When Wii U was first announced, Ubisoft was one of its most vocal supporters, but poor sales early on led to that support quickly drying up. Rayman Legends, planned as a Wii U exclusive, was delayed so it could launch on other consoles. As Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot later revealed, Ubisoft also had an unannounced Wii U game that was completed and ready to ship, but it was withheld until Wii U had a larger install base. That never happened, and the game disappeared without a trace.
Years later, Ubisoft has never explained what happened. A brief leaked clip in 2015 suggested that the mystery title was “Know Your Friends,” and Liam Robertson (along with Did You Know Gaming) has just completed an investigation into the creation and eventual scrapping of this forgotten piece of gaming history.
Know Your Friends was a social/party game where players would scan themselves into the game (using the Wii U GamePad’s camera) and then answer fun, silly, and occasionally more serious questions about each other. As the name suggests, it’s a way to learn more about those close to you in a fun setting.
The game was developed by a small team with a limited budget at Ubisoft Paris. They had originally planned to use the UbiArt Framework engine (which debuted in
Rayman Origins) to power the game, but they were apparently denied permission by Ubisoft Montpelier, the team in charge of the still-developing engine at the time. As such, they switched to a cut-out art style reminiscent of South Park, with animations inspired by the Muppets.
Know Your Friends tested extremely well within Ubisoft’s development teams, and there was an optimistic sense that it could be come a hit game among casual players on the same level as Just Dance. Because of this Ubisoft wanted to launch it at just the right time to capitalize. Development was far enough along that it could have been completed in time for Wii U’s debut, but Ubisoft decided to let it cook a little longer and focus their marketing efforts on ZombiU at launch instead.
ZombiU flopped, Ubisoft’s support of Wii U began to wane. Rayman Legends was delayed multiple times and lost its Wii U exclusive status, and Know Your Friends was trapped in limbo, finished but unreleased. Because Ubisoft hoped to reach a vast casual audience (like the original Wii’s install base of 100 million), the marketing team eventually determined that it would just be too expensive to market Know Your Friends on a struggling console like Wii U.
Despite being finished, Ubisoft opted not to release it at all. Later the development team floated the idea of porting it to other platforms, and there was even a prototype made for mobile platforms, but it was ultimately scrapped. Thankfully, many of the disappointed
Know Your Friends developers went on to help make Mario + Rabbids Battle Kingdom, a smash hit on Nintendo Switch.