Xbox One Dominates Black Friday Weekend Sales

Xbox One Assassin's Creed UnityMicrosoft’s aggressive price drop promotion appears to finally be paying off for the Washington based tech giant. According to a sales tracking study conducted by InfoScout, Xbox One sales made up over half of the consoles sold over the largest American shopping weekend.

Bundles of the Xbox One were already slashed by $50 leading into the Black Friday weekend, but the special promos got even sweeter with an additional $20 off at many retailers on top of offering big bundled deals for those purchasing the console.

Despite selling with Assassin’s Creed: Unity, a game whose flaws were well documented, the Assassin’s Creed Xbox One Bundle with Unity and Black Flag led the way at pretty much every major U.S. retailer. According to InfoScout’s sales tracking data, the Xbox One held a 53% share of the Black Friday sales compared to the Sony PlayStation 4’s 31%.

Nintendo, despite having a fairly solid offering of the Super Mario 3D World bundled Wii U and a mere week removed from the launch of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, mustered up a disappointing 6%. Numbers that were even beaten by the Xbox 360 at 9%.

I had the chance to see the sales first hand with many customers carrying boxes and boxes of Assassin’s Creed bundled Xbox Ones at my store. Although the PlayStation 4 GTAV bundle was a popular item as well, customers flocked to the Xbox One priced at $329.99, a sweet spot for many consumers.

The Xbox One’s deals continued to push hard all weekend long, including Microsoft selling the console at the same price of $329.99 and throwing in a free game for Cyber Monday, including the incredibly well received Dragon’s Age: Inquisition as an option.

While Sony certainly caught everybody’s attention by jumping out to the early sales lead, Microsoft is no where near giving up this fight. With more units in gamers’ hands, both companies have the opportunity to really push their exclusives next year to secure a foothold in this very interesting console race. Because when both of the top companies are competing as hard as Sony and Microsoft, the ones who win are the consumers.

Polygon – Study: Xbox One crushes the competition, made up most of Black Friday console sales

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Ubisoft Continues Embargo Shenanigans With The Crew

The Crew

Ubisoft is asking for reviewers to express patience when it comes to their upcoming racing game The Crew. Highlighting the game’s strong emphasis on its online interactions and community building, reviews for The Crew don’t become released from embargo until the game’s release date on December 2. In fact, press copies of the game won’t be available until launch day, limiting the chance for launch reviews to hit.

Doesn’t this sound familiar?

This move is coming mere weeks after Ubisoft’s rocky release of Assassin’s Creed Unity, a game that released to poor performance issues and bugs all while holding reviews under embargo until several hours after it was made available. A Ubisoft representative claimed that the embargo was delayed to give reviews the chance to look at the game under optimal online conditions but many felt that the glaring flaws of the game had little to do with any online functionality.

To make matters worse, the representative claimed that the features were vital, much like that in Bungie’s Destiny, a game that also felt criticism for their Activision’s decision to request that reviews be published after reviewers played all the online offerings, including their endgame content. Unfortunately for Ubisoft, at least Destiny had content at their endgame that differed slightly from their content leading up to it.

Amid the turmoil around Unity, Ubisoft even declined to give publications access to Assassin’s Creed Rogue, the Xbox 360 / Playstation 3 only title. The game received mixed reviews and many reviewers pointed out the fact that the review copy was not provided nor did Ubisoft actively push for Rogue coverage.

The Crew

As far as The Crew is concerned, the move is another chalk mark in the shady category for Ubisoft. On the one hand a game like The Crew, that touts a strong focus towards online interactions, needs to be reviewed under conditions where communities can be formed and network performance can be evaluated. Ubisoft was likely paying attention to the dreadful release of Sony’s Driveclub and wanted to be given a fair shake.

Unfortunately that logic doesn’t work. Microsoft released Forza Horizon 2 to a ton of praise two weeks ahead of the game’s launch. And when the game finally launched, the game didn’t even experience a shade of the trouble that Driveclub did.

I truly do hope that The Crew turns out to be okay. I like silly racers with ludicrous upgrades. With the game’s promise to have a fully functional (miniaturized) version of the continental U.S., I hope The Crew fills a void that would echo back to days of Cruis’n USA or something along those lines.

But c’mon Ubisoft. Build a product that works. And support it fully.

The Crew

Polygon – Ubisoft warns players not to trust early reviews of The Crew

Ubisoft reacts to feedback surrounding the rough launch of Assassin’s Creed Unity

Assassin's Creed Unity

The launch of Ubisoft’s big tentpole title Assassin’s Creed Unity has been a bit of a roller coaster. From astronomical expectations as the first true next generation evolution for the Assassin’s Creed franchise to the harsh reality of game-breaking bugs, poor performance and a publisher that refused to cooperate with retailers and media outlets, the lead-up to Assassin’s Creed Unity has been incredibly disappointing.

