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With this week’s dual announcement from Ubisoft of Rayman: Legend’s simultaneous release on all consoles, including the PS3 and X-Box 360, and its subsequent delay on Wii U, many heart-broken Rayman fans now have great angst in their gaming futures. The decision has come with scores of protests from outraged fans among the gaming community and they have further made their voice heard across the Internet through scores of hostile reactions to this unfortunate surprise of Ubisoft’s. With such a big title torn from their grasp mere weeks before its original release date of February 26th, fans’ anger can be duly sympathized with thanks to Ubisoft’s long and poor record of public relations and commercial failings. While it can be recognized as a terrible marketing choice in itself, Rayman’s delay can clearly be seen as the symptom of a much worse problem of Ubisoft’s that is evidenced in their long and poor record of public relations with fans. I take the time here to explain, to the best of my ability, what factors of Ubisoft’s decision-making skills might have played their part in fueling fans’ rage and making Rayman’s delay only hurt more.
The Simple Matter of a Broken Promise
The most painful truth about Rayman’s delay stems from the simple matter of the broken promise. Granted, game companies, like in any industry, have allowances for set-backs. They come in many different forms and legitimately offers company heads full benefit of the doubt. The difference in this case is that Ubisoft should have, and may very well have known in advance, whether or not their release date was able to be kept or was in vain from the onset. Instead, Ubisoft decided not to display such maturity and give fans a more accurate launch window for Rayman and flaked out, leaving plenty in a bind. Many had Rayman Legends pre-ordered for weeks and some even bought Wii Us just for Rayman. I didn’t do either, but even I can see what fans were let down by: false anticipation. It’s the worst kind of feeling to get offered candy by someone only to have it snatched away, and that’s what it feels like after you wait for so long to be disappointed. For many fans, it wasn’t merely about not getting to play a great game months earlier ahead of schedule. It was about not getting the respect they deserved by being valued. If Ubisoft doesn’t understand that, then they may lose those precious fans that give them money. Trust me, the ease or difficulty you go to to get a game can, in fact, influence your review score for games and Ubisoft should definitely consider that in the future.
It’s Just Business:
One of the main problems relating to such contempt by fans and Ubisoft employees is the motivations and attitude by which Ubisoft made its decision for Rayman. Rather than being delayed due to technical problems or artistic changes, Rayman Legends was artificially delayed due to pure business ethics, and that will forever feel even more insensitive than any other motivation that a company can have for stalling a product. For the fan community, Rayman’s delay was, if nothing else, a power move on Ubisoft’s part. The enjoyment and pleasure in making a game for the benefits of the customers, like most companies constantly emphasizse, was put on the back-burner. Instead, Ubisoft demonstrated that they simply have better things to worry about than broken expectations. They have $$$ to think about. Don’t get me wrong, Ubisoft no doubt has their reasons for pursuing good relations with Sony and Microsoft by releasing Rayman simultaneously on all consoles including the PS3 and X-Box. It probably fits into whatever shady, last-minute deal they made behind the scenes and might make them a fatter contract for sure. What cannot be excused, though, is not having factored in any feeling toward their fan base or, in particular, their employees. Think about it. These poor Ubisoft techies have been slaving away on Rayman Legends for what can probably be no less than years. Meals, sleep, and family time were no doubt sacrificed for such long hours trying to rush out Raymay for February when they had over 7 months to potentially work on it. It would kill any artist to be ordered to hide his/her work of art for months just to meet an arbitrary deadline and Ubisoft has done just that injustice. Thus is the kind of path that a company follows when they choose to put the value of profits and back-room deals above thoughtful consideration for its workers and its customers.
Ubisoft’s Console Prejudice:
Another element of Rayman’s delay that was put into the equation was its harsh sense of favoritism towards everything not Wii U. It’s worth noting that Ubisoft’s announcement wasn’t just a diss to Rayman fans, it was a diss to all Wii U fans too. Whatever excellent features that the Wii U had to offer Rayman were evidently belittled by Ubisoft with the Wii U’s delayed possession of the game. Love it or hate it, Nintendo and the Wii U were also promised something special with the prospect of a must-have exclusive and received the same amount of disrespect that Rayman fans did. It’s even more damaging for Ubisoft that its business agreements may not be trustworthy anymore. Further, their future chances with working with Nintendo again just became a lot slimmer and that’s a real shame given both parties’ potential together.
PS3 and X-Box fans may also have something to protest over as well. Rayman had already been developed exclusively for the Wii U with unique touch-screen controls on the Wii U gamepad and such features will now have to be axed on the PS3 and X-Box versions in their absence of touch-screen controls. Sony and X-Box players will now have to inevitably play a modified, and possibly inferior, kind of Rayman Legends devoid of it’s original control scheme, one that may never end up as the developers intended.
