If you know Ubisoft, you know they have a propensity for churning out another franchised installment in some game series every year. Over the course of the past few years, fans have started to wonder if this system is one that is actually benefiting them. Apparently the people over at Ubisoft are wondering the same thing.
According to a couple of press releases, Ubisoft is shifting focus to slowing development and investing in live ops in order to support ongoing high level user engagement. Co-Founder and CEO Yves Guillemot stated in a release of sales figures that “by taking additional time to develop our games, we have been able to deliver three top-quality titles since August, including the grand return of Assassin’s Creed... This strategy enables us to deliver high-quality blockbusters while keeping our communities engaged through regular major updates. As a result, Ubisoft is perfectly positioned to reach its targets for fiscal 2017-18 and 2018-19."
This means that we can expect them to stop squeezing out games held together by a string and instead focus on the health of the community, right? We can expect them to focus on well constructed worlds, right? We can expect them to release a product they’re proud of, a game that we’re going to love to play for years, right?
The people working at Ubisoft aren’t dumb. They’re studying the games market and looking at what is performing best and what is holding a user’s attention. The outcome of that holds both good and bad news.
Fortunately, it means Ubisoft is recognizing that flimsy games that glitch out aren’t good for their company’s name. The initial sales figures for those games aren’t enough to offset future purchases and engagement. People stop caring when they think the product isn’t going to be fun anymore. In short terms, rushed games ostracize players and Ubisoft is making an attempt to fix that.
The flip side of that coin is that Ubisoft is thinking very carefully about the health of their systems and player economy. It isn’t a secret that the most profitable games out there are ones that continue to update over time. Players like to feel that the developers are listening to them and anticipating their needs. Seeing a good update that fixes things is one of the most satisfying feelings for me, personally.
But what do they plan on doing with these “regular major updates,” and why will they contribute to its fiscal targets? The answer is surprisingly simple, and it is one we are already seeing in games like Assassin’s Creed: Origins: every type of game generates more revenue when monetized.
I can’t imagine this is the answer any of us were hoping for, but the facts don’t lie: EA and Activision make about thirty-nine percent of their entire revenue from things like in-game items, season passes, and subscriptions. Ubisoft is currently making eighteen percent of their revenue from the same thing. The promise to spend more time on long-term engagement isn’t necessarily a feel-good acknowledgement that players want great games. It is a promise to the investors that Ubisoft will be on track to match competitors like EA and Activision in digital content revenue.
I bought an undead horse in Origins with my own real money. I didn’t need it to complete the game; it’s an aesthetic choice that I voluntarily splurged on so, in a way, maybe I’m the problem. Maybe we all are. Clearly as a community we’ve spent enough money in microtransactions and additional content that we’ve encouraged game studios to monetize. At this point, monetization is so prevalent in games that I can’t see a change in the industry which would get us away from in-game purchases. My hope is that Ubisoft chooses a respectful way to implement its monetization and that it won’t resort to cheap and predatory methods to make a cash grab from us. For now, although I’m not hopeful, I’m waiting for what comes next.
Below you can find links to the press releases I cited for this article, and more are available on the Ubisoft website. Form your own opinions, and let's open up a dialogue about where all this is going. Talk to us down below or via @GameLuster on Twitter.