Why Was Watch Dogs Delayed?

The news first hit almost five months ago: On Oct. 15, 2013, we announced that Watch Dogs would be delayed. In a statement that came directly from the Ubisoft Montreal team, we let you know the game would now be coming sometime in Spring 2014, and it was being held back because the team “needed to take the extra time to polish and fine tune each detail so we can deliver a truly memorable and exceptional experience.”

Watch Dogs

Fast-forward to today, and we (finally!) have a new release date: May 27, 2014. Along with the news of the release date, we have our first-ever hands-on preview, and we’ll have plenty more stories to share in the coming days, weeks and months. But that still leaves the second-biggest question (after: When’s it actually coming out?) unanswered. Why was Watch Dogs really delayed? And what exactly does “polish” mean? We cornered Senior Producer Dominic Guay and hacked into his mind to extract the answers.

“Polish” is such a fuzzy word. Let’s look at it from two sides: What did that mean for you as a developer, and what will that mean for the gamer when the Watch Dogs is released?

Dominic Guay - Watch DogsDominic Guay For us “polish” is that very hard-to-plan period where in theory you’re finished but you need to still adjust things a little bit. This is true for any form of content. It could be usability testing showing us that certain UI [user interface] elements aren’t seen correctly by gamers, or certain things aren’t perceived the way they should be, or certain inputs aren’t working exactly the way we want. It’s also experience testing, where we see that some of the features we built need a little tweaking so that it creates exactly the kind of experience that we want. And it’s also the content itself.

Give us a specific example of content polish…

We produced an insane amount of animations and behaviors for the citizens of our Chicago. But once you do a lot of playtests you realize there are certain parts of the city where players go more than others. So look at it and we say, OK, there’s all these things happening in the city that many players may never see, there’s those areas they’re going in, and maybe if we had more variety there it would be better. It’s impossible to plan that a year ahead. You need to do it, see it, make an adjustment, iterate on it. So we actually produced more content that would fit into the areas where the players went more, moved content around a little bit, looked at it again, played it again. Iterating on this huge of a game takes a while. It takes weeks for anyone to get through our game.

Looking in from the outside, a lot of people only saw that we announced this delay very close to the launch date. Can you share a little about the heavy discussions, the wringing of hands, everything that went into this tough decision?

I’ll move back a little. When we announced a date, it was because we thought we would be done by then, and not because someone said, That’s when you’re shipping because that’s when we need it financially, so cut the game and make it happen. It was never that. It was, This is the game you guys want to make; that’s the game we want you to make.

We looked at it together with Ubisoft HQ. We thought we’d be done for Christmas. Everyone agreed. And that’s when we announced the date. And for quite a while, it really looked like we’d make it. We had the game playable front-to-back in spring [2013], which meant we had like five, six months ahead of us to iterate and debug, which is more time than a lot of games need. But because we are a new IP, a new game experience, that wasn’t the case. We needed that time and we needed more.

When we got close to the end, we still could have shipped. That’s why it’s hard. It was not like we were failing miserably, the game didn’t work, or it couldn’t be played! We’d been playing this game from front to back for so long it really looked like this would happen. But when you iterate on a game and you make a change, look at what it impacts, make another change, it takes time. It’s really hard to predict how much time that’s going to take.

The good news is when HQ and the studio management here looked at the game, they understood what we’re trying to do with Watch Dogs and they agreed. They said: We understand, we see the same thing as you, you guys need more time. They agreed to it. I don’t know if I’m going to get that luxury every time I ship a game, but in this case it really was beneficial. It was really what we needed to ship the game we wanted to ship.

Watch Dogs

But with that extra time, how do you stop yourself from saying: I’ve got five more big ideas I want toss in…

No, you’re right there. That’s a really good point. What we did add was not new, random ideas. It was often stuff we planned a long time ago. Sometimes we had ideas and put them aside. And then we played game and were like: You know that idea? We actually needed it. It created exactly the context we wanted for the game. And so we brought back some ideas we put on the side, because we saw that there was a need for them.

Again, can you share some specific examples?

Here’s a quick example. We’ve always had the ability for the player – for Aiden – to hack into an NPC’s communication device – basically, their headset, to block them from calling in reinforcements. We actually used a variation of that in the first demo we showed at E3, where Aiden hacked in the communications system and disrupts a bouncer from talking with someone on the phone. We had discussions about that, but we never implemented other ways of hacking into that system. But we also wanted the hacking of the headset to be useful in combat. Someone had an idea a while ago: What if we had high-pitch, high-volume sound push into those headset? How would someone react to that?