Rayman May Get Crushed by GTA V
Apart from facing the backlash of hostile fan response, Ubisoft should have some far more practical matters for Rayman to consider, namely the kind of competition they’re going to be facing thanks to their new release date of September. Anyone worth their salt in the industry should know that something else was also recently moved to a September release as well: Grand Theft Auto V. Now officially slated for September 17 due to last-minute improvements, GTA V is destined to be the juggernaut of the fall and possibly the rest of the year. For the sake of Rayman’s sucess, Ubisoft should especially recall that the GTA series itself is no slouch in the sales department. Its last numbered entry of Grand Theft Auto IV broke records with sales of over 3.6 million copies on its very first day, going on to make over $500 million in its first week. Add that to the ground-breaking size, scope, and tech that GTA V is bringing to the playing field and you’ve got little ‘ole Rayman competing with a very likely GOTY title. I appreciate Rayman as much as the next platformer game, but Ubisoft should know better than to play on GTA’s turf. I’m afraid that, come this breezy autumn, poor Rayman is going to literally get run over by the attraction of LA’s mean streets and put its franchise in a big financial pickle indeed.
Ubisoft Doesn’t Understand Good Marketing Strategies in the First Place
The foolhardiness of Ubisoft’s almost hopeless competition with GTA probably finds its roots in the company’s sordid history of ill-timed releases. For a while now, Ubisoft has undergone a losing strategy of self-competition, releasing any number of its own games in the same month to compete for sales. Doing such has not only hurt their franchises’ chances, but almost tells fans that they simply don’t even know how to value their great titles.
2003: The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Vs. Beyond Good and Evil
The origin of Ubisoft’s commercial blunders can be first traced back to the release of two of its most iconic games on the PS2, the blockbuster of The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and the cult classic of Beyond Good and Evil. Coming out just days apart from one another, Beyond Good and Evil (released on Nov. 11) and The Sands of Time (released Nov. 21) made for the perfect bit of self-inflicted sabotage on Ubisoft’s part. Sands of Time became one of the top selling PS2 games, generating 3 million copies upon release and garnering almost universal praise to match its big sales. Due to such huge success by the Prince, however, Jade and her gang went virtually unheard of by customers and was virtually crippled by mediocre sales figures. Despite receiving similar critical acclaim and a number of awards, including “Best Adventure Game” by IGN and “Game of the Year Team Award by the 2004 IMAGINA Festival in France, Beyond Good and Evil sold poorly upon its holiday release come winter of 2003, seeing its price drop by nearly 80% from retailers in its first few weeks. For fans, though, the worst result of such commercial failings by far was the ensuing halt to Beyond Good and Evil’s much needed resolution to its cliff-hanger ending in the form of a sequel. To this day we still await what answers Beyond Good and Evil 2 might give us in the next console generation, but even that remains uncertain given Ubisoft’s reckless marketing with games like Rayman.
2011: Assassin’s Creed: Revelations Vs. Rayman Origins
Not nearly as long ago was Ubisoft’s other big marketing snafu of 2011. Unwisely pitting the big titles of Assassin’s Creed Revelations and Rayman Legend’s predecessor, Rayman Origins, Ubisoft ended up with a far financial dilemma on their hands. Although Assassin’s Creed Revelations ended up with its own disappointments unrelated to its marketing or technical handling, its profits were nonetheless impressive. Sales for Revelations were 10% higher than that of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and sold around 1.26 million copies in its first month alone as the fourth highest selling game in November of 2011. Rayman Origins, on the other hand, suffered a crushing defeat, selling a mere 50,000 copies its first month and ending up as a commercial flop. Since then, Ubisoft claimed that by February of 2012, Rayman Origins had finally turned a mild profit, but at best, breaking just above even can hardly be called a victory. History might then be doomed to repeat itself if Rayman Legend’s head-to-head match with GTA causes a similar sales figure. Such an event might shelve the series for the long-term and leave fans with even less reason to be crazy about Ubisoft.
Afterthoughts. . .
Needless to say, I still love Ubisoft’s game franchises and appreciate them for their own qualities and not their makers. With another Assassin’s Creed rolling around the corner, I may give Ubisoft a few more of my dollars, but not without a lot more hesitation. It’s these kind of antics that truly affects consumers’ motivation buying DLC packets and other bonus merchandise and companies like Ubisoft should note that, with enough pressure, fans like me can split anytime. Being a customer means you have a certain thing called purchasing power and realizing that may do nothing but help Ubisoft do a little self-examination.
Agree or disagree with Ubisoft’s decision? Comment below and thanks for reading.