Not Quite A ‘Victory’ For Kotaku

Assassins-Creed-Victory

I’ve covered pretty much everything about Assassin’s Creed: Unity, including the parity controversy that happened in the pre-launch window. To be honest, I was relieved to be done with Unity coverage, but because Ubisoft can’t stop insulting our intelligence, I have to keep writing about it. So, what did they do now?

The other day, Kotaku reported a pretty substantial leak for the next Assassin’s Creed installment in 2015: The game is titled, or at least code-named ‘Victory’, and will be set in the Victorian era of London (19th century). The game is likely to launch in October or November of next year (not confirmed, but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out), so needless to say, it’s EXTREMELY early to have confirmation of where the Animus will take us next… which is why this leak is particularly puzzling.

At this juncture, at least with this particular franchise, we’d have to wait months before hearing any buzz, let alone such concrete information. Yet, what was provided in this so-called ‘leak’? A seven-minute ‘target gameplay footage’ video, which even takes the time to inform viewers the footage was produced entirely in Anvil (the game’s engine). And what do you know? The video shows off locations, trains, a new item (the grappling hook), and ends by panning the camera out and showing off the game logo.

What did Ubisoft have to say about it?

“It is always unfortunate when internal assets, not intended for public consumption, are leaked.”

Hold the God-danged phone. This wasn’t meant for public consumption? This has promo video written all over it. How stupid do they think we are?

“And, while we certainly welcome anticipation for all of our upcoming titles, we’re disappointed for our fans, and our development team, that this conceptual asset is now public.”

This isn’t a conceptual asset. The video went out of its way to let us know the footage wasn’t pre-rendered.

“The team in our Quebec studio has been hard at work on the particular game in question for the past few years, and we’re excited to officially unveil what the studio has been working on at a later date. In the meantime, our number one priority is enhancing the experience of Assassin’s Creed Unity for players.”

Oh puh-leaze. Decipher the PR babble, and their ‘response’ to this leak is basically, “It’s a shame that this had to be spoiled for fans so soon, but hype isn’t exactly a bad thing. It’s an exciting game and we can’t wait to unveil this title, along with its new innovations, at a later date. In the meantime, we’re going to fix Unity and we hope you continue to enjoy our most current release.”

It’s no secret that fans of the franchise are feeling burned by the glitch-heavy Unity. It’s also no secret that plenty of people on the net are saying, “Ubisoft just don’t care anymore, and everyone should skip buying whatever they release in 2015 until it’s confirmed to be working as it should.”

Wow. It’s one HELL of a coincidence that the very moment fans express disinterest in next year’s title, a video which could potentially regain consumer confidence leaks, and to a popular gaming media outlet, at that.

This wasn’t a leak. This was damage control. Ubisoft are likely feeling squeezed because of Unity. For example, Ubisoft recently announced they’d give the first Unity DLC pack away for free, while canceling the season pass altogether. Those who already spent their hard earned money on the season pass would receive a free Ubisoft game for their troubles. A good friend of mine theorized that the studio wasn’t making nearly enough money off the season pass to justify making additional content, so they decided to cut their losses instead. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Furthermore, Ubisoft were probably concerned that orders for their next installment – Victory – would probably suffer as a result of Unity’s blunders. So, what could Ubisoft do to keep the pissed-off masses at bay? By starting the hype train early, of course.

Hey, maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think it gets more transparent than this. I’m not buying this whole, ‘oh wow, this leaked and we’re sorry, but we hope you enjoy the game when it comes out anyway’ shtick. It’s a technique for distraction… and it seems to be working.

I urge my readers to keep Unity in mind next year. Do not pre-order Victory. Don’t pick it up blind on day one. Wait for user reports to come in so you can make an informed decision.

But, that’s not all. Kotaku – writer Jason Schreier, specifically – need to be taken to task for this. They lapped this video up and didn’t even bother to question the coincidental timing of its release. A commenter asked, “Jason, there’s no way this is a ‘leak’ right? Video explaining the engine plus a logo? This has to be a coordinated PR stunt. Do you think this is an actual leak, or not?”

By the way, can we give that person a cookie for questioning the obvious? Apparently, that’s above Mr. Schreier’s intellect, and he needed a reader to point this out. I mean, you’d think Mr. Schreier would have put two and two together, but what was his response?

“I know it’s an actual leak.” “The video was leaked to us. Nobody else outside of Ubisoft has seen it. We decided that there was news value to reporting on the new game, so we posted screenshots from it. Ubisoft isn’t pleased.”

Great job, Captain Dipshit.

Think about it: Why would ANYONE at Ubisoft send this video – with promo tactics employed and all – to a website like Kotaku? Ubisoft may not be a bright company overall, but they certainly would have expected a game media website to report on the ‘leaked video’. But Mr. Schreier continues to justify what he ‘knows’. That’s right, he doesn’t say, “Maybe I WAS duped, I’m not sure, but I honestly believe…” No. Just, “I know it’s an actual leak.” How does he ‘know’, exactly? “…I heard it was supposed to be revealed next spring, like most AC games.”

