Impact: There has been a lot of buzz about Watch Dogs the last few months and we were not sure whether the hype was overblown or justified. In May Ubisoft announced that Watch Dogs was the most pre-ordered new IP in company history, which we interpret as greater than the number of pre-orders it recorded for the first Assassin’s Creed that released in 2007 which was still relatively early in the prior console cycle. Further, that Assassin’s Creed game was Xbox 360, PS3 and PC only. While Watch Dogs is releasing earlier still in the new console cycle, it is on five platforms, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4 and PC, rather than three. Looking at available media spending data reveals Ubisoft, like most publishers in 2007, did not support Assassin’s Creed pre-orders through marketing spends as has been done to increasing effect since that time. GameStop also confirmed that Watch Dogs was the retailer’s most pre-ordered game for next-gen consoles this year. Finally regarding pre-orders, after Ubisoft delayed the release of Watch Dogs from a next-gen launch title to May 2014, the publisher managed to keep consumer sentiment over the game positive when in March it confirmed the May 27 release date that it ultimately stuck to. DFC noted a rise in anecdotal pre-order data and online buzz metrics corresponding to the release date confirmation.
We conclude that video game consumers are hungry for new IP, as well as single player IP – something that EA’s Titanfall is not. Another aspect of what drove the pre-order numbers and early sales numbers was the expectation of polished, AAA content based on coverage and word-of-mouth. Regarding the product itself, an open world game about an exceptionally skilled hacker seems right for the times, but there are obvious comparisons to the Grand Theft Auto franchise, which creates high standards to meet. Early consumer reaction appears all over the place but generally positive. What is novel about Watch Dogs seems to be the significant draw. There is a creepy attraction to the possibility, for example, that someone else might hack into your personal game and watch what you are doing without you knowing it. Yet the big deal for us is that a brand new IP has arrived with such a huge sales count. DFC has been saying for years that the industry needed more innovative franchises and it is rewarding to see Ubisoft pull off a big hit with new AAA IP. As core gamers once again drive video game industry dynamics to a greater extent with the success of the PS4 and Xbox One, Watch Dogs is a very positive story indeed.