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17 Oct 2013

Hacker-themed Watch Dogs and open-world racing game The Crew have both been postponed until the publisher's next financial year, which begins in April.

The company said it wanted to allow its developers to fine tune their work.

Watch Dogs had been due to go on sale on 19 November and will miss out on being a launch title for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Retailers, including Amazon and Gamestop, have assured consumers who had pre-ordered bundles including both the Chicago-based title and one of the games consoles that they will still receive the machine on the day they had been quoted.

The Crew had originally been due out some time in the first three months of 2014.

France-based Ubisoft has had success with its Assassin's Creed, Just Dance and Splinter Cell franchises.

However, it warned that the delays meant it was likely to swing to an operating loss when it declares its full-year results.

Chief executive Yves Guillemo called the move a "tough decision".

"We are building franchises that will become perennial pillars of Ubisoft's financial performance," he added.

"In a context of growing successes for mega-blockbusters, the additional time given to the development of our titles will allow them to fulfil their huge ambitions and thus offer players even more exceptional experiences."

A blog posted by the Watch Dogs development team added that it planned to launch the game before the end of June.

"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," it stated.

Ubisoft added that The Crew would now go on sale before the end of September.

Complex world
The news caught many analysts by surprise. To make its November debut, the "gold master" version of Watch Dogs' code would have needed to have been finalised soon in order for the discs to be manufactured and shipped to stores in time.

It is unusual, though not unknown, for a game to be pulled so late in development.

In February, Ubisoft delayed its platformer Rayman Legends by half a year, less than a month before it had been due to go on sale.

Perhaps the best known example was Valve's announcement in 2003 that its sci-fi action sequel Half-Life 2 was to be delayed, just a week before its scheduled launch date. It went on to become one of the best reviewed games of all time.

One industry watcher said a short-term view by investors had caused the firm's stock to dive, but that Ubisoft was better off doing this than releasing Watch Dogs in a state that required later software patches to address major faults.

"I think it was going to be one of the drivers for initial games-console bundle sales and will probably push back some of the hardware sales that would have happened right out of the gate for Sony and Microsoft," said Lewis Ward, video games research manager at consultants IDC.

"But absolutely it's the right decision if there's something glitchy or there's some game-balance factor that is off.

"There's a lot of interconnections between the things you can control in the game and how the story then unfolds, so I can only assume there's some factor with the incredibly complex open-world gameplay that's off.

"But there's no reason Ubisoft can't still deliver what they hoped to do with this game."


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