-off in graphical quality, Ubisoft might not have much to worry about. Potentially misleading debuts are no rarity in the gaming industry. While initial speculation on the game's delay mostly suggested that the push was done to give Dogs some breathing room amid tough competition like Grand Theft Auto 5, it's now clear from the company's own statements that the title had major quality issues. The lead designer of Watch Dogs recently revealed that the title would likely have been viewed as too repetitive if it had launched in 2013.

Source: nintendo.com

Is Dogs dead on Wii U, or just paused?
According to Ubisoft, the Nintendo (NASDAQOTH: NTDOY  ) Wii U version of Watch Dogs has been "paused" and a release in 2014 is only a possibility. The development resources allocated to bringing the title to Nintendo's latest console have supposedly been shifted to help get the other versions into shape.

The company maintains that the game will still hit the Wii U, but there are good reasons to doubt the validity of these statements. Sales of the console have been abysmal, and M-rated games are not typically strong performers on Nintendo platforms. Expect the Wii U version to be quietly canceled after the title has debuted on other platforms.

Grand Theft Auto could be best in show 
A number of retailers are stating that versions of Grand Theft Auto 5 will be hitting PlayStation 4, the Microsoft Xbox One, and the PC sometime this year. This gels with leaked code from the Xbox 360 version of the game that suggested ports to the new systems were in the cards. Rumors indicate that Take-Two subsidiary Rockstar Games will announce the new versions at this year's E3, a window that lines up closely with the May 27 Watch Dogs release date.

Source: rockstargames

Ubisoft officials have already pointed out that the incredible critical and commercial success of GTA 5 has factored into the delay of the company's next big game. Comparisons between the two games were already unavoidable. If the reveal or release of new versions of GTA 5 coincides with the launch of Watch Dogs, Ubi looks to be the big loser.

No more dog puns
Perhaps more than any other entertainment business, positive critical reception in the gaming industry is important to commercial success. In addition, those who work on games frequently receive bonuses for achieving high scores on the review aggregate site Metacritic. Watch Dogs once appeared to be on track for surefire success, but there has been very little good news to speak of since the game's delay.

Modern video games have long development cycles for a reason, and it's unlikely that a title that was too broken and repetitive to ship on its initial date will have its issues resolved after a six-month delay. Content is king, and it's hard to imagine that the beleaguered Watch Dogs will steal the crown from "Grand Theft Auto." 

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Read/Post Comments (15) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On March 15, 2014, at 4:57 PM, Thingsthatgoboom wrote:

    This is a load of rubbish, it is entirely speculation and just glorifies GTA

  • Report this Comment On March 16, 2014, at 7:59 AM, Tertyty wrote:

    This article is nothing but proof that this website's name is perfect!

    A new IP does not necessarily mean that it would go a flop. We are gamers and we adore hardcore action and wild gameplay mechanics and Watch Dogs has lived up to it! It may not be as graphically impressive as was advertised but that is just one of the many aspects of this game!

    GTA is a very good game, but Watch Dogs is something different! Don't get me wrong, both are amazing in their own ways but we aren't anywhere close to its release so it's far too early to come up with bold conclusion about a game with visible potential!

    And to say "Ubisoft's Watch Dogs Will Flop" just makes it look like a statement from a rejected fortune teller who,apart from saying gibberish stuff, claims that his Authoritah is respectable!

    I would hate being a jerk on this but that's how I see it and some other million supporters of this game!

  • Report this Comment On March 16, 2014, at 5:36 PM, awang0718 wrote:

    This has got to be the most ridiculous article I have ever read about Watchdogs

    Just becasue the IP is new doesn't mean it will flop. Look at Mass Effect, Bioshock, and even more recently, The Last of Us. None of those IPs flopped

    "Expect the Wii U version to be quietly canceled after the title has debuted on other platforms."

    Ubisoft has stated multiple times on Twitter that the game will come out on Wii U. If they suddenly just "cancel" the Wii U version, then Ubi really will be "an industry-wide laughing stock"

    It is as if the Motley Fool pays Mr, Noonan and Mr. Sam Mattera to write doom articles on video games...

  • Report this Comment On March 16, 2014, at 8:01 PM, ovan01 wrote:

    I actually created an account just to comment on this article.. I'm sorry but I'd have to disagree with the writer, the game has an insane amount of potential and to just go and write up an article titled "Ubisoft's Watch Dogs will flop" is just plain stupid.

    These types or journalism are what discourages game companies of even trying to come up with new ideas. and as awang0718 puts it there are lots of new IPs that just blew everyone away (critics aside).

    Sorry but in my opinion the writer is merely pumping up the GTA franchise by putting down other games. We get it, you love Grand Theft Auto V, who doesn't but that does not mean we can't love another game other than that. Gameplay-wise Watch dogs offers something completely different from GTAV which will most definitely guarantee that this game will not flop.

    "Ubisoft's Watch Dogs Will Flop" hahaha yeah I can see that happening, right after rockstar games announces that GTAV will be the last of the GTA franchise... yes sarcasm :P

  • Report this Comment On March 16, 2014, at 10:51 PM, Valentine26 wrote:

    This is based off your personal opinion and not fact. Almost every article i have seen on this site is based off the writers personal opinions instead of actual 100% fact.

  • Report this Comment On March 16, 2014, at 11:14 PM, ajek3000 wrote:

    How did this article go from a headline of "Watch Dogs will Flop!" to a conclusionary statement of "Watch dogs won't unseat GTA V!"

    ... those are two vastly different statements. One requires a game to sell poorly. The other requires the game merely not to be one of the best selling titles of all time. There's a pretty wide gap of area in between those two bottom lines and, chances are, the game will land firmly somewhere well above "flop" and likely some measure below "GTA V."

