Ubisoft CEO Addresses Graphics Disparity Between Demo and Release Versions of Games

To the disappointment of many gamers, the graphics on Ubisoft’s action-adventure game Watch Dogs, released in 2014, were not up to par with those showcased in its demo at the 2012 E3 event, leading Ubisoft to change their policy for demonstrating game’s before their release.

This scenario highlighted a problem in video game marketing in which games are demonstrated on high performance PC equipment, only to be diminished upon release to meet the capabilities of the average gamer’s hardware. Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft, commented on the predicament at E3 last month.

First addressing Watch Dogs and its ambitious mechanics, Guillemot said, “it’s just so complex – seamless multiplayer, connectivity with mobile and tablets, so many things – it was maybe a bit too much for a first iteration.” Ubisoft’s demo of Watch Dogs was reminiscent of Sony’s 2005 premiere of Killzone 2, which was a “target render” instead of an actual indication of what the game would look like on the PlayStation 3.

Guillemot noted how gamers’ responses to Watch Dogs influenced his team’s pre-release showcase: “With E3 2015 we said, OK, let’s make sure the games are playable, that they’re running on the target machines. When we show something, we ask the team, make sure it’s playable, make sure gamers can immediately see exactly what it is. That’s what we learned from the Watch Dogs experience – if it can’t be played on the target machine, it can be a risk.”

Addressing Ubisoft’s internal development of games, Guillemot noted that studios have begun creating low-cost games without pitching to senior executives. “When a project costs more than $5m we need to look at it because it can go wrong. But when it’s €200,000 to €300,000, they can make all the decisions they need to to [sic] make it happen.”

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