Watch Dogs is more than Ubisoft’s answer to GTA, says Alain Corre. Unlike Rockstar’s next project, it is built for next-gen and its players will be able to interact with its world not just through the box under your TV, but through mobile, tablet and PC.
And Corre, Ubisoft’s executive director for EMEA territories, is keen to tell us that Watch Dogs is one of the most talked-about games of the moment. “I was looking at Twitter last night and there were more UK tweets mentioning Watch Dogs than there were at the E3 reveal last year,” he says the day after PlayStation Meeting. “That’s a good sign.”
Like many others, we suggested last year that Watch Dogs wouldn’t be limited to current generation. At PlayStation Meeting last week Ubisoft confirmed that it will be a launch title for PS4 and also arrive on PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U and PC.
“Watch Dogs is a next-gen native game,” Corre confirms. “We are trying to implement in this game all of what the next-gen is bringing – more connectivity, more immersion and to make the game more interactive. While the next-gen is further advanced, we will also optimise all that we have and feed that into the current-gen consoles. Our engineers say that it will be possible to have a great experience on both next-gen and current-gen.”
Like Destiny, it is part of the cross-gen era. Though it has been developed for the next PlayStation, its arrival on the current box as well as 360, PC and Wii U is emblematic of how publishers are managing transition in 2013; the current-gen user base is just too big too ignore. “We are going to try and optimise as much as we can and try to respect the abilities of the current-gen so that the experience that players have on current-gen is great – that’s really important for us,” says Corre. “Watch Dogs is super-important on next-gen, of course, but it is also on current-gen because it will take a while before every gamer we have will play on next-gen. We must respect our current situation.”
Appropriately for a game which revolves around networks and communication, that future-facing, platform-agnostic attitude extends into the game itself. “In Watch Dogs you can play in your living room but you can also play seamlesslely from your smartphone, from your tablet and from your PC,” Corre tells us. “In your living room or outside, the idea is that you can receive and send inputs to your friends to continue playing and know what’s going on in your game.”
“It is a big step forward in gameplay experience, because companion gaming will become compulsory moving forward. Watch Dogs is pleasing the community because it’s really fresh and it’s showing now what can be done. We came to E3 with a promise and we showed [at PlayStation Meeting] that it was real. I think that is showing what next-generation experiences can be.”
Watch Dogs is an ambitious open world game and Ubisoft is happy to talk about its new IP in relation to the series it is looking to emulate – Grand Theft Auto. “With Watch Dogs we hope to create our biggest brand, like when we launched Assassin’s Creed six or seven years ago,” says Corre. “What we want with Watch Dogs is to try and crack a new genre, which is the open-style GTA genre.”
With Rockstar’s next release set for September 17th, Watch Dogs can’t possibly hope to replicate the kind of hype and mainstream recognition that the Grand Theft Auto series inspires. But Watch Dogs’ next-gen first development offers an advantage over GTA V, says Corre. “Yes, Grand Theft Auto is one of the biggest brands in the industry and everybody respects the brand and we’ll have fun playing the next one too,” he tells us. “But I think Watch Dogs’ positioning is also on next-gen, bringing a lot of features – connectivity, interactivity, companion gaming and so on which is bringing some freshness to the genre.”
Furthermore, Corre and Ubisoft certainly isn’t afraid of taking on the might of GTA – quite the opposite, in fact. “When you have a great product in our or any other industry, it also excites the appetite of alot of consumers in that category. People interested in racing games will buy many racing games if the games are great,” he adds. “So we think that we can even benefit from the fact that Grand Theft Auto is coming. The spirit will be that this kind of game is great fun and I think Watch Dogs can also bring a lot of the same fans.”