Watch Dogs is still unplayable at expos, and that’s troubling

One of the drawbacks to E3, other than having to trek back and forth across the gigantic Los Angeles Convention Center, is that some of the biggest games announced aren’t playable. When it was unveiled back in 2012, we couldn’t get our hands on Watch Dogs. That’s okay, though, because the game was still at least a year off; we’d get to play it in 2013.

Oh wait, we didn’t.

That’s okay, though, because we can just play it at PAX Prime before its fall release. But we didn’t and the game was delayed until Spring 2014, which is also okay. We can just play it at PAX East in a similar vein to The Last of Us. Except for the fact that we can’t because it’s going to be, once again, a hands-off demo.

Watch Dogs has suffered from an extended period of time in the spotlight. That’s one of the costs when you emerge as the unofficial poster child of next-gen gaming before the next-gen consoles were even announced. Yet some of these wounds are self-inflicted; need we remind you of the now incredibly silly shot the game’s marketing department took at Grand Theft Auto V?

Watch Dogs is still unplayable at expos and that’s troubling

If we learned anything from the Aliens: Colonial Marines debacle, it’s that we should learn to withhold judgments and expectations until we get our hands on games. Even those that have “earned” a free pass (Rockstar Games) aren’t safe. Just take look at the troubles Grand Theft Auto Online encountered when the servers went live. What once was proclaimed as the greatest multiplayer experience turned out to be a troubled mess that should have been avoided.

When it comes to Watch Dogs, the combination of continued hands-off demonstrations and several delays have us raising questions instead of building excitement: why does the game keep getting delayed? Why can’t we get our hands on it? Are you afraid that it doesn’t meet our expectations? Does it even meet your [Ubisoft] expectations?

These are all valid questions we should be asking. Sadly, I feel like most gamers won’t, instead falling prey to the PR cycle of “when you see something you like, cheer” that was on display for the PAX East 2013 experience of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. The visual of long lines to get in and happy faces when you exit the area are simply too good to pass up. By controlling the experience, the desired results can easily be attained.

But why does the demo have to be contained? Why can’t we discover things for ourselves? This is the part that I find troubling. This worries me for Watch Dogs. Maybe I’m being too pessimistic and paranoid. Maybe this is all for naught. Better safe than sorry, though, because as I’ve learned with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn and Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, word of mouth can do so much more for a game than advertising. If I keep hearing on a show floor that your game is unplayable, I’m going to avoid it like the plague.

That’s exactly what I’m doing in a few weeks in Boston.  I’ll spend the time I wanted to spend playing Watch Dogs in the board game area instead.