It’s unlikely you missed it, but here’s a little reminder; arguably Ubisoft’s most anticipated game of 2013, the open world techno-title Watch_Dogs, was delayed last week. The setback is a big hit, not only to this year’s Christmas collection, but also to the launch line-up of the PS4 and Xbox One. The gaming community was predictably up in arms over the delay (you can see our aggregated reactions here), some going so far as to cancel their whole next-gen pre-orders. Admittedly, I had a bit of a fright when the delay was announced, as my pre-order contained the PS4 Watch_Dogs bundle. It worked out fine for me, thankfully, and I’d argue that it will all work out fine for everyone else. While it is certainly disappointing news, there are a fair few advantages to the delay of Watch_Dogs.
The first advantage is the most obvious, and one that the online community seems to have come to understand over the years. With the extra few months to complete the project, Ubisoft Montreal should be able to make the fully realised game that they want to produce. We've experienced too many horrible instances of big name titles crashing and burning under the influence of publisher deadlines. So if Montreal feel that they need more time to make Watch_Dogs everything that we’re hoping it to be, then I say give it to them. Too often publishers are afraid of pushing back their AAA titles, a sad effect of the consumerist bloodlust of the gaming community (not to mention the natural greed of said publishers). While it’s certainly not good to make a habit of misaimed release dates, publishers and developers shouldn't be afraid to adjust their release plans. After all, we’re supposed to be paying for brilliant games, not half-finished messes.
The next point to note is the sigh of relief my wallet released as I read the announcement (we’re telekinetically linked, you see). While it certainly sucks that we won’t be playing Watch_Dogs before or around the Christmas period, it does free up some change to either save or spend on another title. Is Assassin’s Creed IV looking a bit more enticing now? Back on point, with the cyber-crime title now pushed back to Q2 2014, a window has opened within the most busy part of the gaming calendar. Personally, the delay created the opportunity to pre-order Killzone: Shadowfall, a game that I wanted to play, but lost out to Battlefield 4 and Watch_Dogs. Of course, the theorists around have been theorising with the theory that Ubisoft pushed the game back in an effort to boost the sales of their swashbuckling open world adventure; it is after all, pretty similar to Watch_Dogs.
My final point, and the one I feel is the most significant, is the simple fact that Watch_Dogs will now be available during the generally pretty sparse post-launch console window. In the past the release of new hardware has long been accompanied by a collection of mixed launch titles that hog all the limelight building up to the big day. This leads to a serious lack of proper releases in the six months or so following the new console. The seventh generation seems to be knocking that trend, something I feel that is conclusively proven with the delay of Watch_Dogs. PS4 now has a post-release line-up including both Infamous: Second Son and the aforementioned Ubisoft title, spaced out perfectly. Xbox One sees Titanfall join the multi-platform Destiny; all of these games fall into the post console launch window and are spaced nicely apart. Watch_Dogs sits comfortably in this space as a unique and exciting experience. With room to breathe and a lot less competition, Q2 of 2014 seems like the ideal place for the game to launch.
So while some have been clutching their fists and cancelling their pre-orders, I’m actually not too fussed about the Watch_Dogs delay. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a pain in the arse that I won’t be playing it on the first day of next-gen, but there are plenty of other great looking games to make it a day to remember. I mean, I only had Motorstorm and Resistance: Fall of Man to keep me going in 2007, and it was bloody fantastic. I’ve got four varied titles to play this time around and they may not include Ubisoft Montreal’s potentially amazing game, but it’s still going to be great.