You can imagine how someone would react to that while he’s shooting a gun or is in cover or while he’s preparing to throw a grenade! So we added that in, it created a lot of new emergent moments, a lot of new ways for the player to be smart with hacking.

But there’s a difference between that – which is a variation on something we’d already done and had been discussing for a while – and starting to add all sorts of new, weird ideas. We didn’t go there. We didn’t think that was needed. The game has so many new features, it was really about making those features work well, work smartly and adapt to the kind of players who play the game.

Speaking of hacking, was this extra time an opportunity to make sure hacking is truly a centerpiece of the action so that it plays a role in all aspects of the gameplay, including heavy combat and driving?

Hacking has always been our core focus. We always made sure that most of our missions could be done through hacking and stealth. Obviously you can always take a violent approach if that’s the way you want to do it. There are a lot of gamers who want to play with a very aggressive approach, who want to rush in guns-blazing. And when they did that hacking, became less useful. Especially if you were on the ground. If you weren’t in cars, for example, or traveling through the city. We had a lot of ideas for that. Some were there and sometimes we just needed little hooks to connect certain systems together. We did that in a couple of weeks and all of a sudden we saw the best players were now the ones who could mix combat with hacking.

Watch Dogs

So hacking is always present…

Hacking is present if you’re in combat, if you’re driving, if you’re on foot, if you’re doing stealth, or even if you’re just hiding in a corner and doing everything remotely through cameras. Hacking is central to the way you can approach problems.

You gave us a few specific examples of what you mean by “polish.” Care to share one more? Something very specific that you’re particularly proud of and that you hope players enjoy when Watch Dogs is released this May?

Yes! There is one that that I’m really happy with. We’ve talked a lot about how you can go in other players’ games and interact with each other. How multiplayer is involved in your single-player adventure. And we saw in playtesting gamers who loved it and spent a lot of time doing that. We wanted to give rewards to those players – skills that could be unlocked and used as Aiden in your single-player game.

That’s something we had, but it was very obscure. It was hidden somewhere and we were seeing that players weren’t enticed by those skills. Sometimes they didn’t even realize when they unlocked new ones. They still liked going into other players’ games and playing with others, but the actual reward was not presented correctly to the gamer. The UI wasn’t clear, it was hidden in a stat page somewhere, it just didn’t work.

Now we made it very apparent. We brought it into the flow you follow in single-player to see your skills and buy new skills, so it’s always going to be there, you’re always going to be seeing how you can gain rewards. And when we show you a player you can hack, we already tease you with how much closer you can get to that next skill. It’s subtle incentives. It’s the same core gameplay, but now it’s more rewarding because you’ve got your clear objective and reward in your game.

Check out these other Watch Dogs features for all the latest on Watch Dogs:

NEW! Watch Dogs Release Date Unmasked

NEW! Watch Dogs – Playing In the Open World

Getting Lost, and Found, in Watch Dogs’ Open World

Watch Dogs


Release date — May 27, 2014
Developer — Ubisoft Montreal
Players will assume the role of Aiden Pearce, a new type of vigilante who, with the help of his smartphone, will use his ability to hack into Chicago’s central operating system (ctOS) and control almost every element of the city. Aiden will be able to tap into the city’s omnipresent security cameras, download personal information to locate a target, control systems such as traffic lights or public transportation to stop a chase, and more. The city of Chicago is now the ultimate weapon.

ESRB Rating: MATURE with Blood, Intense Violence, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs and Alcohol
The Author

Gary Steinman has won numerous editorial awards, but you probably don’t care about that. He also ran multiple industry leading publications and websites including PlayStation: The Official Magazine, GamesRadar.com, PC Gamer and Newtype USA – but that’s all in the past. The real truth about Gary? He loves cats, he takes too many selfies on Facebook (according to one co-worker, at least), and he occasionally crochets. And now he’s helping share stories about Ubisoft’s amazing games and their incredible creators in his role overseeing the UbiBlog and other select Ubisoft social channels. Follow him on Twitter: @GarySteinman

MarongeEl 5pts

Really appreciate you sharing this post.Really looking forward to read more.

Daniel 5pts

What kind of polish you made the last 7 months?

Cars are undriveable!!!!!! Acceleration is ridiculous. Steering is like a remote controlled toy car. Hard corners are frustrating.

