Ubisoft is Making a Habit Out of Downgrading Their Games, It’s Time They Owned Up To It

Another next-gen game may be taking a graphical nosedive, and Ubisoft is at the center of it… again. According to a company insider, the official trailer we saw at E3 for The Division is not true to the anticipated final product. In fact, if their information is true, we’re looking at the exact same situation we ran into with Watch_Dogs. I’m here to say that enough is enough.

Once is a fluke, but twice is a habit, and if we let Ubisoft continue down this path, we’re going to have purposefully misleading trailers passed off as actual gameplay years to come.

An anonymous tipster from the technical division at Ubisoft Massive in Sweden wrote in to WhatIfGaming, stating that just like Watch_Dogs, The Division is not going to look nearly as pretty as it did in the E3 trailers. So what happened?

According to the source, there was, “a lot of push coming from publishers to not make the experience so different on consoles as to alienate people into thinking that next generation is not as powerful as PC.”

So basically, Ubisoft doesn’t want console owners to see that there is a much better looking version of the game out there, thereby destroying the notion that The Division is some kind of groundbreaking “next-gen” release that wouldn’t have been possible before the Xbox One and PS4.

“To me it still looks good, but not as good as the original reveal,” the insider adds. “I am sure as we get closer to launch and the actual console versions of the game featuring SD (Snowdrop) that it will start to seem all too obvious to people especially those on PCs. I just wanted to write and let you know that it definitely is not just stability but marketing politics plays into this a lot as well.”

Sound ridiculous? Like a crazy conspiracy theory by some disgruntled fan? Sure, I’d be right there with you on that one… if Ubisoft hadn’t pulled this exact same stunt earlier this year.

If you weren’t following the Watch_Dogs situation, here’s what happened.

Ubisoft’s initial E3 showing of the game was met with a hugely positive reception, with many pointing specifically towards the photorealistic graphics as one of the highlights. As time went on though, Watch_Dogs gameplay seemed to look worse and worse.

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The eventual final game, while not an ugly game by any standards, was a huge step back from the initial previews. Many fans attributed it to deceptive marketing, but the truth was actually much stranger.

In the PC version, a modder found hidden graphics options that drastically improved the look of the game. Ubisoft’s official comment on the matter is that these options were disabled for “stability” reasons, although many fans found that re-enabling them caused very little performance loss, with some even reporting an improvement.

If you’re confused as to why a publisher would knowingly release a subpar version of their game, you’re not alone. I too was scratching my head at the idea.

Well, we finally have an answer.

“While ‘Yes’’ the lead platform is the PC,” the Ubisoft insider added, “we simply cannot have such a big gap.”

“As you know when the first WATCH DOGS Review was published by that one site, Ubisoft called it a ‘false review’ and I am sure everyone can see how bad that sounded when they saw the game did look marginally better than something that was a last generation GTA IV. But no, they will not admit that they practice this or actively downgrade a game. It is much easier to say they removed things for stability which is often a lie as you can tell by the post-issues which are expected in any production we do.”

So are we going to let it happen again?

Some people can claim that Watch_Dogs still provided a fantastic visual presentation, and that plenty of games have been released with less-than-stellar graphics and nevertheless provided immersive experiences. But this point is moot, as the issue at hand is that we shouldn’t have to tolerate empty promises.

Pre-rendered trailers are one thing, but what Ubisoft was showing for Watch_Dogs (and has been showing for The Division) was publicized and promoted as unadulterated gameplay.

Showcasing one version of the game, releasing another, then lying to our faces about the whole situation is completely unacceptable. And yet, we as gamers not only tolerated it, we rewarded Ubisoft by giving Watch_Dogs the most first day sales in the publisher’s history.

Now we’re looking at the exact same situation all over again. With that level of success though, can you blame them for trying the same trick twice?

Let’s be reasonable, no one is expecting The Division to look like its cinematic trailer. That’s not the issue here. Everyone does expect the gameplay to look like the gameplay trailer, though, because that makes sense.

More important than the visuals of either Watch_Dogs or The Division is the fact that Ubisoft refuses to come out and address the issue. If they had simply owned up to the fact that Watch_Dogs was downgraded on purpose to avoid a graphics gap between the PC and consoles, then fine. It’s not a great situation, but they didn’t lie about it.

Simply put, this is an issue of integrity and trust. Yet once again, the annoying marketing politics we saw just a few months ago are rearing their ugly heads.

It’s understandable that when a developer pumps millions into a certain product, they hope to get that back. But the gaming world has seen time and time again that when a developer cares more about mass production than actual production, ET happens.

But Ubisoft is doing what they do best: nothing. They are covering their tracks with denial and silence. Without an official statement, I’m forced to take these weird probabilities with not a grain, but a huge brick of salt, and a bad taste in my mouth. The entire situation feels as unstable as a turtle walking on a tightrope, and it would be much better if Ubisoft reacted and kept in touch with their passionate community that has no option but to be guided by “virtual Deep Throat.”

Ubisoft, “will never fully disclose what was removed from what build as no laws ask them to do so in terms of consumer rights,” the insider concludes. “If we as developers published that information in very real terms for the consumer such as ‘Replaced particle fog simulation with 2d layer simulation in 3d space, removed particles from all explosions, lowered explosion volume multiplier by 20x, removed X # of trees and civilians, etc.’ we would be out of a lot of sales and probably it would actually require too much time to deliver on the current hype that a lot of downgraded games see which look incredible with a vertical slice.

“I do share this in the hope’s that my colleagues and publishers and a lot of people who make false promises and do demonstrations which wrongfully create too much hype that they cannot deliver on ultimately stop doing such things. I want to see the industry actually move forward and not be so full of itself by promising too much and delivering too little.”

If we are to believe this, which I am inclined to do so given Ubisoft’s track record so far, it’s upsetting. Like the whistleblower mentioned, it’s wrong to pass something off as a polished product only to let everyone down in the end all for the sake of proper marketing. If the trailer had a disclaimer or Ubisoft was open about its changes, it wouldn’t feel like Harold Hill was duping us into buying videogames like Watch_Dogs or The Division.

Nevertheless, there is trouble right here in River City. This needs to go away, and this starts with us as consumers. I want to believe that these companies actually care about the community. We aren’t stupid, but we need to let it be known we will not stand being duped. I’m grateful that insiders are willing to expose the truth, but Ubisoft and other developers and publishers will probably keep up with these ploys as long as we keep playing along. In the end, our only option is to call them out and deny support.

That, or we can pull a massive V for Vendetta move and storm the Ubisoft headquarters dressed up in Assassin garb. Your choice.

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