Ubisoft Under Siege for Glitch-Filled Assassin’s Creed

Let the gamers beware: If a company doesn't allow publication of reviews prior to the launch of its upcoming blockbuster titles, then it could mean it's not fully confident those reviews would help sales. People might have been less willing to part with $60 for Assassin's Creed: Unity, for example, if they knew the ground might inexplicably fail to support the main character.

Ubisoft on Friday released a second patch for Assassin’s Creed: Unity, in an effort to quell the uproar that has arisen over problems with the game. The first patch was released earlier this week.

Ubisoft has been the target of harsh criticism from gamers and game reviewers alike for releasing Assassin’s Creed: Unity with numerous bugs and glitches. The latest game in the popular franchise became available on Tuesday, and since then players have blasted it on forums, social media and even on the official product website.

The issues that gamers have experienced range from frame rate problems and missing animation to total crashes. Other bugs had the game’s protagonist falling through the ground, and characters getting stuck in walls. An even larger issue prevented players from accessing Ubisoft’s servers to take advantage of the game’s online and multiplayer features.

These problems affected the Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC versions of the game, suggesting that perhaps it wasn’t actually ready for general release.

Reviews Held Back

While it is common — perhaps all too common — for a new video game to arrive with bugs and subsequent patches and updates, what is notable about the release of Assassin’s Creed: Unity is that Ubisoft required reviewers to hold publication of reviews until after the game’s launch.

Ubisoft is not the first company to suppress reviews until after a game’s release, but this trend is drawing increasing criticism, as it keeps gamers in the dark about serious problems with newly released titles. Still, this practice isn’t likely to end any time soon.

“Embargoes are nothing new,” said video game industry analyst George T. Chronis of DFC Intelligence.

“Even back in the print magazine days with long lead times, there always was a release date target to match for reviews — excepting the habit of some British publications to label their previews as reviews,” he recalled.

“Internet publishing only made the practice more pronounced and specific,” Chronis told the E-Commerce Times.

“Conversely, publishers no longer are primarily concerned with providing a ‘gold,’ or functionally complete copy, of a game to magazine reviewers three months ahead of release,” he noted. “There is less built-in cushion to work out last-minute bugs in the Internet age.”

Holiday Pressure

Assassin’s Creed: Unity is not the first big release to arrive with bugs — but Ubisoft typically has been able to avoid this issue. Whether — or how much — it could hurt the company’s popular history-bending franchise is the question.

“It’s out of character for Ubisoft, which usually spends a tremendous amount of effort to meticulously recreate historical cities and landscapes as mere backdrops for their Assassin’s Creed series,” said Joost van Dreunen, cofounder of Super Data Research.

“However, the abundance of criticism suggests that there was a lot of internal pressure to get the game out in time for the holiday season,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “With only two weeks away from Black Friday, Ubisoft may have pushed production to meet the release date.”

Final Game or Beta Version?

As publishers try to meet street dates, it has created a trend in which where more and more games arrive in need of a patch at release. So, are gamers actually purchasing final code? Or are they buying a beta version that is still in need of much work?

“What major title doesn’t have glitches these days?” pondered Chronis.

“Driveclub and Destiny are recent examples, he said.

“There is tremendous pressure on the publisher side to meet release windows on major titles,” Chronis added. “Most game consumers should be pretty used to the arrival of unpolished games. That doesn’t mean they have to like it.”

The best course of action may be to wait for game issues to be resolved and updated before trying to enjoy the experience.

“Probably the best medicine would be for the majority of consumers to delay purchases of new titles until the reviews and early word-of-mouth were out,” Chronis suggested. “That’s the kind of outrage publishers would pay attention to.”

Failing the Creed

The criticism of Assassin’s Creed has not been limited to bugs and glitches. There also have been complaints that the time-spanning series has run its course in terms of creativity and originality.

There’s been criticism that it “feels bland,” noted van Dreunen.

However, “it is very difficult to continuously offer new innovations to an established franchise without alienating the existing fan base,” he pointed out.

“Some of the previous installments of AC made incredible leaps in terms of playability and story line, so it may well be that consumer expectations were a bit too high,” he stressed.

“What strikes me most is that as [Ubisoft is] a French game publisher, I had expected this to be a homecoming of sorts … with Assassin’s Creed: Unity taking place in Paris,” van Dreunen observed. “It must be doubly disappointing for the people behind the game that especially this installment is getting a lukewarm reception.”

Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and fitness-related trends for more than a decade. His work has appeared in more than three dozen publications, and he is the co-author of Careers in the Computer Game Industry (Career in the New Economy series), a career guide aimed at high school students from Rosen Publishing. You can connect with Peter on Google+.

Leave a Comment

Please sign in to post or reply to a comment. New users create a free account.

Related Stories

E-Commerce Times Channels