There has been a great deal of animosity directed toward the video game industry as of late, and most of it deservedly so. 2014 was a year that we couldn’t wait to leave behind, but now that it’s gone, a lot of us are still dwelling on it. So before the big releases start landing, let’s do our best to begin focusing more equally on the good as well as the bad.
Let’s start with Ubisoft.
Ubisoft fell in the same trap that has been lurking beneath every major developer over the past two console generations. The studio took advantage of its audience one too many times, and the bridge finally collapsed. So how does Ubisoft begin to repair that relationship?
It’s going to be a long journey, but I believe it starts with Grow Home. On Thursday, Ubisoft suddenly, bewilderingly announced an adorable new game that will be available for purchase in less than two weeks. If the game is half as neat as it looks in screenshots, we might have another Valiant Hearts on our hands.
Here’s how Ubisoft describes Grow Home:
Grow Home is the story of BUD, a Botanical Utility Droid sent on a mission across the galaxy to seek out a new species of flora to help oxygenate his home world. He finds the perfect specimen in the Star Plant. “We think of the Star Plant like a giant beanstalk,” says Producer Pete Young. “BUD’s mission is to grow it to maturity and harvest the seeds it produces. The plant ends up being a towering two-kilometer-high bridge from the ground to his space ship.”
Taking control of BUD, it’s your job to climb up to the ship while exploring the world around you and interacting with the strange creatures that you’ll meet along the way.
But it doesn’t really matter whether Grow Home is a breakout success or just an entertaining distraction — what matters is that Ubisoft is moving forward in spite of its blunders.
Here are just a few reasons that I believe Ubisoft can (although certainly may not) recover from its fall from grace:
- Despite all the controversy and the anger, there are still people at Ubisoft working to create interesting and unique experiences, Grow Home being a prime example.
- Ubisoft has been (relatively) forthright about its failings over the past 12 months, and is attempting to make up for them (although not always in the way we’d like).
- We’d all still sell our souls for that Beyond Good & Evil sequel we never got.
While some development studios (that will remain nameless) either refuse to adjust or just don’t know how to, despite clear and consistent cries from the gamers that would much rather rejoice over their successes than jeer at their failures, this is Ubisoft’s first big breakdown. I’m not saying the studio has never irritated its fan base before now, but this is far and away the biggest and most prolonged series of hits Ubisoft has ever taken.
But here’s where we come into the picture. If we wallow in anger and frustration, waiting for the cycle to repeat itself, it inevitably will do exactly that. Let’s not let this turn into another EA. (Shoot, I said I wouldn’t name names). There is still so much good coming out of Ubisoft that deserves recognition and celebration.
For example, let’s celebrate games like Far Cry 4, which didn’t need to innovate on its predecessor to provided countless hours of fun for hundreds of thousands of gamers. Let’s celebrate games like Child of Light, Rayman Legends and now Grow Home, which were created by passionate teams with clear visions and the ability to execute their ideas successfully.
This is not a plea from a Ubisoft apologist; this is not an advertisement for the studio’s games — this is simply a message for the angry among us (which included myself after having to download Uplay a few years ago (and once again after playing Unity last year)) to put down the pitchforks and give Ubisoft a chance to recover.
If it doesn’t, feel free to relight the torches. I’ll be right beside you on the front line.