'Watch Dogs: Legion' to feature fan music via HitRecord

'Watch Dogs Legion' is now expected mid- to late-2020 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC and Stadia

Video game publisher and developer Ubisoft is continuing its partnership with screen star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose production company collective is to provide ten tracks for March 2020's "Watch Dogs: Legion."

Having teamed up for "Beyond Good and Evil 2," HitRecord and Ubisoft are working together on "Watch Dogs: Legion."

The early 2020 stealth and action game has players recruit revolutionaries from among the populace of a near-future dystopian London.

And Joseph Gordon-Levitt's HitRecord community, set up by the "3rd Rock from the Sun," "The Dark Knight Rises" and "(500) Days of Summer" actor, is the conduit to recruit composers, musicians, vocalists, remixers and producers for the game itself.

Ubisoft is looking for 10 original songs that "will be integrated directly into the world," citing music from an in-game car's radio as a possible example.

Each of the ten proposed tracks that make it into the game will be paid for by way of a US$2000 sum split between the track's collaborators.

"If you've never heard of HitRecord before, we are an open community for creative collaboration," Gordon-Levitt explained in an announcement video for the "Watch Dogs: Legion" initiative.

"Someone might throw up a beat, someone might add lyrics, someone else might add a baseline. This is how things come together on HitRecord."

Yet as well as reviving the partnership between HitRecord and Ubisoft, the initiative also revives a debate about whether this is a fair use of contributors' time and expertise.

"They're asking people to make original music and not get paid anywhere close to what you should get working on a huge game," composer and sound effects designer 2 Mello explained on Twitter.

Contributors would be doing the work first and, depending on the number of applicants, not getting paid later.

For companies, contest-oriented output (or speculative work, hence the Twitter hashtag "#nospec") can be sourced at lower cost than hiring a qualified professional directly.

In this instance, Ubisoft distributes US$20,000 between the winning tracks' collaborators, whereas it might have paid more on a composer, producer, musicians and a recording studio instead.

One alternative would be to "[d]o an open call for submissions of existing work from aspiring musicians. Invest in a proper review process. Commission those whose work fits and pay them to produce work.. you know, like you would with any other worker," suggested independent game director Mike Bithell.

Other commenters saw it as less of a big deal, closer to audience participation than spec work. "Ubisoft is trying to give fans a chance to participate and that's something we should praise not try and stifle," wrote Xivwkku, a fan of the game.

Ubisoft and HitRecord anticipate that the 10 songs will be created between now and September, finalized in fall 2019, with announcements then made in January 2020 through hitrecord.org/watchdogslegion.

"Watch Dogs: Legion" releases March 2020 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC and Google Stadia.