Why the F I added cars when they are useless?!?!??

Joseph 5pts

If you hack something in Watch Dogs, will the hack reset? I'd hate to come back to the same area in later on in the game and not be able to hack anything.

sonarctica 5pts

Bethesda, you are a disgrace compared to ubi. They delayed 5 month's to polish an alreaedy awesome game while games like skyrim where rushed and was pathetic into it's first year before it got decent!

Can't wait for watch dogs to be released! The first pc game in years that has been done right!

Nasugo 5pts

How do the visuals look maxed out on PC when compared to the original 2012 E3 gameplay reveal? Wasn't that found out to be on a really beefy computer anyway? I think I've read somewhere that comparisons of "then and now" show more recent builds actually having less visual quality (lighting, shadows, apparent mesh detail, etc). However, this could just have been an example of an in progress 7th or 8th gen console build, not PC.

TLDR: Does the quality of the finished product maxed out on PC hold up to the initial 2012 E3 gameplay reveal? Is it better? Worse?

Thank you!

kostas 5pts

How many euro will it cost

Suminda 5pts

Hey thanks for the article : )

I see some downgrade of graphics shown from the E3 2013 demo. Is this graphics downgrade only for next gen consoles and would I be able play it with graphics just like E3 2013 Demo on a powerful gaming PC ?

Please answer...Thanks.

Colin 5pts

I'm sick of seeing the words Wii U after reading the comments. Seriously, that community seems pretty preppy and snobbish. Here's a huge article about this guy super passionate about the extra content they put into the game to make it better. The Wii U response?: "Ehh, a delay, I'm angry."

Please. The attitude is off-putting. Sorry to the other Wii U owners who are not affected by a delay and understand/are grateful.

Nigel 5pts

Just wondering, how will the multiplayer of watchdogs be like? If everyone is aiden, then when we meet some other player online, how will there be a diff? Oh and also, will we also be able to make friends and make our own mobs?

Matthew Kenealy
Matthew Kenealy 5pts

More comments than most posts on here and I can see why. I think the thing that really shocked people was how late in the game you guys delayed it. It was only a few months from being released and it seems like you should have known a while earlier just how behind you were.

Tron 5pts

So ANY updcate on Wii U version. Will we see any footage of it before it comes out months and not just the week of the release?? Can we get a timetable at least for when you guys plan on releasing the Wii U version... a months after the others 6 months after the others?I mean seriously we are asking for anything dang even a screenshot of the Wii U version would be appreciated.

Kali 5pts

Waiting to see the graphics of Watch_dogs.. hope it is as attractive as "The Division"

Dan Stone
Dan Stone 5pts

This is going to be a great game. This game could knock out all other open world games.If you do have the time please answer the following questions. Will there be a variety of clothing shops (such as in gta 5 with binco clothing the discount store etc.)? Will there be a safe house? Can you store cars?

Nerxa 5pts

Hope to have more than 20-25h of content this time, DLC excluded obviously.

johnnyboy 5pts

Great behind the scenes article. Now al lwe need is to wait for this awesome game! Looks like I'll be getting mine from Target... youtube.com/watch?v=0lKFBn54dA8

Nadir 5pts

@ubisoft, is the graphics gonna be like the e3 2013 demo or not we dont wanna hear it looks good it looks next gen, is it like the e3 demo because if not it is called downgrading my ubisoft freinds

p.s. ubisoft you really need to do something about this graphic issue because you wont get sales until you release some new info on graphics people dont want to hear it looks what a next gen should look like.. is it like the e3 2013 demo yes or no?????


Kyle 5pts

I'm really concerned about the PS4 version. I have a gaming PC as well but I don't like uPlay plus I prefer my quieter PS4, but the graphics just look like crap in the videos I've seen recently. There are tons of websites talking about how downgraded the visuals are from the E3 2013 PS4 demo, is there any way you can deny that? No one from Ubisoft seems to want to answer me on this, I've tried reaching out to Ubisoft in multiple places but never get a response. Bottom line: is the final game identical to the E3 2013 PS4 demo or not?

Damian 5pts

I was just looking at the preorder possibilities, and noting that depending on the vendor, there is a different "bonus" shipped with the game. Will the bonus packs be available at some point via some other means? Who wants to miss out on additional content!?! Buying four copies just isn't in the cards ;)

NADIR 5pts

Hi.. in Watch_Dogs is the city still alive and is the atmosphere the same like in the e3 demo personaly i think that the game looks good might even buy two copies lol...

thanks hopeing for a sequel lol

Jayson 5pts

I find it hard to believe that gta v had nothing to do with the delay. Why deny it by avoiding mentioning it? It was literally the most successful entertainment launch (of all forms of entertainment, ever) in history.