Ubisoft responded to some of that feedback in an interview with BBC today where they claim that the ever-changing evolution of video games was the primary driver in why Assassin’s Creed Unity received such a late review embargo. Ubisoft had sent press copies of Assassin’s Creed Unity, but had place a media embargo on those reviews until noon November 11, the game’s release date. The move had been harshly criticized by several gaming media outlets as detrimental to both the media and consumer and served only to protect the initial sales rush for Ubisoft.

While not directly responding to the embargo related criticisms, a Ubisoft representative told the BBC that “having the online elements available and having populated worlds is essential to creating a representative and complete experience for reviewers. Achieving this prior to launch is incredibly complex, which is why some games are being reviewed much closer – or as was the case with Destiny, even after – the game launches.”

Assassin's Creed Unity

But the biggest problem with this statement is that it cites the way that Activision and Bungie handled the reviews for Destiny. Yes, review embargoes for Destiny were held until the day of release and Activision referred to the need for online servers to go live and a complete experience be available to reviewers. This is a true statement that also applies to some of the features of Assassin’s Creed Unity. Unfortunately, not all of Unity’s problems are centered in the way it handles online interactions, many of the issues stem from terrible bugs in character models, breaking the game and falling beyond the boundaries of the environment and overall poor performance in inconsistent frame rate on a game already throttled to a lower resolution.

As Ben Kuchera pointed out on Polygon, the decision to have such a late review embargo screams of a company trying to protect their product. A product that they have little confidence in.

This statement absolutely infuriates me as there should be no reason that a game isn’t stable as it approaches its actual launch. If a game is certified gold, it should be complete, stable and ready to play. While this may be unreasonable to expect, that is how things played out in a game prior to online patching and last second reversals.

Assassin's Creed Unity

Yes, online features absolutely need to be measured in real world conditions. Sim City and Battlefield 4 are recent examples of high reviews coming online before rough online launches. But as I recall, Destiny, while they also held reviews, requested that reviewers do their due diligence and at least play through most of the online content that Destiny offered before providing their opinion. A request that many outlets adhered to.

Assassin’s Creed Unity is a disappointing, broken mess. The fact that Ubisoft is failing to recognize that is a blatant misstep. I’m all for standing behind your product, but the best thing they can do is focus on their mistakes and rectifying them.

BBC – Assassin’s Creed: Unity criticised for widespread glitches
Polygon – How Assassin’s Creed Unity weaponized review embargoes

Ubisoft’s 2014 Titles Gone from Steam

Assassin's Creed: Unity

Assassin’s Creed: Unity is scheduled to launch next week Tuesday on November 11. Except for Steam. In fact, several of Ubisoft’s big marquee titles for this Fall season are suddenly absent from Steam’s storefront. Not only is Unity missing, but Far Cry 4 and The Crew are also missing in action from Valve’s digital distribution service.

The games originally disappeared from Steam’s United Kingdom page but have since been removed from every Steam market globally. Searching the database yields no results for the upcoming games, no way to pre-order any of the games and there is no word on whether existing pre-orders will still be honored. The disappearance is curious, as Steam was very active in the pre-order marketing push for all three of the titles, citing exclusive items and even access to a beta for The Crew.

Far Cry 4

Both companies are currently quiet about the issue, if in fact, the issue has to deal with the two firms ironing out a a distribution deal. The most information came from a brief response from Ubisoft claiming they are in discussions with Valve regarding Assassin’s Creed: Unity. This isn’t the first time that Valve has had disagreements with a major publisher, with several snafus with Electronic Arts (ultimately pointing EA to create the Origin service) and a very slow release cycle for Assassin’s Creed III and Far Cry 3 from Ubisoft back in 2012.

Not having any of Ubisoft’s major titles available would be bad for both Ubisoft and Valve so it behooves both companies to come to an agreement quickly. Given Ubisoft’s strong fanbase and Valve’s position as the top PC digital distribution platform, I would be surprised if Assassin’s Creed: Unity misses its launch next week.

The Crew

PCGames N – Ubisoft’s new games aren’t available on Steam in the UK

Assassin’s Creed Unity – The Inevitable DevinSuperTramp Parkour Collaboration

Devin Graham is at it again. Better known by his YouTube persona DevinSuperTramp, the once amateur short film-maker who gained notoriety for stunt inspired videos, has gone on to shoot promotional videos with Ford, Seadoo and of course, UbiSoft. His original Assassins’s Creed Parkour video went on to over 37 million views (and counting!) and helped create a partnership with UbiSoft to create videos to promote Assassin’s Creed III, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and this summer’s Watch Dogs. So it was inevitable that UbiSoft would tap Graham again for Assassin’s Creed Unity.