Thursday, 10 November 2011

You Can't Always Get What You Want - Ubisoft Says Reviews Don't Want Innovation

Ubisoft's North American executive director Laurent Detoc is of the notion that reviewers don't really want innovation after what he decided was a "lack of enthusiasm" for Rocksmith, the game the company released that allows you to plug and play a real guitar and learn in the process. But is he missing a few important points?

Games like Guitar Hero are hardly news anymore. Since the of the first instalment of the series we've seen countless spin-offs, knock-offs, and wannabe imitators, so much so that the genre is actually suffering for it. What Rocksmith is though, is a game that lets you use an actual guitar to play the music. It's not the first game to do this by any means, but it is one of the first attempts from a studio as large as Ubisoft to offer this sort of thing.

It seems though, that if Detoc's reaction is any indication, it might also be the last, because he hasn't been impressed with the feedback the game has been receiving. The current Metacritic score from weighted critics stands at 77 out of 100, which has caused Detoc to state that, "As much as [reviewers] claim they want innovation, they don't" and to add that "we call ourselves gamers. Are we gamers – or players? I think the 'gamer' label has actually been hurting the industry. As our industry evolves, we need to be more mature and find a way to look at content and judge it as if we were real consumers instead of as gamers."

Now, I can see where Detoc is coming from on this issue. I myself have pondered the issue of gaming innovation vs. stagnation (and also wrote on it) so it's understandable to see his frustration at what he obviously views as a lack of positive response for the game. The thing is that there are details that he is missing out on.

A minor point is that looking around to see what people are saying about Rocksmith seems to indicate that it's more of a tool than a game -- I'd like to stress that this in and of itself isn't a problem -- but that it takes a somewhat bare bones approach as compared to what someone coming from a Rock Band or Guitar Hero background would be used to. Rocksmith can be forgiven for that, I believe; it is the first game of what would hopefully be a series that blossoms from people's desire to not only learn to play guitar but also have an enjoyable gaming experience while doing so. After all, everyone who has played Rock Band or Guitar Hero has probably heard the criticism about why they should just learn to play a real guitar, and now they have something that can teach them to do just that.

The more important point that I'm finding however, is that Detoc seems to have a bit of a slanted perspective on what a lack of enthusiasm actually is. This is the Metacritic page for Rocksmith, more specifically still, this is the critics page, where the 77 out of 100 came from. First and foremost, I can say with a great deal of certainty that 12 reviews far from encompasses the whole of the critical gaming review community. Add to that the fact that 3/4s of the reviews actually give the game at least a solid 80 out of 100, and that only one review gives the game anything lower than a 70 out of 100, and you get a case of me being confused about where you're seeing all the negativity.

I mean, certainly it would be nice if everyone had given the game 90 out of 100 or above, but like I said, it's the first time Ubisoft has done something like this, but given Detoc's reaction you'd almost think that the Metascore was closer to 40 out of 100. Sure, 77 isn't phenomenal, but it's also hardly atrocious. And when you balance the fact that a majority of the professional reviews actually gave it over an 80, it doesn't really look to be something that's negative at all.

In the end, I'm not sure that this is really a case for or against innovation at all. From where I'm standing, it kind of just seems like an overreaction to response that had the audacity not to be unadulterated glowing praise 100% of the time. Really, it's not a bad start, and to be perfectly honest if they keep releasing Rocksmith titles, I don't really see anywhere the series can go from here but up. When it comes to taking the lumps, it's just something you have to get used to. After all, you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes well you just might find ... well, you know the rest.

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