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In the last 2 weeks Ubisoft announced that Rayman Legends would no longer be has brought on a surprisingly intense conversation about Ubisoft's handling of the title. Many were upset that the game, which for all intents and purposes is currently completed, will not release this month, and fans will have to wait until September to play it. Many also point to the new launch window's proximity to the release of Grand Theft Auto V as a sign that the game will not perform as well, in terms of sales, due to the amount of competition it would face in the market. Even the developers have gotten into the discussion due to certain members of the development team publicly expressing their frustration with the move and calling for its release.
From my standpoint, I believe that Ubisoft made the right decision, and here is why:
1. The Nintendo Wii U is struggling.
As demonstrated by an article here on Game Informer earlier this week, the Wii U's sales numbers are very low at this point. With no major AAA releases in the foreseeable future, this trend appears to be one that will sustain for a number of months. This lack of console sales means that there will be a limited audience for the game. So, a delay can only be to the benefit of Ubisoft in selling the Wii U version of the game.
2. Rayman Legends is not a AAA, system selling type of game.
I've read several blogs that have attempted to claim that Rayman Legends is a AAA game and that if it were to release on the Wii U, it would result in a boost to the Wii U's sales numbers. While it may be that there would be more consoles sold if Rayman released now, the effect would likely be due to more of a cumulative effect of games available rather than people needing the console specifically to play that game. The last game, Rayman Origins sold decently well for a retail platformer, with approximately 2 million units sold across all consoles, but the game never reached a million sales on any one console. In fact, on the Wii, the game only managed approximately 500,000 sales. When compared to the multiple millions in sales for The New Super Mario Bros, which is a similar type of game, and it becomes clear that Rayman is an inferior product (economic term; not indicative of quality, rather the desirability of a product or service). Considering that The New Super Mario Bros. U is out and sales for the console are still so low, does not bode well for the success of Rayman Legends as the system selling AAA game that people want it to be.
3. Launching simultaneously on all consoles raises the desirability of the game on the other consoles.
First and foremost with this portion of the discussion, let me just say that it is for the best that this game will not be a console exclusive. As I showed before with the sales of Rayman Origins, this game's strength in the market will come from accessibility from as many platforms as possible. Limiting to one console would limit the audience and limit the ability for Ubisoft to make this game profitable.
That said, releasing on all consoles at the same time is in Ubisoft's best interest. Though many are upset that the game will not release now on the Wii U, despite being fully ready for distribution, doing so would be harmful to their chances to sell the game on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, and most glaring is the advertising costs. If they were to release Rayman Legends on the Wii U now, and the 360 and PS3 in September, they would have to fund two advertising campaigns, which is a fairly big investment depending on how they choose to advertise the game. The other reason is that releasing a different version of the game later on diminishes the anticipation of the game for the other consoles. This is a result of the exposure that the game receives post launch from video game media sites, as well as the fanbase. By the time that September rolls around and and 360 and PS3 owners have the ability to purchase the game, the entirety of the game would be available to be seen on Youtube, or players might have played it at a friend's that owns a Wii U. In the end there would simply be more excitement for the game if it were to release on all consoles at the same time, as opposed to one now and the rest later and with a single advertising campaign, Ubisoft can increase that excitement.
4. Releasing closer to the holiday season provides more exposure and better sales opportunities.
Many believe that the move to a September release will result in Rayman Legends being in direct competition with Grand Theft Auto V. While this may be initially, the game's release provides it a lot of exposure just in time for for the holiday season, when people are more likely to be spending money on games. While it is a competitive time frame, it is also early enough to where the game avoids the majority of the heavy hitters of the season, such as Assassin's Creed (assuming Ubisoft continues with annual releases), Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty. Rayman Legends is also a very different title from Grand Theft Auto and more age appropriate for younger gamers, as well as old. This provides a niche for it within the month of September, and could very well shield it from being overwhelmed by the release of Grand Theft Auto V (another reason why maintaining excitement for the game is crucial).
I'm not going to say that the way in which Ubisoft handled the entire situation is without issue. Leading up to key deadlines for the original release date, members of the development team were required to work a lot of hours in the crunch that kept them away from their families and placed a large amount of stress upon them. To then turn around, right after this crunch and decide the game would not release in the window would be downright infuriating, given what the developers went through to prepare the product on time. It's not surprising that some of the developers have openly expressed their frustration with the delay. I can certainly empathize their frustrations and feel Ubisoft should have handled their personnel better, especially if they were considering a delay. This move will inevitably be for the good of Ubisoft (and in turn the development team), but treating employees in this manner is just not a good practice (even if they were financially compensated for the time they put in).
In the end, I don't believe that this is as great an issue as many have made it out to be. Those that were anticipating the release of the game will have to wait a few months. They might view it as needless, but will the desire to play the game decrease due to a later release? Fans of the game will still be desiring the experience, regardless of whether it is now or 7 months from now, and this simultaneous release will allow more fans to share in the excitement for the game. The window in which it releases provides greater exposure to further increase that excitement. While it may be viewed as a negative in the interim by many, it will inevitably be for the better for all; customer, developer, and publisher. One need only examine the issue beyond face value to see these things.
Feel free to let me know what your thoughts are in the comment section below.