Last week Ubisoft reported that Watch_Dogs had broken the record for most preorders, a week before its actual release this Tuesday. That simple statement somehow made the hype for the game even crazier, most likely leading to even more preorders.
Ever since the news broke, I’ve been asking the same question, over and over: So what?
I didn’t preorder the game, nor have I played it. I only ever preorder if I’m saving money by doing so and Watch_Dogs’ preorder was disappointing in that regard.
But to what I’ve been asking. So what if it broke all records? It might make it a commercially successful game and the record is a big pat on the back for the marketing team; it’s not a success for the designers and developers that made the bloody thing. It’s not a testament on how innovative or good the game is. It’s a return of investment before the product has been delivered and that is just plain wrong. Watch_Dogs also has the honor of being the game with the widest array of preorder options and editions, which I find disgusting.
The game released this week and while major sites have given it 7s and 8s they keep mentioning the same things: “it’s like GTA but not as good” or “it’s GTA with a hacking gimmick.” Worse still are the constant mentions of how weak the plot is and how terrible the characterization is. A Kotaku reporter described the main character as a “gruff voice with an iconic cap,” but nothing else. From what I read and from opinions from live-streamers, the game seems to lack substance.
Yesterday I watched Dan “Indie” Long play it for a while and I was shocked, genuinely shocked when I saw flickering textures on various surfaces. It’s a tiny thing, almost inconsequential but to me it betrayed the supposed high production values and expectations of this game. The second thing that struck me was how samey it was, how unoriginal it was. Since then I’ve heard and read fans saying, “Wait for the Spidertank!” But that’s not on what the game should hinge on, not one that promised so much, and even less when it’s A MINIGAME.
I swore off hyped preorders with Dragon Age 2, which as you might suppose received many 7s and 8s from critics but was universally hated and I still consider it one of the worst games I’ve ever played. I bought the collector’s edition and dished out more money and did all the social games and all the bullshit Bioware put out for items. I was even excited that I could use my Blood Dragon armor, the single best piece of equipment I used in the first Dragon Age and which was a bonus item. What I received was a repetitive shallow mess and even the excitement for the armor faded when I realized they’d removed all the powers it had and made it just a simple heavy armor.
But despite it being atrocious, the game was a commercial success because of the massive preorders built on the developer’s reputation and how good the previous game was.
I’ll say it again: that’s wrong. A videogame should succeed or fail based on how good it is, not how amazing your marketing department is.
It’s the Dark Side, where games don’t make it because they have good design and are fun, but because someone convinced you that it’s GOING TO BE. It’s the video game industry’s brainwash machine.
About two weeks ago, I read that AAA used to stand for Critical Success, Commercial Success and Innovation. Under that point of view, how can Watch_Dogs and Dragon Age 2 be AAA games when they are so derivative?
If we stopped this Preorder Nightmare and made games work for the AAA title on quality, these games would be AA or even A. Even more, it would force developers to get their heads out of their asses and make fucking good games again instead of just hyping trash.
How many titles have made it or gotten sequels riding on preorders alone. How many of them have been total crap? A fair few, the number rising in the last few years.
I think we need to stop preordering or at least demand no review embargo or a demo. If you want me to pay up front, let me see a sample of the goods or let others tell me how good they are.
I will play Watch_Dogs soon and if I like it, I’ll come back and apologize and eat my words.
But I don’t think that will happen.
- WATCH DOGS™ BREAKS RECORD FOR PRE-ORDERS OF A NEW IP (Ubisoft Group)