Why Ubisoft delayed Watch Dogs

Executive Laurent Detoc recalls the "intense decision," saying it was in the best interest of the game.

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Delaying open-world game Watch Dogs from November to 2014 was an "intense decision," but was in the best interest of the game, Ubisoft North America president Laurent Detoc told IGN in a new interview.

"It’s a very intense decision,” Detoc said. “I think one of the fascinating things about this industry is that you can go from genius to idiot in an extremely short time frame. These are some of those moments, where you’re riding sky high on Watch Dogs or Rayman, and then suddenly you have to break it to the outside world, and sometimes even convince the inside people. Not everybody agrees. You have to say, ‘this is in the best interest of the product, to do this,’ because at the end of the day we’re going to be able to do this extra fine tuning.”

Detoc recalled that as late as Gamescom (August), most people at Ubisoft expected Watch Dogs to launch on schedule, despite some "lingering doubts." But the game was delayed shortly thereafter, because it just wasn't ready, Detoc said.

"Some games, you just can’t make them that much better because of how they’ve been progressing. Part of the decision to delay Watch Dogs is also that," he said. "We know it’s not where we want it to be. Can it get there? What will it take to get there? That’s why it takes a longer process. But in August we really thought we were going to have that game at launch.”

If Ubisoft had delivered Watch Dogs on schedule, the game could have been the "best-rated game on next-gen," Detoc said, claiming Ubisoft is "breaking ground" on various gameplay assets that put the game in "uncharted territory." But this wasn't good enough for Ubisoft, he said, mentioning that Grand Theft Auto V is the high point to aim for.

“The whole package is there already. But without sending them too many flowers, the guys at Rockstar have showed us again that if you make a 96-percent game, people will come," Detoc said. "Watch Dogs, I can only hope we get to that level. There’s an attachment to the brand, in the case of GTA, that makes people really want to give it that 100-percent review. We’ll be missing that on Watch Dogs until we go further, potentially. That’s what we’re after.”

Also in the interview, Detoc addressed the South Park: The Stick of Truth delay. After Ubisoft purchased the South Park game from THQ in January, Detoc said "took a while" to understand the vision for the game. And after a meeting with the South Park team, Ubisoft had a choice to make, he said.

"Do we want to have a fight with these guys and ship the game without their support? Be the guy who did the bad South Park game? Or do we bite the bullet and say, ‘fine, give it another six months and see if we can get there?’ In the end we had to give it another nine or 10 months. That’s more than we thought. But we really reshuffled the cards dramatically with this one," Detoc said. "It was trickier, because it was a third party--both Obsidian and South Park Digital Studios are third-parties--in addition to what we’re typically dealing with. So this one was more complicated. In this particular case, if you keep those two guys engaged, Matt and Trey are really funny guys. They want to put their hearts into making the game better.”

South Park: The Stick of Truth is now scheduled to launch on March 4, 2014, one year after it was originally intended to ship.

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