Ubisoft have revealed that they are “moving on” from the strategy they have used for years now of producing three to four polished AAA titles every year. They instead plan to start launching “high-end free-to-play” games based on all of their biggest titles.
The traditionally AAA developer gave an update on what its upcoming product development strategy will be going forward via its full-year earnings call on Tuesday. Ubisoft’s chief financial officer Frederick Duguet‘s statement read; “In line with the evolution of our high-quality line-up that is increasingly diverse, we are moving on from our prior comment regarding releasing 3-4 premium AAAs per year. It is indeed no longer a proper indication of our value creation dynamics. For example, our expectation for Just Dance and Riders Republic are consistent with some of the industry’s AAA performers.”
“Additionally, we are building high-end free-to-play games to be trending towards AAA ambitions over the long-term. This is purely a financial communication evolution and doesn’t change the fact that we continue to expect a high cadence of content delivery including powerful premium and free-to-play new releases.”
“In terms of Heartland, the way we think about building the audience reach growth for our biggest franchises, so starting with The Division, is to come with high-end free-to-play games,” Duguet added.
“We recognise this is the first year we are coming meaningfully into the space. That’s why we need to take reasonable assumptions for year one on the top line as well as on the contribution, but of course we want to make sure this is a strong contributor in the long-term to the expansion of the overall brand on console and PC, and then of course will come mobile at a later time.”
Elaborating on the previously mentioned new direction, Duguet went on to say; “We think that we have a great opportunity to meaningfully expand the audiences of our biggest franchises. We have taken the time to learn from what we did last year with Hyper Scape. We are also learning of course with the launch we’ll be making of Roller Champions and we’ve been learning a lot with Brawlhalla, which is fast growing.”
“And we think it is now the time to come with high-end free-to-play games across all our biggest franchises across all platforms, but of course it will take time before proving it in a more assertive way. That’s why we want to be cautious in year one. If we are successful, that can have a very meaningful impact on the value creation of Ubisoft.”
Ubisoft also stated during the earnings call that the current fiscal year ending on the 31st of March 2022, will see Far Cry 6 and Rainbow Six Quarantine released by the 30th of September this year, along with Riders Republic, The Division Heartland and Roller Champions.
The French publisher also confirmed on Tuesday that it does not have any AAA games whatsoever due to release in the second half of the current fiscal year, this includes the usually saturated festive period. The long delayed, open-world pirate game; Skull & Bones was originally scheduled to release within the current fiscal year, however Ubisoft unfortunately revealed on Tuesday that it has in fact been delayed yet again. Skull & Bones is now due to release during the next fiscal year, which begins in April 2022.
Finishing the earnings call on some more positive news, Ubisoft also stated that the Assassin’s Creed franchise achieved its strongest year ever in terms of sales across the latest fiscal year. Duguet revealed this saying; “What we see with Assassin’s Creed is that we have a fantastic recipe and that’s why we decided to expand the [Valhalla] post-launch programme to make it the biggest, longest, strongest that we have ever had on the franchise.”
In summary, speaking as a fan of certain Ubisoft franchises, I personally do not think that this is a good move. I also think that this does not set a good precedent for the rest of the industry.
AAA games are getting more and more expensive to develop and sustain as time goes on, therefore investors at major companies like Ubisoft would instead rather make a quick buck on a previously established franchise. However, as a gamer that buys and plays games to experience immersive and deep stories, the idea of Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed going free-to-play does not sit well with me in the slightest.
Companies like Epic and Activision have cornered the market on fun free-to-play experiences, with Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone respectively. We do not need every other developer to follow suit. I’d also like to mention that whilst Activision are currently riding high with Warzone, we are still getting a separate Call of Duty game every year with its own campaign.
If Ubisoft have to jump onto the high-end free-to-play bandwagon, then I’d much rather they did so via the Division or Rainbow Six, whilst still letting their other development teams work on well-crafted games with a dedicated story. I do not see the need to, “come with high-end free-to-play games across all our biggest franchises across all platforms.”
What do you think of this latest announcement from the company? Are you concerned for the future of franchises like Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed? Do you think that this is a concerning revelation for the gaming industry as a whole? Or are you just sick of seeing Ubisoft release four story-based games a year that are broken on launch and feel that they need to shake things up? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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