We’ve seen some amazing reports from Ubisoft recently and it looks like the company is starting with a clean slate. Is this the beginning of a major change in the course of their publishing policy?
At the end of June, we were preparing to spend this winter in the beautiful locations of Pandora, but today we know that this will not happen. And the point here is not a simple delay of a month or two – the premiere has been postponed to the next financial year. Therefore, this game will not be released until April 2023, or even a year later.
Moreover, this is not the only such decision made by Ubisoft in recent times. Most likely, the release of the yet unannounced game from the Assassin’s Creed universe, supposedly called Rift, has also been delayed, and four other projects have been completely abandoned. These were VR Splinter Cell, the battle royale Ghost Recon: Frontlines, and two other unknown games. A little earlier, we also learned about the terrible state of the remake of Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands – the developer has recently changed and the game will probably have to be developed from scratch.
Is Ubisoft like Apple in 1997?
It’s a bit like someone finally took a serious look at the games in development and made the extremely bold move of eliminating games that were probably doomed to fail and giving the rest enough time to polish and some more specific changes. It’s a bit like Steve Jobs’ return in 1997 to the failed Apple, when the new CEO immediately threw away too many crappy PCs to focus on a few revolutionary products. The same thing could be happening at Ubisoft now.
The problem is that 2022 looks somewhat anemic for such a publisher – as Jason Schreier describes it. Two years ago, we received, among others, AC: Valhalla, Far Cry 6 came out a year earlier, and there were also several minor releases. This year we have Rainbow Six: Extraction (January) and we are waiting for the new version of Mario + Rabbids, as well as the online game Skull and Bones, which is probably just released to get rid of this burden after so many years of development. None of these games seem to be a hit, regardless of the final quality. Rabbids is a Switch-only release, while Skull & Bones looks like a great mystery for now, engendering as much hope as fear.
The end of Ubisoft’s gaming formula?
We can only guess what prompted these decisions. Ubisoft has probably hit a rock wall when it comes to making identical open-world games to its tried and true pattern – too many of these clones seem to have been released in too short a period of time. What specific games are you talking about? The ones that followed the same story formula based around conquering/capturing a region, facing a mini-boss, and repeating that pattern until the final showdown. We saw the exact same formula in The Division, Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Ghost Reconie: Wildlands, and Far Cry 5. On top of that, there was a looter shooter mechanic mindlessly pasted into every new game from the studio, even The Crew 2 , and the mechanic of getting more and more powerful equipment, which completely failed in both FC: New Dawn and Breakpoint.
According to recent rumors, it was bad gameplay that prevented the release of Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. We emphasize – an open-world game that runs on the SnowDrop engine known from The Division. So, if the leaks are to be believed and Ubisoft is really unhappy with the gameplay of their new open-world game that the studio specializes in, then hopefully they really want to create something fresh. The only question is, can it be done at such an advanced stage of work?
Personnel changes after the scandal
The “big purge” among the upcoming Ubisoft games also seems to be the result of a scandal that erupted in 2020. As a reminder, many valuable developers have lost their jobs as a result of all sorts of compromising evidence, unethical behavior, and shameful actions by senior management. The most important element here is, perhaps, the figure of Serge Ascoet, a real cardinal in the company, who allegedly had absolute power over all IPs and, in a word, approved or rejected certain projects at his whim.
The dismissal of him and several other prominent figures was bound to affect the future of Ubisoft games sooner or later, and we are probably now witnessing the birth of a new order. The French have already abandoned the rather insipid Hyper Scape, recently removed the coldly received Frontlines, and for some reason are trying to keep the equally unconvincing XDefiant. One can only guess what the rest of the liquidated and unannounced games looked like.
Aside from the open-world template, Ubisoft’s little problem is its sheer obsession with making its own battle royale hit. Everyone would like their own Fortnite or Apex: Legends – an addictive game that allows you to create additional content that requires minimal effort and investment. So far, the French giant is not succeeding. The great and extremely atmospheric gameplay from The Division: Survival was abandoned due to copying other people’s ideas, adding a general setting to it. It must have taken a lot of time and money that could have been spent on a new version of a highly anticipated brand like Splinter Cell.
It will get worse before it gets better
Given the above, the question remains what Ubisoft will show in the announced big presentation at the upcoming gamescom, given that the future of Assassin’s Creed is set to be revealed at its own event in September. We’ll probably see Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope and new content from Skull and Bones, but what else? Will we learn more about the changes planned for Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora that caused the recent delay? We don’t even dare to mention Beyond Good and Evil 2, the news of which comes to us at night. On the other hand, Ubisoft may also surprise us with content from a new game set in Star Wars. There really is plenty to choose from.
2022 will likely be the year without a big Ubisoft game to compete for the GOTY title. In part, it may be a good strategic decision to take a step back as we play Hogwarts Legacy, God of War: Ragnarok, the A Plague Tale sequel, Bayonetta 3 and Modern Warfare 2, and the already released Elden Ring. And if such a break could bring back good old Ubisoft with a slightly bolder and more diverse portfolio of polished games, it’s definitely worth the wait.