  • Report this Comment On March 16, 2014, at 11:32 PM, keithnoonan wrote:

    Hey ovan01, thanks for the comment and for sharing your take! I'm not at all opposed to new IPs in the gaming industry. I think that an over-reliance on established franchises has the potential to diminish innovation and lead to stagnation in the market. The point I'm hoping to make in the article's introduction is that new properties that receive large budgets are becoming increasingly rare and there are justifiable reasons why that is the case. I've actually never played Grand Theft Auto 5, but the critical and commercial success that the title found is incredible.

    @ajek3000

    Thanks for the comment! I can see how pairing the title with the conclusion might lead to confusion. I wasn't making the statement that Watch Dogs would sell below the massive numbers GTA 5 achieved--that goes without saying in my opinion. What I was looking to get across is that Watch Dogs is going to be compared to GTA 5 by fans and media outlooks alike, and those comparisons are not going to do Ubisoft's game any favors. Ubisoft's own executives and PR people have stated the game had content problems and indicated fears about going up against GTA. Watch Dogs will still likely put up good numbers when compared to the average industry release, but I expect it to be a flop relative to what Ubisoft needs it to be. If it hits shelves and is panned by critics and by consumers, Ubi is going to have a hard time making it into a successful franchise.

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2014, at 6:35 AM, Williams1991 wrote:

    @keithnonan

    Seriously?

    You haven't played GTA V, yet here you are in an article with a misleading title, heralding another games demise simply because it doesn't match up to a game you haven't even played?

    The more likely IP that this game would be measured against would most likely be the latest installment in the Assassins Creed series. Why? Because judging by released gameplay footage for Watch Dogs, and compared to actual gameplay (that I as a gamer have experienced) the biggest problem this game could possibly run up against is the similarity to the entire Assassins Creed series.

    That doesn't mean it will flop however, it may mean that the game will struggle to expand its fanbase because its having to fight against a similar IP developed by the same company.

    As good as GTA V is (and oh hey, I've played this one too!) it is not the Holy Grail of video games. Yes it sold extremely well for consoles, but Rockstar is STILL p*ssing all over the fanbase by continuing to exclude PC consumers. Yet Watch_Dogs is launching on PC, PS3/PS4, XBox/XBone and later Wii U. And last I checked the Wii U is still doing ridiculously poorly in sales.

    As hard as it is to develop games for PCs, those that manage to launch on PC at the same time as console, tend to make more than those that launch for 1 or 2 consoles and then say "Oop, we're done."

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2014, at 12:46 PM, ColdestVisionz wrote:

    Is there a way of removing the "Fool" from my news feed. They keep posting articles like this. Whoever writes these pieces clearly have NO clue about the video game industry and are only pandering to their share holders. This isn't news. It's an internet commercial. Paid for WWW space. Oh, and I have 28 years in the video game industry, so don't think for one minute I'm just some rambling idiot.

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2014, at 1:27 PM, Facer5 wrote:

    I agree with most of what the author of this article says, but I believe the game will be at the very least a minor hit, if only because there are not that many other games available for the One and the PS4 at this point.

    Cancelled for the Wii U? I'm almost certain it will be. Ubi's in no position to waste money.

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2014, at 2:17 PM, ClumsyG wrote:

    It seems like a lot of the Motley Fool articles on video games are cries that the sky is falling.

    "The Xbox One is one life away from failure."

    "Watch Dogs will flop."

    I mean, seriously, it's getting to the point where I wish I could remove ALL Motley Fool articles from the Yahoo front page feed. These articles seem intended to get a rise out of people.

    Selling a few million units in a few months is evidence that a console will go down in flames? Building a new IP will only result in failure?

    Concerning Watchdogs, Ubisoft has come this far with original IPs.

    Assassin's Creed.

    Far Cry.

    Just Dance.

    Prince of Persia.

    Rayman.

    These are all super successful IPs that Ubisoft grew from the ground up, and there's no reason to believe that a delay will destroy Watch Dogs. Look at Blizzard -- a company notorious for delays which sets records every single time they release a game because it's quality (except for Diablo 3 which they're now getting on track).

    Let's not forget Ubisoft is responsible for Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six and Splinter Cell games.

    It's hard to trust a site giving financial advice that sounds the bell of impending doom only to be proven wrong time and time again.

    A fool and his money are soon parted, indeed.

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2014, at 3:27 PM, Groovetoon wrote:

    "I've actually never played Grand Theft Auto 5, but the critical and commercial success that the title found is incredible."

    Then you have no business writing about the games industry and what may be a disappointing release. End of story.

    From an investment side (and player) you should hope WD has a stellar release as competition in the AAA industry will drive innovation and bring better bar raising experiences to players.

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2014, at 11:59 PM, thejmurphy wrote:

    do yourself a favor and stop reading motley fool. they write bogus articles meant to get a rise out of readers so theyll comment. more comments = more advertisers

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  • Report this Comment On May 29, 2014, at 4:24 PM, John112 wrote:

    Keith ftw

  • Report this Comment On June 07, 2014, at 11:35 PM, keithnoonan wrote:

    You're absolutely right, John112. Time has proven my prediction dead wrong. I took what I knew to be a contrarian stance and pegged the game as an underperformer, knowing that most pre-release tracking indicated the game would do very well. Part of this was based on the possibility that Rockstar would launch GTA V ports on PC, Xbox One, and PS4 within the first half of 2014, a potential suggested by more than one credible outlet. I think it's great that the game did well, it's a very healthy indicator for the industry. It's also clearly done great things for Ubisoft's valuation. Congrats to Ubi and the teams involved. I'm eating my words on this one.

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