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So here’s the deal--Watch Dogs sold 4 million copies in its first week at retail. Ubisoft is calling this the “best-selling new IP launch across the industry,” and it’s hard to argue that. After all, 1 million of those sales happened within the first 24 hours of the game’s launch. But what’s interesting is not just the number of sales alone--it's the number of sales when held up to a total drop-off of anticipation.
Excitement reached a fever pitch after the Watch Dogs' reveal at E3 2012. We saw what appeared to be a modern day, technology-driven counterpart to another premiere Ubisoft franchise, Assassin’s Creed. It was a unique IP amidst a sea of sequels, with the promise of a true next generation experience. The hype train was getting ready to start rolling--then seemingly right when it was leaving the station, the hype came to an abrupt stop. Watch Dogs was bumped from its projected fall 2013 release date into spring 2014, deflating much of the next-gen hype Ubisoft spent money building up, and leaving pre-order customers in dismay.
So why, after such a faux pas, is Watch Dogs so successful? The answer is simple: Ubisoft had a good game, and they knew it. Its developers stuck to their guns, with full knowledge that delaying the game to polish the experience could only strengthen the finished product.
They publicly explained the delay--Ubisoft took the extra development time for said polish to the game’s appearance and mechanics. Shigeru Miyamoto once said, "A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad." A wise statement, though Watch Dogs wasn’t “eventually” good. Ubisoft knew they had a hit all along, and they took the extra time to take it from good, to better, to the best possible version.
Despite a delayed release and a drop-off of interest, Watch Dogs has become an Ubisoft best-seller--a 4 million best-seller in fact. In the end, they proved that holding back release to put finishing touches on a promising title was the smartest move they could have made. Kind of makes me wonder if the Batman: Arkham Knight delay even matters.