A new report by VG247 has uncovered that Ubisoft’s open-world franchise Watch Dogs really did started life as a game under the Driver series.
In an interview with IGN in 2013, Ubisoft North America president Laurent Detoc denied that Driver has become the original Watch Dogs.
“I wouldn’t say that Driver became Watch Dogs, because that’s not true,” he said.
Laurent mentioned that Watch Dogs’ development started off with a driving engine for a project which was cancelled. That later lead to the development of Watch Dogs, using parts of the development work from the scrapped project.
However, a source speaking to VG247 said there’s a more direct link between Driver and Watch Dogs.
“The game that was released as Watch Dogs started life as a sequel in the Driver franchise, but was always largely what you see in the final product,” said the source.
“It was always modern day, it had on foot, parkour, combat as well as driving, all set in a large open-world city, and the main hook was always modern technology and hacking.
“After a while trying to make this concept fit into the Driver franchise, the decision was made to turn it into its own, new IP.”
The development of this Driver game is done at Ubisoft Montreal, in parallel with Driver: San Francisco, which is headed up by the original developer Reflections.
At the time, the two teams worked separately, with the only input Reflections gave to the Montreal team was feedback on car handling.
“We were working on Driver: San Francisco, and I remember being sent an early demo by one of the producers in Ubisoft, just to give some feedback,” said Driver series creator Martin Edmondson. “Nothing to do with the game and all the hacking stuff that Watch Dogs was about, but just the handling models.”
Edmondson did not recall if Ubisoft Montreal’s game was at the time already set to be a Driver game.
Another source, a former Ubisoft employee, said that after the lacklustre sales of Driver: San Francisco, Ubisoft Montreal’s supposed Driver game was refocused, with the hacking element that was already becoming its main selling point. Which became Watch Dogs.
“They just did their own thing and convinced Yves [Guillemot, Ubisoft CEO] he could have ‘his own GTA’ instead of the low selling Driver,” the source said.
It’s a similar case of how Ubisoft spawned the Assassin’s Creed series out of Prince Of Persia. The first source says that’s just how new IPs are made at the company.
Elements of Driver still lives on the original Watch Dogs, with Reflections contributing part of the development, including designing the driving missions. Callbacks to the Driver series is present in Watch Dogs 2, set in San Francisco. The e-hailing app in the phone that serves as driving side missions is called Driver SF. And there are autonomous cars the drive around London in Watch Dogs: Legion still carrying the Driver name.
While Ubisoft may not admit it as such, this paints a clearer picture of how the two IPs are related. Driving games may not be popular right now, but the spirit of Driver still lives on in Watch Dogs.
Now, when can we possess other cars by the power of hacking? Watch Dogs’ hacker fantasy serves a great excuse to bring back Driver: San Francsisco’s Shift mechanic.