Why Console Launch Games Aren't Up To Scratch

There have been some truly great launch games in the past — Mario 64, Halo — but for the most part, when we look back at launch titles for brand new consoles, they rarely pass muster. Why is that?

According to Tony Key, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Ubisoft, the issue is two-fold. There's the problem of transitioning to new hardware, and the problem of not knowing the specs of new consoles until relatively late in the game.

"For a game like Assassin's Creed: Black Flag, most of the sales are still going to be on current generation platforms," Key said, in an interview with Games Industry International. "We can't make a version for PlayStation 4 or Xbox One that's so wildly different that we can't market them together. So, for now, developers and designers are focused on making a game that works really well on all of the systems."

Developers at Ubisoft weren't aware of exactly how powerful next-gen consoles would be until relatively recently. This is part of the reason why Watch Dogs was delayed.

"Watch Dogs is designed to be a long-term brand for Ubisoft," Key explained. "We won't launch it until we know it's equaling the vision it can achieve. ... We're playing the long game - and as a company, we know how important it is to get it right."

In that sense it makes sense that almost all truly great launch titles have been internally developed, almost side by side with the hardware itself. As the PS4 and Xbox One prepare for launch in Australia, there are a handful of games worth playing but arguably no genuine system sellers. We might have to wait until 2014 for those to come along.


    Ah yes, but I will still have fun playing what there is. I have never bought a system at launch for all those reasons that keep getting bashed around the webz. This time I will just ride the hype train and have fun... And even more fun in 2014!

      The timing on this article is ironic.

      PS4 release games are average at best, only one exclusive (not even AAA) rating over 8 via Meta critic.

      Xbox one yet to launch (but pre-release reviews are better on average) and suddenly we're writing click bait articles on excuses why launch games are average now.

      "no genuine system sellers" is a joke comment.

      The Xbox one lineup has some killer titles Mark and games like Forza, Ryse & DR3 WILL sell consoles.

      Get a grip.

        couldn't agree more. fact is there ain't gonna be a price drop on either console for a long time and every game that is released between now and then will be far better on next gen. if you are gonna buy a new console anyway, why wait? these 'basic' launch games still shit on anything current gen yet to be released

        I have to agree, this site gives me whiplash with its next gen hard on followed by complete 180 "next gen is a waste of space".

        I was horribly disappointed in the ps4 reviews for its exclusives, because im getting all cross plat games on the XB1, ( I prefer the ecosystem in every single way, especially the vastly superior online stuff). So i was only interested in the exclusives, but I'm still getting both Knack and Killzone, mainly because EB had them for $65 each so I can justify them being average at that price.

        The XB1 on the other hand is fairing much better with its exclusives and is easily the console with not only the better launch line up but a very good one, So i disagree with this article. However I still think Zoo tycoon will be the best launch game and the sleeper hit.
        With that said I'm still renting all the launch games from EB and then all the games worth keeping I'll just buy online or price match (Only have kmart and target in my city so no awesome prices JB or Big W >.<)

        Last edited 19/11/13 5:16 pm

    Did watch dogs do the right thing, could it really hurt a franchise if a launch game isn't graphically up to spec? Can we forgive a franchise to have a slightly sub par game so we have something at launch...?

      Exhibit A: http://www.metacritic.com/game/wii/red-steel

      Granted, a large part of that was probably the hardware limitations of the wii remote.

    was COD2 a launch game? cos that game kept me busy for years, never had interest in mario or halo

      I honestly did have that game in my head as an exception whilst writing this. COD2 was legit good.

        Cod 2 was the reason the only reason I didn't despise the 360 launch. The game absorbed literal 1000's of my hours and I loved every damn minute of it.

        I hate that there is no game like it anymore, how you could find people from the noise their boots made when running, where you didn't get spawn killed. Where the maps were perfectly sized and the weapons were balanced, skill less spray and pray got you killed, there were no "perks" or martyrdoms.

