Let's get one key point out of the way, just so we've said it early. The delay of Rayman Legends feels, to many current and prospective Wii U owners, like a cynical cash-grab of a business move. There are good old "anonymous sources", apparently developers on the game, stating that it's practically finished — it was arriving in a matter of weeks — but that word from on high came late to say that it was going multi-platform and hitting all systems at the same time. In fact, speaking to Digital Spy, Ubisoft public relations specialist Sarah Irvin confirmed that very thing.
We usually release all of our platforms simultaneously (aside from PC). We've made special exception sometimes in the past but it's definitely just on a case by case basis and not our standard practice.
In this case, Ubisoft recently decided they wanted to release the game on multiple platforms so the decision was made to launch them all at the same time rather than separately.
I know it's not an elaborate, 'convincing' answer, but it's the simple truth.
We'd argue with no-one that says that if the Wii U version was ready it should have been released as planned, and if it arrived on rival systems a few months down the road then, ultimately, that's just the way it goes.
But then, logic varies depending on what you know and what you believe in. It seems logical to much of the Nintendo Life community that the game should have been ready to land on Wii U (it'd already been delayed from launch day, let's not forget) as expected, but Ubisoft may have incentives or sound market research to suggest it'll make more money with a co-ordinated release across the board. It's telling that the original press release mentioned demand from "Xbox & Playstation owners and Rayman fans", which could be literal or there could also be pressure just to take advantage of consoles with over a hundred million gamers between them. It's hurtful to Wii U owners, however, because this was a game that looked fantastic, which was prepared with the GamePad in mind and with a huge amount of hype around the system.
Business is cynical, unfortunately, and Ubisoft is looking after number one. There may be some reaction from Wii U owners — we've read comments from some stating they now won't buy the game, or organising petitions — but unfortunately the potential impact is likely to be minimal. That's not to say gestures of dissent against the publishing giants are meaningless, quite the opposite, but ultimately Ubisoft is likely to concern itself with money and sales, above all. Rayman Origins was released on practically any system that would give it a home in order to achieve respectable sales, so perhaps much of the — arguably justifiable — anger and frustration is at the practice of how Ubisoft has made this move, rather than the fact the game's going multi-platform.
The term "exclusive" is perhaps one that, moving forward, needs to be treated with greater care in the way it's reported by the press and treated by the gaming public. Rayman Legends was, at one point, cited as a Wii U exclusive in a trailer, though those involved in the project often danced around the issue when asked at events, stating that Wii U was the focus at that time; in light of the multiple versions of Rayman Origins, too, this hesitancy was understandable. Considering the extent to which the GamePad's unique inputs were being put to use many would have been justified thinking that, at the very least, this title would have arrived on Wii U first before an adjusted version arrived down the line; again, perhaps the biggest issue is Ubisoft's handling of this, depriving Wii U gamers even of the chance of playing it first.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge is perhaps an example of how some third-party exclusives will work in the coming years, as developers and publishers come under more pressure to chase sales. Itself an improved re-make of an Xbox 360 and PS3 game, Nintendo published the title and had timed exclusivity, a time when it was only available on Wii U — it arrived on launch day in North America, though in the New Year in Europe. Nintendo had its reward from publishing in that respect, even if the game is now promptly rocking up onto competing systems with more content. Unlike Legends, we imagine Nintendo at least had a degree of control.
All of this, naturally, brings us to question marks about other high-profile Nintendo-published "exclusives", and just how long they'll be limited to Wii U; two notable examples are LEGO City: Undercover and The Wonderful 101, both third-party developed titles. Not being privy to the contracts that have been signed, we don't know just how long these will be exclusive before developers can publish elsewhere [Update: according to a line in a Platinum Games video, Nintendo co-owns the IP for The Wonderful 101, increasing the odds of it remaining a Wii U exclusive]. They may be permanent exclusives or, like Ninja Gaiden 3, of the timed variety, though if either is permanent to Wii U Nintendo could do worse than make a fuss about that very fact. As Rayman Legends has taught us, meanwhile, no amount of GamePad-specific gameplay can necessarily stop a game from being re-jigged for more conventional controllers.
Which brings us to Bayonetta 2's situation which, for all we know, could also apply to LEGO City: Undercover and The Wonderful 101. Without being privy to confidential contracts and agreements, we'd suggest that this one is more likely to remain exclusive to Wii U, unless Nintendo has negotiated poor terms or receives money for it to go elsewhere. The reason for this is that it appears Nintendo funds have made this game's development possible, as opposed to Ninja Gaiden 3 where we'd suggest the game wasn't developed with the big N's money, but published by the company for that timed exclusivity. Here's what the game's executive director Atsushi Inaba said, in the midst of furious Bayonetta fan reaction around the web last year.
Would Bayonetta 2 not exist without Nintendo? The answer is yes.
We are not viewing this as a change of platform. We were looking for a partner to create Bayonetta 2 and Nintendo was a strong, cooperative partner that was willing to create and grow Bayonetta 2 together [with us]. As a result the platform became the Wii U.
It seems clear that Nintendo has money and resources invested in this project, so any defection would likely result in the company agreeing to the terms — again, money talks in business.
And so we should tread carefully in thinking of too many games as exclusive, in the sense of some kind of permanent state. This scenario with Rayman Legends has been handled poorly by Ubisoft, generating an online storm, but multi-platform trends are likely to continue. This incident does also demonstrate why Nintendo's becoming more active in publishing games from other developers, as it's a tool to secure exclusivity — whether that's timed or permanent may vary per game.
This Legends delay has also led to some commentary, as always, of "Nintendo/Wii U is doomed", which is rash — this was a platformer generating hype among enthusiastic gamers, but it's debatable that it will be a mainstream smash that sells five million copies. It's hurtful for many of us here on Nintendo Life as we are enthusiastic, committed gamers, but Wii U has more going for it than Rayman Legends; if you look at confirmed titles for the coming months — Q1 and Q2 — some of which are still awaiting formal release dates, there are some high profile titles on the way.
It's another slice of disappointing press coverage for Nintendo and Wii U, however, so don't be surprised if Nintendo is already planning a riposte to try and change some of the current negative vibes and perceptions of the system. Nintendo needs to make positive noises and show off enticing third-party support that's coming this year, and for all we know maybe it will; perhaps we should take a deep breath and see what the next few Nintendo Direct broadcasts bring.
As always, let us know what you think about these issues in the comments and polls below.
Has the Rayman Legends controversy affected your decision to buy the game? (362 votes)
Yes, I intend to boycott the game
No, I'm buying it anyway
The multi-platform release has convinced me to buy it
I don't even think it's a "controversy"
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After the delay, do you still plan to buy Rayman Legends for Wii U in September? (384 votes)
Yes, I'll still buy it
No, I don't plan to buy it at all
I'll get the Xbox 360 or PS3 version
I never intended to buy it anyway
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