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Why next-gen launch games suffer, according to a Ubisoft exec

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There are practical reasons that explain why games that launch alongside new consoles aren't typically considered great, Ubisoft senior vice president of marketing and sales for the U.S. Tony Key told GamesIndustry International.

First, as is evident by the slate of launch titles for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, many games span generations, and development teams create both versions side-by-side. According to Key, because the install base for current-gen systems is so much larger, games will sell more copies on those consoles, and cross-generational games can't be so dramatically different that one devalues the other.

"Most of the sales are still going to be on current generation platforms."

"Right now, all publishers are transitioning their development resources," Key said. "For a game like Assassin's Creed [4]: Black Flag, most of the sales are still going to be on current generation platforms. We can't make a version for PlayStation 4 or Xbox One that's so wildly different that we can't market them together. So, for now, developers and designers are focused on making a game that works really well on all of the systems — but as we transition resources to the next-gen, it's going to be more difficult to do that because the power of these machines is going to allow so much more creativity."

The same development constraints explain Ubisoft's decision to delay Watch Dogs, which was supposed to ship as a cross-generational title this month but was delayed in October to spring 2014.

"It's heartbreaking to be so coveted for launch and not be able to deliver it at launch, but from a business perspective, it's not a difficult decision to make," he said. "Watch Dogs is designed to be a long-term brand for Ubisoft. We won't launch it until we know it's equaling the vision it can achieve. ... We're playing the long game — and as a company, we know how important it is to get it right."

For interviews, reviews, videos and more about the transition from the last generation of consoles to the new, check out Polygon's continuing coverage of last week's PlayStation 4 launch as well as this week's Xbox One launch.