Sony and Microsoft have talked about integrating tablets and smartphones into the console equation. However Ubisoft is putting its money where it’s mouth is, showing off companion apps for some of its biggest upcoming titles. These apps add a new layer to gameplay. In some cases, they acts as a secondary management system while in others, they allow for another player to get in on the game in real-time, assisting console players in specialized roles.
During our walkthrough of the Ubisoft booth, we saw demos of “Watch Dogs,” “Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag,” and “Tom Clancy’s The Division.” In the “AC 4″ demo, the Ubisoft rep navigated the Caribbean in the year 1717. After accepting a contract to eliminate some Templars, we watch the fight progress from land to sea, as protagonist Edward Kenway boards his ship, the Jackdaw. From there, it was an epic sea battle between an enemy ship. Once the ship was dispatched and properly looted, the rep turned her attention to a nearby Nexus 10 tablet.
That’s where the companion app comes in. Using the tablet, she marked out places of interest on the massive world map, including the location of some possible treasure and a pod of humpback whales. The app also acted as a quick point of access to collected data including treasure maps and documents. And as you progress further in the game, the app could act as a fleet management system, sending resources to and from your growing cadre of ships.
In the massively mulitplayer RPG shooter hybrid, “The Division,” we watched as the rep navigated a New York City decimated by a viral outbreak. As a member of the Division, a covert government agency designed to rebuild mankind. Instead of classes, players rely on their abilities, items and weapons to define their character. After the rep completed a mission to free some captured cops, another rep demonstrated the companion app on a tablet.
From the tablet, the rep took control of an aerial drone with the abilities ranging from healing allies, setting up defensive buffs and scouting and marking enemy forces. Once the drone gained enough experience points, it fired out a missile strike to quickly turn the tide of battle. We foresee remote players using this ability to be a helpful ally or a rage-inducing troll once the game launches.
The companion app for “Watch Dogs” offers a more competitive edge than just playing on the console. For example, during our demo, the tablet user sent a challenge to a rep playing the game. Once the challenge was accepted, it was a race against the clock as the tablet users went to work sending cops to the console player’s location. The game is displayed as a large map on the tablet allowing the mobile gamer to drag a police helicopter to the correct position on the map. He was also able to direct police cars and cut off the opposing players escape by hacking road blocks and other obstacles. These powers can also be used to assist a player in real time.
If Ubisoft’s titles are any indication, mobile integration into PC or console titles could be an easy way to reach out to the more casual gamer. Granting them access to games that might be perceived as too hard, without the accompanying app.