Word-of-MouthThe marketing team at Ubisoft was impacted too. Senior VP of marketing Tony Key reiterated the company line that they had "no choice" but to delay Watch Dogs, but conceded that in the short-term, it did hit their stock price and marketing plans. The silver lining, he said, is that it gave them a much more plush spot in the release calendar. No longer surrounded by the deluge of fall releases and new console frenzy, their latest franchise launch can dominate an otherwise relatively quiet spring launch. The search popularity seems to confirm that thesis. Watch Dogs steadily gained traction since its initial announcement, usually providing a bump to Ubisoft by extension (and consistently outperforming the company's bizarre "Watch_Dogs" name). But as of its delay announcement, it hadn't reached a fever pitch. Interest was on the rise, but no where near the much sharper increase in interest we've seen gathering since February. Of course, the bulk of that increase came just before announcement, so we may have seen a similar increase in the couple of weeks preceding a November launch too. Plus, popularity as a point of discussion doesn't necessarily equate to good buzz. The increased interest in late February and early March happened to coincide with two flare-ups in the community. The first was the latest salvo in the ongoing "resolution-gate" problem that has plagued Microsoft's Xbox One, with reports and rumors swirling that it would be 900p on the system. Ubisoft later confirmed the disparity. Then came the side-by-side comparisons with earlier demos, concluding that the final console build had compromised certain graphical flourishes and physics systems. Releasing earlier in the year may not have given Watch Dogs the time to gather steam, but it could have mitigated both of those community issues. Releasing earlier in the console generation may have made users more apt to shrug off resolution differences, and less time for that impression of the game to take hold. Then again, the size of the community obsessed with pixel count and physics is likely a relatively small one, compared to the larger gaming public.
Word of ReviewersWatch Dogs reviews were held until the day of release, which can sometimes be a disconcerting sign. In this case, reviews have been fairly positive, currently earning a 78-82 on Metacritic depending on your platform of choice. That's probably not the breakout critical acclaim Ubisoft may have been hoping for, but it certainly shows a decent first effort with room to grow a franchise. However, Watch Dogs had been pinned with the expectations and hopes of "next-gen." Even this far removed from the console launches, many reviews--both positive and negative--raised the question of whether it adequately fulfilled that promise. Reviews came to different conclusions, but the question being raised at all was inevitable. It had been tied to the idea of bigger, bolder ideas from the very start.
The Dollar Speaks LoudestBy far the most important measure, by Ubisoft's figuring at least, will be the sales numbers. It lost some degree of console attachment from the delay, as those excited to christen their shiny new console with Watch Dogs have now had to wait and may have even chosen to pass. On the other hand, it also gave it several extra months to make up the difference in pre-orders. To that purpose, it's been a smashing success. Ubisoft announced recently that it was the most pre-ordered new IP in the company's history, and the second most pre-ordered of any of its games. That's impressive even given its massive pre-order incentives scheme. Considering Ubisoft's track record with sales blockbusters, it's certainly no small feat. Judging by first-day sales, Ubisoft's latest is off to a speedy start. We'll never know for certain whether Watch Dogs would have performed better in some alternate universe in which it launched last November as planned. We can conclude, though, that the delay created only a few opportunities for the company, as a trade-off for a series of unforeseen detriments. Watch Dogs is likely to be a smash success--but that will probably be more in spite of the delay drawbacks than because of the advantages afforded by it.
For more on Watch Dogs, check out our review and refer to our ongoing guide to walk you through the tough spots.