Alex 5pts

Thank you guys so much for posting this, I have always believed in ubisoft, and knew that the delay has meaning. This is one of my most anticipated games this year and cannot wait. Does anyone know though if on the ps4 it utilizes the touch screen thing

Mark 5pts

This article was very informative. Thanks for publishing it.

Marc 5pts

I can honestly say that I do agree with all of the polishing. I for one never lost hype for this game. Once I saw the delay, I knew it was for good reason. And realistically (don't take this as an offense), releasing two Ubisoft games at the same time would've been bad marketing and a self contradicted competition. I think someone must have looked at the next gen consoles release dates and thought "Uuuuuum.... why are we releasing both Assassin Creed IV and Watch Dogs at the same time"? I'm glad that they polished a game that's gonna be great, but I'm also glad that they saw that mistake to.


I keep hearing that you guys messed with the lighting and downgraded it or something is this true or just a rumor?

chris 5pts

Stop lying about the graphics. If you haven't already slapped us in the face with falsely advertising a better looking game, only to delay and come back with a significantly worse looking product, at least have the decency to admit it. I've never been so outraged by a cheap move from a company as this, and there's been a lot of cheap moves in this industry. The game looks so much worse. The lighting in the city used to be so much better, among other things. I hope gamers call you out on this. I'll be speaking with(out) my wallet on this game.

Nuev 5pts

Will we as Wii U owners get anything special as a bonus because of this delay? And will we recieve online play as well? I pre-orderd this game the day you said it was coming to Wii U. Please deliver on this promise!

Tron 5pts

Well I believe they have come out and said the multiplayer can be disabled. I am going to see what this game looks like on Wii U. Will tell how much "effort" was put in or not

Doc 5pts

I'm actually a little less excited for this game to come out and it's due entirely to the "multiplayer" aspect. I HATE multiplayer games and I pray that it is a feature that you can disable without penalizing your game. Mass Effect 3 had the same crap. To get the "good ending" you had to play online. I find it hard to believe that all the play testers loved someone else messing up there game. Have to stop whatever you are doing and having to respond to the hacking of some pinhead 12 year old won't make me happy at all.


Erik Mozolik
Erik Mozolik 5pts

Gary, like most of the Wii U owners here I am concerned. I can summarize my comments as:

1) if a delay means bringing about a better version of Watchdogs for the Wii U that is acceptable.

2) we sincerely hope as Nintendo users we are not being hosed, and we will indeed actually see a playable version, with gamepad support.

3) with so little 3rd party development taking place for the Wii U, Ubisoft finds itself at a unique point where it may really impact the future of the Wii U and may even help drive console sales. Competition from 3rd party developers is low and you have the chance to capitalize on that need for more games.

L. Laws
L. Laws 5pts

I love UbiSoft games for the Wii U (only console I have), and I look forward to Watch Dogs. Thanks for keeping us informed. Keep up the good work, folks!

Tom 5pts

Are we going to get a Mac release or do just a lame iOS app?

Tython92 5pts

Can you clear up what Johnathan Morin meant in his recent tweet about the WiiU version?

Gamerdan 5pts

I am curious and worried about the character himself. In past games like Assassin's Creed, it turned out okay, but future versions were better, one reason being that the character was dull or too plain. It that to be the case with Aiden? Or does Aiden have enough depth and interesting aspects to him to really fit well with the player???

chris 5pts

i am just stopping by to leave you some of my two sense. First as an ubisoft supported from the beginning of the wi u( i paid full price for zombie u, ac3 and 4, just dance 2014 for my kids, and rayman[ which i over looked for the snub of postponed to make other console failures,]) i am generally angry over the delay of wii u version of watch dogs. You postponed a wii u exclusive in rayman to make other version and now in reverse u postponed watchdogs u to make other version. I DID have it pre-ordered but since your announcement i switched mh money from watch dogs to bayonetta 2. you can only screw someone over so many times before they quit supporting you, and i know i am not the only wii u owner to make similar moves. by releasing watch dogs u about a year later then the other version u guarantee a fail. period. watch dogs will b old news when i comes out and most likly played on other systems. Why not postpone all versions of watchdogs till we get a simultaneously release? ubisoft did it with rayman which i said earlier was a wii u exclusive at first. end rant for now since i have other things to do.

