by Joseph Leray
In an interview last week with Venture Beat, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot defended his company’s decision to delay and port erstwhile Wii U-exclusive “Rayman Legends,” a move that sparked controversy among fans and developers when it was made in February.
“What happened was that we saw the Wii U was not going to sell enough of those games,” the Ubisoft co-founder said. “The game is going to be fantastic, and we didn’t want those creators to wind up in a position where even after making a fantastic game, they didn’t sell well enough.”
“We decided that we had to come out on enough machines that players can try it out on any one that they have, and give more time to both improve the game on the Wii U and create versions for the other consoles.”
That seems reasonable from Ubisoft’s perspective, but it also reinforces an idea that’s defined Nintendo consoles since the Gamecube: that third party developers can’t afford to support them with high-quality exclusives. Whether or not that’s true matters a lot less than executives and shareholders’ perception.
The corollary is that the games industry trenches are manned by contract workers that tend to come and go as development ramps up and slows down, and whose bonuses are often defined by sales numbers and Metacritic scores. Guillemot’s worries about the Ubisoft Montpelier team’s “position” are telling: he says that the decision to delay “Rayman Legends” and make Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions was “right … for the team.”
“My role is to make sure that the team is happy with the quality of the work they do and the reach they can have,” Guillemot continues.
Guillemot’s assertions run contrary to statements made by ex-Ubisoft staffers who worked on the distinctive co-op platformer.One particularly outspoken developer called the news of “Rayman”’s delay “hell.” “We’ve spent six months barely seeing our wives, kids, and friends for nothing because, after all, such a haste wasn’t needed,” one disgruntled worker wrote on Spanish games forum EOL. “Believe it, it was hell to swallow these news.”
As an olive branch to disappointed Wii U owners — like the ones who protested outside the Montpelier studio — Ubisoft released a free “Rayman Legends” Challenge Mode app back in April.
“The quality is there now because they had more time. They’ve expanded the possibilities of the game … The experience is much more complete,” Guillemot continued. “I think it will be one of the best games we’ve ever done.”
Wii U, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 owners will find out on September 3.
For more of Yves Guillemot’s thoughts on the console cycle, “Beyond Good & Evil” and digital game prices, do check out VentureBeat’s full interview.