5 Reasons why Watch Dogs was delayed, probably

Oh no! The PS4 launch line-up is doomed, apparently.

While the unfortunate delay of Watch Dogs is worst for Sony, due to launch bundles and exclusive content, it’s terrible for everyone. Watch Dogs was one of the most promising Wii U titles of the year — not that competition was fierce — and, if we’re honest, it was one of the most promising games in the Xbox One’s repertoire as well.

Everyone’s very angry with the Frenchies for ruining, or delaying, their fun. Why have they done this to us?

To make the next-gen versions more prominent

From the seven minutes I’ve played on PS4 and the two current-gen screens I’ve seen, there’s a massive discrepancy between the next-gen version of Watch Dogs and that crummy old version that may as well be relegated to door stop. That’s going to be a recurring blight on the games industry as cross-gen filth dominates the landscape in 2014 — games will be underpowered for the new hardware but struggle to keep up on PS3 and Xbox 360.

However, Watch Dogs could be willing to forgo the equalization and make the next-gen edition the definitive version. They’ll still release it on everything, as Ubisoft is all about being platform agnostic, but in six months it will be much easier to release a cross-gen game that clearly favours the next-generation.

If Watch Dogs were to launch in November, a majority of the audience would be playing a watered-down, possible disappointment. In the middle of 2014, it’s far more reasonable to expect a significantly larger fanbase to have migrated to a next-generation console, as the older systems begin to fade into the abyss.

To avoid competing with themselves

With Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag launching almost in each other’s pockets, Ubisoft’s biggest competitor this holiday was, errrrm, itself — d’oh!

In business terms, that’s a massive cock-up, when games like The Last of Us and BioShock Infinite have proven that gamers have money to burn year-round, not only in November. There’s also the overhyped “GTA V effect” that plays little into the debate. By the time Watch Dogs was set to launch, the average gamer would have been ready to be whisked away into a new world.

However, by competing for the same audience, it’s fair to assume a majority of next-gen adopters would have picked either Assassin’s Creed IV or Watch Dogs to accompany their new piece of kit. Now many may buy both.

To make more money

Ubisoft muttered something to shareholders about projecting a loss and downgrading financial estimates by something to the tune of $500 million after announcing the delays to Watch Dogs and The Crew, coupled with Splinter Cell and Rayman not doing as well as the boffins in accounting had predicted. That caused share prices to plummet 25 percent, but no matter: it’s short term pain for long-term gain.

You see, the gloomy news is for the remainder of Ubisoft’s current fiscal year. Of course,, it’s going to lose a stack of hopeful money (that it hadn’t actually made yet) by delaying its biggest game and most hyped new IP in years.

Now Watch Dogs will fall into the next fiscal year, and probably make somebody very rich. While Ubi would never release an unfinished game, its all-encompassing mission is to maximise profit. Without competing against itself and launching in a mid-year slot that’s a recently proven money-maker, when more people will have invested in new consoles, Watch Dogs could theoretically make a lot more money from a slight delay.

To have DLC ready earlier

I’m not for a second suggesting Watch Dogs will pull a “Capcom” and have DLC preinstalled on the disc, but here’s the skinny. DLC has been taking too long of late. I’ve already misplaced BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us isn’t going to return to my PS3. With the “social” and “digital” (among other buzzwords) generation among us, I expect DLC to arrive faster, while we’re still socially engaged with our digitally expanding games.

With few neighboring releases to compete against, Watch Dogs DLC could be unprecedented if it arrives a few weeks after the main game, instead of three or six months later when the masses have moved on. If “weeks” seems too soon, look at GTA Online. It launched when a sizeable proportion of players had either just finished the content included with the game or were starting to look for an evolved experience. Imagination if that had been paid DLC instead. The timing would have been perfect.

Maybe it actually isn’t finished

Hey, maybe it actually isn’t finished. All the rubbish in the press release about making something awesome more awesome could be translated to “making something horribly broken into something actually fun”. I doubt it’s that bad, as it seems more than playable, but media demos aren’t always the best sample of how finished the game you buy will be.

I’m a little surprised that it’s not done considering how long Ubisoft has had to work on it, but it’s possible that it just needed a little extra polishing.

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