Linkus 5pts

Gary, can we have video taken from a Wii U version? So we can all know, definitively, whether or not this game will even be released for Wii U. It seems rather odd how Ubisoft is willing to compromise their support for there Wii U version just to rush others to release so quickly. Randy Pitchford said the same things Ubi' is today. I am looking forward to this game on Wii U. So show me proof it exists.

Flop' 5pts

I saw that you started giving answers for every question at the beggining and that now, you don't answer when there is "Wii U" in the sentence, but is that true you've got a special partnership with Sony which give you the excuse of your favoritism for them (recently for collector editions of Child of Light) ? Or is the delayed of the Wii U edition a pure fortuity ? Cause if you do not prioritize the other ones, why don't you delayed them too ?

Nasugo 5pts

Well shoot, there were new videos that I didn't know about! That multiplayer showcase...wow! But do you really need a i7 3930k to run that at 1080p with good frames? =)

Gary Steinman | Communications Manager
Gary Steinman | Communications Manager 5pts

Everyone sees themselves as Aiden. So on your own screen, Nigel, you'll always be Aiden. But if you hack into someone else's game, they'll see YOU as another citizen of Chicago. We'll dive into more multiplayer details soon, and fully explain it in greater depth in the coming weeks...

Merky Water
Merky Water 5pts

This happens with near every game. The retailers use these bonus' as incentives to buy from them over the other guy. They're never game changers -just little fun things to play around with that add to the game minimally if at all. Occasionally, I'll see preorder bonus' bundled with a pack of later DLC. Sometimes not. Best thing to do is pick out the retailer who seems to be throwing the best offer. For me, it's bonus missions or moneyoff/storecredit. Outfits and weapons are just aesthetics in these types of games. An ability to get more money from an ATMhack in-game is also not making me think i need it from that retailer. I'm buying a game to play... allowing me to rush might be something... but I'd rather enjoy the journey.

Tron 5pts

As far as I know they said no special bonus for Wii U owners. Gamepad integration is the most we can ask for and "IF" they can push the graphics past the 360 version. All we can hope for from any 3rd party devs at this point. Sad but true.

Zarathustra 5pts

It has already been confirmed, that you can disable it.

Tython92 5pts

Becasue it sounds like the WiiU version is going to be a dirty port of wither the PS3 version or the XBOX360 version.

Chris 5pts

Ok another thing I thought of, when/ if watchdogs u is released the other version will b much cheaper by that point. I imagine gamestop selling Xbox one and ps4 version for $30-40 by release of watchdogs u. Will ubisoft make watch dogs u price to match others Version or still charge $60 just to guarantee it has a small sale rate thus reason why u don't release other games on time if at all? I calling out your BS support for the wii u on this game!!

Waiting for your answer

Merky Water
Merky Water 5pts

Nothing about this game seems 'rushed.' But, not putting forth all platforms at the same release also seems hypocritical following the words fed us on pushing back Rayman release.

CDB 5pts

Gary - if you can't supply video from the Wii U version, can you kindly state - FOR THE RECORD - that the Wii U version is "native" to the console and will not be an x86 port? That would make me very happy.

Having played Deus Ex HR Directors Cut on the Wii U, I truly can't imagine Watchdogs on any other console, playing as well.

simon 5pts

might be because the comments about Wii U are filled with hate coming from people that cant see how much work would be needed to fully make the gamepad into an ultimate tool in watch dogs

NADIR 5pts

hi is the atmosphere and the feel of places in the city alive like that place where aiden got money from atm will it be like the level of that place. please also, in the game is there still leaves moving on the floor . please answer especially the leaves query lol

Merky Water
Merky Water 5pts

I've talked to many a gamer anxiously anticipating this game. And heard many will-there-be questions posed. Although I never asked them direct if leaves were their selling point, I'm sure everyone is surprised they left the topic of leaves out of this interview. Such a must to lay the ground work for a successful franchise! Hopefully, there will be so many they'll add a mini-game challenge to rake up as many as you can before the wind blows! Stop dodging the leaf question ubisoft! ;)

Gary Steinman | Communications Manager
Gary Steinman | Communications Manager 5pts

This is, indeed, the most important question. And -- finally! -- I have the answer right here. It is... oh, hang on... I have a phone call... I'll be back in a bit...