Well, gee. Now I’m convinced.

And you know what else is odd? He didn’t even post the video. He discussed it at length and posted plenty of screenshots… but the video is nowhere to be seen. Why? “We decided that posting Ubisoft’s internal target gameplay video wasn’t necessary to hit those beats, and that this story stands without that footage.”

This is just speculation, of course, but maybe the game runs like crap (it’s a year off, so that’s to be expected), and Ubisoft left strict instructions not to share the video? I can see such an agreement transpiring behind the scenes, how ‘bout you? The only question left, then, is why Mr. Schreier would stoop so low as to lie to his readers. That answer is obvious: Money can make people do a lot of things. Regardless, no matter the scenario, Mr. Schreier comes out of this looking bad. If he didn’t coordinate something with Ubisoft, he looks like a moron. If he DID collaborate with Ubisoft for what could possibly be a ‘controlled leak’, then he’s full of shit.

Again. That’s all speculation, but the fact that Mr. Schreier just took the video, believed whatever he was told and ran with it, is all I need to see. Kotaku had their name dragged through the mud this year for questionable… ‘business practices’. They’ve been doing whatever necessary to evolve and evoke good will with gamers, but my take is that they only ‘changed’ as much as they had to. Because of this story, they still smell like shit, so I’m going to stay far, far away from that smell so I don’t have to step in it. So I’ll ask MY readers one more thing: Question EVERYTHING you read. Please.

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2 responses to “Not Quite A ‘Victory’ For Kotaku

  1. It is entirely possible that it WAS a leak and Ubisoft had just reached the point in development where they make the first promo videos for events like E3 (alot of devs/publishers get that ball rolling ages beforehand) it’s not unprecedented. I remember Arkham City’s main story was playable from start to finish over a year before it launched. If the new AC is in a state where they can make promo stuff then that bodes well it means they have a year of optimising and bug fixing. More than likely this was simply a promo video used as an example of what the games aiming for for upper levels of management to ok more funds or it was to be part f a carefully orchestrated PR plan for the new year. Whilst I see your point I think if intentional Ubisoft would have waited for Unity to be bug free seeing as this leak has pissed alot of people off and they are now calling for year out for the series and had this been revealed in a few months when unity was working properly people would likely have been more amicable about the reveal.

    • First, thanks for taking the time to read and respond. Discussing this kind of thing is healthy for everyone.

      You’re certainly right, that this could have been a legitimate leak. After all, I wasn’t there, nor was anyone outside of the staff members at Ubisoft and Kotaku.

      But, you pointed out that if this was intentional, they would have waited for Unity to be bug-free, first, and that’s where we disagree (which is fine).

      My thought process leads me to believe that this was done BECAUSE Unity hasn’t been fixed yet. Again, there’s a lot of issues on Unity that I doubt the develop team is going to be able to fix. That horrendous pop-in, for example, is probably there to stay. The last patch on consoles allegedly downgraded the game a tad in order to make it run a little smoother, but it didn’t really help.

      Ubisoft have already distanced themselves away from the DLC they were planning, and to top it all off, they’re experiencing a lot of blow-back from the gaming community.

      Because of all the games being released in a state that needed some kind of patching this gen, now, more than ever, I’m seeing gamers stand up for themselves, saying, “Stop pre-ordering these games and picking them up sight-unseen.” However, the industry HEAVILY relies on pre-orders… it helps them to determine how much time and money to spend on a title. Between the Watch Dogs fiasco and now Unity, Ubisoft are not looking like a desirable company to throw money at, and if you ask a number of gamers right now who they feel the worst gaming company is, they’ll tell you Ubisoft.

      With the sour taste in everyone’s mouths, with distancing themselves away from Unity in the most PR friendly way possible, I just tend to think this ‘leak’ is, as I said, damage control. They figure those who are going to enjoy Unity are going to enjoy it, but it’s their future that’s at stake… so they’re starting the hype train a tad early. I believe this video is, more or less, a statement of, “Look, enjoy Unity. It’s a good game regardless of its issues… but for the rest of you, here’s what we have in the pipeline. We think people are going to love it. Just keep this tucked in the back of your mind, because we’ll do better. We’re providing the setting that many AC fans have wanted to see for some time, and we’re innovating the gameplay a bit.”

      We can certainly agree to disagree on this however. I encourage further conversation though, of course. If not, then I hope you enjoy the holidays!

      Currently giving away a free digital code for Tomb Raider Xbox 360. Just go to Twitter, follow @bytesizeimp, find one of the posts advertising the contest, and retweet it for your chance at it! 🙂

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