        The game was perfection, it was all about skill. But i may be biased i was a literal god at that game. I was actually known by people who would curse me joining their rooms. I got so good by the end that my aussie friends wouldn't play with me, even after a handicap where i wasn't allowed to shoot. So rose coloured glasses/nostalgia and all.

        Last edited 19/11/13 5:46 pm

    So ready between the lines: the developers of Watchdogs over estimated the specs of one or both of the next-gen consoles?

      Or under estimated......they can see potential and don't want to be like ghosts were they admited it could look better if they spent the time.

        Yeah, I have a conspiracy theory they got spooked by GTA V and wanted to make sure it lived up to its potential rather than a spec issue.

        Yeah - good point. Maybe they were running at 720p or something.

      Couldnt happen, they could have gotten dev-kits for both over a year ago, like all the other launch games that actually take time to develop. Before that, is a different problem.

    If I remember correctly I got Elder Scrolls: Oblivion as a launch title on my 360. As a launch title goes I thought they did a pretty good job of jumping to "next-gen".

      Oh yeah, that game was HUGE for a launch title.

      I had my 360 imported about 2 months before the Aussie launch so I forgot that was a launch title here.

      Funnily enough after 2 months of being an obnoxious jerk about having an (overpriced) 360 before everyone else, I bought Oblivion first thing in the morning the day after the Aussie launch, put the disc in and had by 360 RROD during character creation.

      Trust me, I copped plenty of sh*t from my mates who were enjoying Oblivion during the fortnight it took to get my 360 repaired.

    Mario 64 is STILL one of my favourite games to sit down and play. Camera issues and all.

    It’s absolutely amazing to think that they made a game that brilliant as a launch title. Most launch games are dated beyond belief by the end of their generation, so it’s such a rare outlier.

    The thing I like about the launch titles this generation, and particularly on the Xbone, is that they appear to be big on content. When I think back on games I’ve previously bought at console launches plenty of them have been pretty looking but ultimately lack the full feature sets seen in last generation games and they tend to get old long before the post-launch lull period ends.

    I think that Forza, Battlefield, Dead Rising and FIFA (fully featured this time) will last me much longer than Perfect Dark, Kameo and Project Gotham Racing 3 did, for example.

      I think fun co-op is key here, now with dead rising I prefer the ability to fight thousands of zombies on screen with a friend.....than a good looking single player game or one added with sub par death match as a token gesture.

    Didn't 2K sports build NBA 2k14 from the ground up for next gen? Not really a fan of the game but you can tell it looks a whole lot better.

      Pretty much, 2K Sports built NBA 2K14 from the ground up, EA did the same creating the Ignite Engine which is on FIFA 14, Madden 25 and the upcoming NBA Live 14 and EA UFC

    So basically we're gonna be flooded with DLC and sequels.

    Watch Dogs is designed to be a long-term brand for Ubisoft,

      I like DLC and sequels to good games. Halo, KoTor, BF, ARMA, Dawn of War, Star Craft, Diablo, Civilisation and so many more all had sequels and your insinuating like that is a bad thing. Why?

        As many good sequels as there are, there's probably more bad examples. Diablo 3, COD series, the yearly Assassin Creed iterations, Halo 25, Transformers7, Too Fast Too furious 232425245. Sometimes, it's best to end on a high than to continue flogging the horse.

          I like the sequels to all those games you mentioned except CoD. Just not into CoDs style.

          I generally agree with letting a series end on a high note rather than petering out with unnecessary sequels, but calling out a game that hasn't even been released yet is a bit premature. I'd much prefer they took the time to make a solid game over throwing out something that isn't ready and trying to build a franchise upon that.

      I recall seeing a list of the top ten "most anticipated" games a couple of years ago and being entirely unsurprised that nine of them were sequels.

    I remember really enjoying Jet Set Radio Future and Blood Wake on the Xbox and I think they were launch titles.

      All the Xbox consoles have had a decent launch lineup. Someone above mentioned it and I think they're spot on: this article seems to really be about the weak PS4 launch lineup, not about console launches in general.

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