This past spring, Ubisoft announced Assassin's Creed, a visually stunning PlayStation 3 stealth-action game that impressed members of the gaming press at E3.
While the French publisher did drop many story details about the game, which is set in medieval Jerusalem during the Crusades, it danced around the question of whether the game would be exclusive to Sony's new console. Though early Assassin's Creed press releases only mentioned the PS3, the game was shown off at Microsoft's X05 event last fall as "Project Assassin." For their part, Ubi reps danced around the subject of whether or not the game would would be released on other consoles...until they finally fessed up the game would come to the Xbox 360 and PC.
At first, many chalked up the confusion to the dissembling that is all too common in game-publisher public relations. However, a recent Newsweek article says that, for a time, Assassin's Creed was indeed intended to be a PlayStation 3 exclusive. In his blog Level Up, correspondent N'Gai Croal reports that both the Ubisoft game and Grand Theft Auto IV were both slated to debut solely on the PS3--but slowness on the part of Sony cost the electronics giant both franchises.
"We've learned that Take-Two [Interactive] and Rockstar Games were interested in continuing their longtime relationship with Sony, in which they premiered their Grand Theft Auto games on PlayStation platforms exclusively for 6-12 months before bringing them to other systems," wrote Croal. "Also, Ubisoft was interested in making Assassin's Creed, due in stores next spring, exclusive to the PS3."
So what happened? According to Croal, "For the greater part of this year, PlayStation chief Ken Kutaragi hadn't finalized the business terms for independent publishers on the PS3," wrote Croal. "[But] PlayStation's Japanese headquarters was effectively radio silent, and without Kutaragi's signoff, the normally independent American and European branches had no authority to reach agreements on the exclusives they believed could be valuable to the PS3 cause."
According to Newsweek, while Sony played the waiting game, Microsoft contacted both Take-Two and Ubisoft and offered them very generous terms to bring Assassin's Creed and Grand Theft Auto IV to the Xbox 360. Croal cites an unnamed source at one of the companies as saying, "I do have to give Microsoft a lot of credit for going after titles and doing whatever they can to generate third-party support. They've been magnificent in this generation."
Though Sony Computer Entertainment America had not returned GameSpot's requests for comment, its executive vice president, Jack Tretton, told Newsweek that the 360 GTA IV was all its publisher's idea. "There was interest on Take-Two's part to bring Grand Theft Auto onto Xbox platforms," said the executive. "We wouldn't encourage them to do that. The interest came from them."