With just one sentence, the launch of one of the most highly anticipated video games of this packed holiday season has turned into the latest point of debate and controversy in the video game world.
Senior producer of “Assassin’s Creed Unity,” Vincent Pontbriand, revealed that the upcoming PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game would both run at 900p instead of the developer’s initial goal of 1080p. Speaking with VideoGamer.com, Pontbriand said, ”We decided to lock them at the same specs to avoid all the debates and stuff.” As a result, instead of running at a full 1080p and 60 frames per second — as last year’s version of “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag” did only on PlayStation 4 — it appears we will be playing both next-gen console versions of “Unity” at 900p and 30 frames per second. You know, just to “avoid all the debates and stuff.”
Whatever debate that Pontbriand was hoping to “avoid,” his quote only earned the attention of a litany of doomsayers and conspiracy theorists, suggesting insidious under-the-table, back-alley deals taking place between the game’s developer Ubisoft and Xbox’s manufacturer, Microsoft.
I know, people on the Internet jumping to irrational conclusions at the drop of a hat: crazy, right?
But hold on a second, a wise woman once told me to “follow the money” and therein the truth lays. This is the first year that Microsoft and Ubisoft have entered into a co-marketing agreement for an Assassin’s Creed game, and this is the first year that Sony and Ubisoft are not entered into such a co-marketing agreement.
Could it be that Microsoft is mandating to Ubisoft that the PlayStation version of the game be hamstringed, no longer allowed to enjoy the same advantages as previous iterations of the franchise? Stranger activities have been well-documented in this industry. I think that this scenario is entirely within the realm of possibility.
No doubt, over the last year, Microsoft has caught some level of crap from the media as their console originally sold at $100 above the PlayStation 4. Multi-platform games ran markedly better — at a higher resolution — on the less expensive PS4. As an owner of both consoles, I will tell you that I’ve only purchased two games for my Xbox One, and it was only because they were exclusive to the console. Any time a game has been available for the PS4, that was where my dollars fell, for the reasons stated above.
Traditionally, Xbox has been the console that has demonstrated difficulty running modern games at 1080p, and some could argue that that fact has only helped Sony establish its market lead. Attacking this resolution debate as a rational human being, it’s hard to completely ignore the facts.
Microsoft is literally paying Ubisoft co-marketing dollars for Assassin’s Creed this year, and it’s the first time they have done so.
How could 180 lines of resolution cause such a fracas? I think that it all comes down to one question for consumers: Is the game actually any good? We will have to wait until Nov. 11 to find out.
Ubisoft and the Assassin’s Creed franchise as a whole can overcome this negative attention as long as they ship a game that is tangibly improved over previous installments. They can resolve their resolution issues by giving video game players a unique, immersive experience that takes the franchise in new directions.
Previews of the game have so far looked stunning, and how many people do you think are going to actually be able to tell the difference once the game is up and running on their TVs?
Look, I get it. I spent $400 on a PS4 and $500 on an Xbox One last year, too. I want my money to buy me the best high definition experiences possible — which is why I’m buying a PC (the only platform with 1080p for “Unity”) — just kidding… but not really.
I’m all about full HD, but we have to remember, as developers learn how to harness more and more power from the new consoles, some are going to attempt to push graphics, artificial-intelligence and world immersion into territories that we have yet to imagine.
Ample yet finite, computational power is going to have to be prioritized, and if that means lower than 1080p resolutions and 60 frames per second output, I’m down. Just please don’t say you’re forcing two versions of one game to run at a lower-than-expected resolution to “avoid debates” because all that accomplishes is making myself, along with everyone else, debate your motives.