Exhibit A – Watch Dogs
Just a couple of days ago, we were one of the first outlets to post about the mod for Watch Dogs that unlocks a better looking version of the game. This version is the one that Ubisoft showed off all the way back at E3 2012--yes, 2012.
Back then, Watch Dogs looked incredible; it looked like the first of a slew of true next-gen games, until the later revealing of it when it looked watered down.
Then, in October 2013, Ubisoft delayed Watch Dogs on all platforms for 6 months. The developer said that "Our ambition from the start with Watch Dogs has been to deliver something that embodies what we wanted to see in the next generation of gaming. It is with this in mind that we've made the tough decision to delay the release until spring 2014. We know a lot of you are probably wondering: Why now? We struggled with whether we would delay the game. But from the beginning, we have adopted the attitude that we will not compromise on quality. As we got closer to release, as all the pieces of the puzzle were falling into place in our last push before completion, it became clear to us that we needed to take the extra time to polish and fine tune each detail so we can deliver a truly memorable and exceptional experience."
So, Ubisoft had an additional 6 months--on top of the five years in development--to work on the game. But what were these 6 months used for if the version PC gamers received was a watered down experience?
NVIDIA had worked closely with Ubisoft Montreal on the PC version of Watch Dogs, but what was all of that work about if the PC version of the game was gimped? Why would NVIDIA waste its time if Ubisoft was going to lock away all of those pretty graphics it showed off at E3 2012? That's the interesting part.
Why Would Ubisoft Do This?
Consoles are big money pits to developers and studios. We've seen this happen over the last decade or so, beginning with the Xbox really. The Xbox 360/PS3 really shifted game development and concentration of pushing games to gamers in the form of marketing--and other ways--to consoles. PC gamers felt like PC gaming was dying, but PC-centric companies, tech sites, and the media constantly said otherwise.
So, without going into a debate about the future of PC gaming, why would Ubisoft deliberately gimp the PC version of Watch Dogs?
Ubisoft doesn't have the best history when it comes to PC ports, which is something the company is going to have to change rapidly if it doesn't want to be seen as the EA of the gaming industry, something that is happening very quickly in the PC gaming community. Right now, Ubisoft is looking quite bad for gimping the PC version of Watch Dogs, and so they should.
One of the only reasons that make any sense for gimping the PC version of Watch Dogs is consoles. Microsoft and Sony sell tens of millions of Ubisoft games every year across their platforms, so if the PC version stood above and beyond graphically, compared to even the next-gen consoles, gamers would be asking, "Why does the PC version look like that and my Xbox One/PS4 version doesn't?"
It would be a valid question as Microsoft and Sony have only just released their next-generation consoles, and right out of the gate they're not rendering the current games at 1080p. Consoles have been hindering, and downright holding back, PC gaming for nearly a decade.
Those Damn Consoles
Most people don't believe me when I say something like "consoles have held back PC gaming," but they have. Sure, there are arguments on both sides--without consoles we wouldn't have some of the games or technology we have today--but if games were simply designed on the best hardware available (PC) and then scaled down to consoles, we wouldn't have these problems.
The PC should be the development platform, a place where developers create their games with the best possible graphics that scale all the way up to 16-threaded CPUs, 32GB+ RAM, 4-way GPU setups, and of course 4K and triple-monitor setups.
If developers had followed my method 10 years ago, where would we be today? We would have games that would look at least five times better, and games that scale much better across hardware. Consoles could be locked to X resolution and Y frame rate much more easily. It would actually benefit all platforms.
Consoles wouldn't need to be super powerful gaming machines as the PC is there for that job. If you want to build a beast of a PC, you can, but with consoles, every single gamer has the same hardware in their console. This makes making games easier--at least on console--but when it comes to PC, the games have been built for X resolution, which on console is around 720p (or so).
Watch Dogs is an incredibly gorgeous game, because games have been mediocre (in terms of where they could be) over the last few years. But, if what was shown at E3 2012 was better looking than the release in mid-2014, where would Watch Dogs be graphically if Ubisoft had two years to work on it from its unveiling at E3 2012? It feels like we went backwards, doesn't it?