Ubisoft On Rocksmith Reception: Critics Don't Want Innovation

Ubisoft's real-guitar game Rocksmith has gotten a pretty mixed critical reception. Some writers enjoy the game's take on the music game, while others (including me) have been critical.

Speaking with Gamasutra, Ubisoft's executive director for North America Laurent Detoc expressed frustration with critics and the broader gamer audience, taking issue with the tone of some Rocksmith reviewers. From Gamasutra:

"As much as they claim they want innovation, they don't," he says. "What I see when I read the reviews is a lack of enthusiasm for something that is new. … We, as human beings, tend to like what we know. But more importantly, we call ourselves gamers. Are we gamers — or players?"

"I think the 'gamer' label has actually been hurting the industry. As our industry evolves, we need to be more mature and find a way to look at content and judge it as if we were real consumers instead of as gamers."

Detoc, it's worth noting, wasn't on a rant against critics in his exclusive conversation with Gamasutra. He explicitly said that he understands and appreciates the need for them and believes they are a necessary part of the process to get developers to constantly raise the bar. However, he said, too often they're tasked with reviewing too many types of games — and are expected to be fully knowledgeable about each genre.

And while many of those sites maintain an editorial independence, he believes they're ultimately part of the video game industry, rather than a separate entity that reports on it.

"[Review sites] are a part of this industry," he says. "We need to judge the products for what they are. You can't compare, say, a Just Dance to an Assassin's Creed. We can't expect critics to be experts at everything."

It's not clear in the interview whether Detoc's initial "they" is a reference to gamers or to critics, though his point is that in his estimation, there is a general lack of critical enthusiasm for innovative games.

What strikes me about this is that often times, the opposite is true—I've spoken with plenty of critics about how they favor innovation in games. How often have you ignored a game or seen a review turn negative because the game "brings nothing new to the table?"

For my part, I called Rocksmith "uninspired and ultimately forgettable," not because it wasn't innovative enough, but because its execution was flawed and it felt soulless. Its level of innovation wasn't really a factor for me—I was more concerned with whether it worked, was fun, and accomplished what it set out to do: teach music. I thought that it came up short.

But in Stephen Totlio's review of Kirby's Return to Dreamland, he articulates how safe and uninteresting the game feels, how he enjoyed recent experimental Kirby games and wished to see more of that kind of experimentation in Return to Dreamland.

In other words, every writer is different, and every game warrants different criticism. Critics (and gamers) don't favour or fear any one thing. The newness of a game's design is but one aspect of a more complicated whole. "Innovation bias" (or the lack thereof) is certainly worth keeping an eye on, but I don't get the feeling that it's responsible for Rocksmith's middling reception.

Ubisoft's Laurent Detoc On The Fight Against Innovation [Gamasutra]


    Maybe people are burned out on guitar based rhythm games?

    I really disagreed with how Kirk approached his review. WHy focus just on the "learning" aspect? The fact that you can plug your guitar into your PS3 and play along is pretty impressive. He touched on the input lag from guitar to TV which is fair enough, and what I wanted to know about, but then he went on to say you won't learn how to play using it. He spoke from the view of a musician, a good place to come from, but it makes a lot of assumptions about what a non-musically minded person might think. The review should cover if it works, how well it works, the quality of the set list, and whether it's enjoyable. I only got about half of that from his review. The fact that you need a guitar to play the game sets up an initial barrier to players but also means the player is likely to have a little knowledge of the instrument. Any way to make warming up or stretching your hand out on the guitar more enjoying is a plus for me.

    Like I said before I just didn't come out from reading his review feeling like I knew if the game worked or if there was any fun to be had.

    I'm as burnt out as anyone with the rhythm guitar subgenre. I also however, think Rocksmith was pretty cool. Plugging in a real guitar to improve your real guitar skill? That's some innovative shit right there.

    I think the market (and reviewers) originally on the Guitar Hero bandwagon have now violently turned against the genre in a spectacular case of backlash bandwagoning and are actually ignoring the genuine innovation from Rocksmith by lumping it in with the rest. I blame Bobby Kotick for all of this.

    "But in Stephen Totlio’s review of Kirby’s Return to Dreamland, he articulates how safe and uninteresting the game feels, how he enjoyed recent experimental Kirby games and wished to see more of that kind of experimentation in Return to Dreamland."

    I just wanted to point out that expecting something experimental and totally new from a game called "Kirby: Return to Dreamland" is about as asinine as expecting "Halo Combat Evolved: Anniversary" to be experimental and innovative.

    The title implies a return to a more classic and non-experimental style of Kirby. If you wanted Epic Yarn 2 that's fine. That's not what they were apparently trying to make, however.

    I would rather the latest Madden football game came packed with fruit-roll-ups... doesn't mean anything beyond the fact that I'm going to be dissappointed and that maybe I should go buy some fruit-roll-ups instead. :-P

    The player reviews I have seen of Rocksmith have been a lot more positive than the critic reviews I must say. I also don't think enough credit was given to Ubisoft for making the much anticipated leap from plastic instruments to plugging in a real instrument. Plus, Hamilton's review smacked of musician wankery - teaching music is a "fundamentally human act" that required "love and soul", which apparently Rocksmith lacked. Puh-lease.

    I can see why companies pay people to write reviews.

    They took a big chance on this and you and Joystiq shot them down, without really a valid reason.

    I'll be buying it for PC.

    I'm a 18 years experience guitar player and I enjoy the game, as a game and a warm up tool.
    Never managed to get my wife into guitar playing since I must be a poor and/or too annoying teacher.
    With rocksmith she play now and is learning with fun. So I think the game acchieved what he was trying to imo.

Join the discussion!