According to the publisher’s latest earnings call, as reported by VGC, Ubisoft will be pivoting its strategy from yearly big-budget AAA games towards free-to-play titles that are regularly updated.
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Ubisoft’s chief financial officer Frederick Duguet revealed that the company no longer plans on putting out “3-4 premium” titles a year and instead aims to invest heavily in free-to-play titles of substantial quality. The first of these will presumably be the recently announced Division: Heartland which is a free-to-play game set within the universe of Ubisoft’s The Division series.
Ubisoft was keen to stress during this call that it would still be developing and publishing AAA titles, and the likes of Far Cry 6, Riders Republic and Rainbow Six Quarantine were all confirmed to be launching sometime before April 2022 during the call. However, the days of getting multiple high-profile Ubisoft titles in a short period of time are seemingly over.
Last year for example between October and December Ubisoft released Watch Dogs: Legion, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, and Immortals: Fenyx Rising. It would appear the company is no longer aiming to put out multiple high-profile games in a single financial quarter, potentially because the strategy has previously seen the publisher cannibalize its own sales.
This new approach is likely aiming to emulate the success Ubisoft has enjoyed with Rainbow Six Siege. A strategic multiplayer shooter originally released in 2015, Siege received a middling reception at launch but has been significantly expanded over the years and set its concurrent player record in March of this year.
So while it’s likely we’ll see less traditional games in primarily single-player series like Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry, it’s a safe bet that these IPs won’t be going anywhere. These franchises will likely be used to launch free-to-play games due to their strong brand recognition. Assassin’s Creed: Battle Royale, anyone?
This pivot towards online-focused games that are frequently updated — often referred to as live-service games — is being observed across the industry. Other publishing heavyweights including Activision, EA and Bethesda are also desperately trying to release the next Fortnite-level hit, with some success (Apex Legends/Warzone) alongside quite a bit of failure (Anthem/Fallout 76).
Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment also made similar comments earlier this year when it was announced its output would have a “heavy focus on live service” titles going forward. It would seem Ubisoft is just following the industry trend here, whether the market can sustain such a glut of live service games is another question.