Dear Ubisoft: Porting Rayman Legends Is A Terrible Idea

The other day, Wii U owners were treated to the spectacular news that the highly anticipated Wii U exclusive Rayman Legends, was not only going multiplatform, but also being delayed until September. This means that the Wii U’s release schedule isn’t looking so great for the foreseeable future. The ‘official’ reason for the sudden change was to accommodate the large number of Rayman fans who would be missing out on the title if it stayed exclusive. I was going to devote a paragraph on why this is bullshit, but I don’t need to. It’s clearly false. If that was ever a concern, Ubisoft would never have announced it as an exclusive, and would never make an exclusive game again. The truth lies in the fact that the Wii U has a considerably smaller share of the market as compared to the fully matured 360 and PS3, and Ubisoft, like many companies, would prefer to make money on their game. However, the basic question has to be asked as to whether this actually makes good business sense, and is the fallout from the massively negative fan response worth it? From the title of today’s post, you may have surmised that I say no, and I’ll tell you why.

The legend of bad business sense.
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Let’s start by looking at the justification. It is a solid fact that Rayman Legends will make more money if it is completely multiplatform, the same way Rayman Origins was. There is plenty of justification for this. After all, Origins, as wonderful of a game as it was, sold quite poorly despite being available for every single system out there. Imagine if it were only available for a single console. Truthfully, Rayman Legends was always a strange case. It never felt like it should have been a Nintendo exclusive. Rayman was never a Nintendo character, and, as mentioned, his last outing was heavily ported. There wasn’t any question for me that Rayman Legends would eventually find its way on to other systems. However, I don’t think anyone assumed that it would happen so suddenly, and the announcement would be so poorly thought out. There are some that see the porting as a betrayal, but they are in the minority. It’s good for everyone that Rayman Legends find its way to other consoles, but what’s actually happening isn’t a smart business move, but actually an extremely inept one.

In this metaphor, guess who is Ubisoft and who is the consumer?
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The reason it isn’t smart isn’t because they’re porting it, but because of the delay. Right now the Wii U has a small userbase, but it also doesn’t have any major releases coming out for quite a while. By releasing the game in three weeks time, as was the plan, Ubisoft would have the biggest game on the system for a lengthy amount of time. Instead, Ubisoft will be releasing the game in September, during the holiday rush. Rayman, a fairly obscure mascot, whose last game wowed critics, but failed to grab a huge audience will be going up against Grand Theft Auto V, and it isn’t like GTAV is the only major release it will have to fend off. The Wii U will definitely be out of its drought then, with its holiday splendour out, and games with the words Zelda and Mario attract a much bigger audience than Rayman even if his game is technically better. Ubisoft has essentially traded a completely competition free market for one that it cannot possibly succeed in. Some people argue that Rayman Legends and GTAV appeal to different audiences, but there is significant overlap. This isn’t like releasing Dora the Explorer goes to Iceland against Call of Duty. Both games are hardcore games, that appeal to a wide audience.

In this metaphor, the dog is GTAV, and Rayman Legends is covered in bacon and ham slices.
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Some people have argued that the reason for Ubisoft delaying the game is because, by releasing it for the Wii U first, the game will be devalued when released for other systems. This doesn’t make much sense, as many ports have been extremely successful in the past such as Resident Evil 4 or Mass Effect 2. Another argument is that the fault lies entirely with Microsoft, who has a policy in place stipulating that Microsoft may refuse to release a game that has been previously released on another system. At first, I thought this was made up. After all, I know that Microsoft is a pretty evil company, but this seemed too cartoonishly evil even for them. Unfortunately for my faith in humanity, a small amount of digging led me to this article from 2011, which outlines this very policy, and discusses a couple of the really terrible consequences of allowing such a policy into the industry. While there is no official statement from any party on this topic. The policy is compelling evidence that Microsoft may have a major role to play in the delay.

Stomping out indie developers, making people pay for basic services, and generally making things harder for everyone: the Microsoft way.
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Let’s assume that Ubisoft’s hands were tied with the delay, and, if they wanted the game to be on the Xbox, they needed a simultaneous release. The question I have is whether this is still a good idea? The same policy from Microsoft says that there can’t be any major features in other releases, and what we’ve seen from Rayman Legends so far has integrated the Wii U’s gamepad to a large degree. Does this mean to comply with this policy, the developers have to start removing large parts of the game that were making it unique? Should Ubisoft bend over backwards simply to comply with Microsoft’s insane standard? Then there’s the fan outrage. The old saying “any press is good press” does not apply to the video game industry and word of mouth can severely damage a game. Currently, even those who want the game to be multiplatform lament the delay. People are angry at Ubisoft’s decision, very angry. In an attempt to satiate fans, Ubisoft has announced that they will release a Wii U exclusive demo. This was another horrible idea. It isn’t a gift. All they’re doing with this news is rubbing salt in a very fresh wound.

Because nothing says “chill out” like twisting the knife.

So what do we have with the Rayman Legends news? We have a game that looks like it could be truly excellent, being released against competition that would make Mario sweat. It will be available for three different platforms, but, by that point, how much will that matter? What if the 360 or PS3 successors are coming out this fall? What if a new 3D Mario/Mario Kart/Super Smash Bros. block it entirely on the Wii U? Will Ubisoft suddenly state that the Wii U is a bad environment for their games, even though the failure would be entirely their own fault? If we are assuming that it is Microsoft stopping them, then why not simply port to the other four/five possible systems? Rayman Legends had an opportunity to carve out a place for itself as the must own Wii U title. Now, I think it would be lucky to be an afterthought this September, which is a major shame since the game looks so amazing and it definitely deserved more.

I don’t put much stock in petitions, and generally don’t believe they work. However, for the petition inclined, here is a petition to release the currently finished Wii U version of the game. If Operation Rainfall can bring Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower to NA, then maybe these things can work on occasion.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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