Jack discusses his issues with Watch_Dogs; a decent, but otherwise underwhelming game from Ubisoft.
Throughout high school and, now, well into college, I’ve always held a part-time job. Two of my three previous jobs were in retail; one year spent in GameStop and another spent in Best Buy. While both had their perks and let downs, Best Buy managed to teach me something that stuck with me even two years later.
Basically, I was told to tell the customer what to expect, but don’t tell them they will get something or experience something that the team delivering the product or service can’t possibly live up to. That way, at the very least the customer is satisfied and received exactly what was promised or, at best, their expectations are exceeded. Put simply, “under-promise and over-deliver.”
Recently, I’ve been playing Watch_Dogs and, unfortunately, it reminds me of some of the lessons I learned at Best Buy. No, no, not how to deal with hours of mind-numbing boredom. No, not the disappointing nature of the human race that can only truly be experienced working in retail (or playing Rust). Watch_Dogs, from announcement to gameplay itself, makes me wonder why developers and publishers in the gaming industry don’t hold themselves to the same basic premise of sales that were impressed upon me during my time at Best Buy.
However, before I go any farther I’d like to point out that I am still playing Watch_Dogs. It is a pretty fun game with a cool premise and slick mechanics but there doesn’t seem to be anything special about it drawing me back. It has no real wow-factor and I find myself wondering why I should play it instead of finishing a second play-through of Transistor or something to that effect.
There are many, many things I could say about Best Buy and not even a quarter of them would be positive but at least when the idea of under-promise, over-deliver was brought to fruition for a customer, they were impressed, not burned. The issue with a developer’s and publisher’s pre-release practices, based on hyping up audiences with “vertical slices” and over-blown promises, is that the consumer can almost never be satisfied with whatever the final product ends up looking like.
Perhaps this is a systemic problem but I believe the video game industry is self-regulating enough that it could be stamped out with a push from consumers. We saw tremendous media and consumer blow back on the developers behind Aliens: Colonial Marines when they released said game and it fell woefully short of the previews they had released ahead of time. Why, then, do we not see the same developer shaming when people feel like what was promised was not delivered?
Now that’s not to say the degree to which Ubisoft failed to deliver is as dramatic as Gearbox’s problems following the release of Aliens: Colonial Marines is anywhere in the same league. That said, Watch_Dogs was promised to be an open Chicago filled with endless possibilities where any citizen had the chance to become a meaningful participant in gameplay. What was delivered were overly scripted moments with an overuse of push-button-to-win opportunities and that truly feels like a let down worth being upset over.
Instead of revolutionary combat mechanics involving dramatic and varied hacking, I found myself less impressed than I was playing through Ubisoft’s recent FarCry 3 or even Assassin’s Creed 4, both well storied franchises. Even the driving has fallen under attack from people looking for more realistic driving (the motorcycles feel like GTA: San Andres with the biking skill on full, you almost have to go out of the way to fall off) and people who feel it’s too difficult. Unfortunately, it’s a game that can’t seem to please.
I recently wrote a piece about how much I love the recent trends over at Ubisoft…and Watch_Dogs certainly hasn’t changed that. It will take more than one game that I’m not a big fan of or one that feels like a let down to change the fact that Ubisoft is still my favorite third-party developer. At the end of the day though, that simply means I hold them to a higher standard and feel like their fans deserve more than what ultimately feels like an entirely generic experience, no matter how solid that base of mechanics is.