Tom’s Guide first previewed Skull & Bones, an open-world multiplayer pirate game from Ubisoft, way back in 2017. Then we previewed it again in 2018. Then the game got delayed — before getting delayed again in 2019. Now, Skull & Bones finally has a release window, but it’s still a ways off: 2022 or 2023. (Assuming it doesn’t get delayed again.)
Information comes from the most recent Ubisoft earnings call, as covered by Eurogamer. Investors asked when Skull & Bones was likely to launch, and the company replied that it would probably come out during the 2022-2023 financial year. Ubisoft’s financial years begin in March, so that means we could see Skull & Bones sometime between March 2022 and March 2023, assuming it doesn’t get delayed again.
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Eurogamer also pointed out that the Skull & Bones TV adaptation is also still MIA, although it seems reasonable to think that Ubisoft would want to launch the two products closer together.
One thing that’s clear, however, is that Ubisoft wants to expand its offerings beyond traditional big-budget games. On the same earnings call, Ubisoft explained that it wanted to make more money from free-to-play games with microtransactions in the future, as this strategy can be considerably more profitable than relying on one-and-done game purchases. (See Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone, as well as most of the mobile gaming industry.)
Whether Skull & Bones can fit into Ubisoft’s new paradigm remains to be seen. An 18th-century multiplayer naval combat game admittedly sounds pretty niche, particularly when you consider how much ongoing work goes into the average live-service title. While Skull & Bones sounds like it would give Ubisoft lots of opportunities to charge for additional, optional content, it might not have the same level of instant gratification as a shooter.
For those who haven’t kept up with Skull & Bones, it’s a creative concept. Ubisoft essentially isolated the naval warfare mechanics from Assassin’s Creed IV and Assassin’s Creed Rogue, then expanded them into a full game. Skull & Bones takes place entirely on the high seas, where players do battle with enemy ships, as well as each other. There’s apparently a slight fantasy element as well, as one trailer showed off a kraken rising from the seas. Completing missions lets players get better equipment for their ships, which allows them to hunt tougher ships, which lets them get even better equipment, and so forth.
In short, don’t hold your breath for Skull & Bones anytime soon, but don’t count it out just yet, either. Ubisoft may very well decide to cancel the game between now and 2023, but for the moment, it’s still out there on the high seas, just beyond the horizon.