Scott Pilgrim vs The World – Complete Edition has finally hit digital store shelves. After years of being unavailable, fans of the sidescrolling brawler are able to experience the definitive edition of not just one of the best movie tie-in games of all time but one of the best brawlers ever on new hardware. It's a testament to the developers' talent that a game released in 2010 can hold its own with the likes of Streets of Rage 4, which came out just last year. Shame that due to some meddling by publisher Ubisoft, this release of Scott Pilgrim isn't exactly complete.
The problem is obvious from the minute you get into the main menu. While the Complete Edition does contain most of the downloadable content from the original game, there is one notable exception: the playable character Knives Chau. In order to unlock Knives, you have to log in with an Ubisoft Connect account, the same online account you would use to play the game online.
On the surface, this seems like an annoying non-issue. Most companies in the gaming space crave cultivating their own online ecosystem for any game that can support it, and online infrastructure has gotten better across multiple gaming platforms to better justify such investments. If you were playing Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – Complete Edition online with friends, this would barely register as a problem.
But looking at the history of the game and how Ubisoft has chosen to distribute it, several alarm bells are rung. When Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game first released in 2010, it was as a tie-in to the upcoming feature film by Universal Pictures. This is still true in the re-release despite the game drawing more from Brian Lee O' Malley's original comic. The game gained cult status thanks to its quality, but once the license with Universal expired, the game was de-listed back in 2014. Worse still, even if you had a copy of the original game, the servers were gone, and there was no way to purchase or install downloadable content.
This turned Scott Pilgrim into an oddity. Most games released alongside movies generally don't get re-released. The license quietly expires, and the initial release lives on through second-hand sources. Except in the case of Scott Pilgrim, the game was a digital release; you couldn't hunt down a physical disc of this thing in a bargain bin. Furthermore, its popularity only grew in time, in some ways eclipsing the very movie it was made to promote. Fans wanted a way to preserve the title, a way to ensure it could be played forever and not just be a digital memory.
Six years later, Ubisoft listened to the demands... but only to the letter. First off, the game is only available digitally. If you want an actual copy of this game, you'll have to reach out to Limited Run Games, which does include some fun goodies for hardcore fans. Second, content is being locked off by a logging into an online account.
So what happens when the license expires again? Simply put, the game and its fans will be right back where they started. The game won't be actively available, save for very limited physical releases on two consoles. Once the servers go offline, Ubisoft Connect support will be dropped, which means without a hotfix or a patch of some kind, Knives Chau will vanish from the game completely even if you still have your copy installed on your machine of choice.
This is largely speculation on my part, but it is particularly telling that Ubisoft saw the longevity Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game had (10 years of a consistent fanbase is nothing to sneer at), and actively chose a distribution and online model that has a shelf life—the exact same shelf life that plagued the original release. The benefit of the doubt can be raised regarding multiple factors: The license rights that had to be finagled between Ubisoft and Universal, the logistics of physical distribution during the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns over recouping investment on a niche title, and so on, but it is still appalling details such as these are being repeated.
It is too easy to see a company that saw a game hampered by issues since its release 10 years ago, and thought the best way to introduce it to a new audience were to repeat those exact same issues.