Assassin’s Creed has been one of Ubisoft’s biggest game franchises for over a decade. Having launched on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 back in 2007, it has been a roller-coaster ride for fans, with the series following games of near-perfection with ones that had clearly lost sight of what the franchise is about. However, since an overhaul and course correction with Assassin’s Creed Origins in 2017, the franchise has become a dominant force in gaming once again.
Now, riding the momentum of Origins and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, early indications are that the Holiday 2020 release of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla might just become the series’ most successful entry yet. By combining its release across all current and next-gen consoles and platforms, the sheer volume of interest derived from its unveiling, and its popular theme, Valhalla’s set to be a gang-buster.
A colossal reveal for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Ubisoft has never been very good at keeping their plans under wraps, especially when it comes to the most recent Assassin’s Creed games. For months, perhaps the worst kept secret in gaming was that the next game in the franchise would be based in the time of Vikings or focus on Norse mythology – with the two being intrinsically tied. Given that they’d recently taken players to ancient Egypt and ancient Greece, and the surge in popularity around the Norse theme, the logic gave credence to the rumors.
On April 30, Ubisoft dropped a surprise video: the world premiere trailer for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Even though everyone all-but knew what it would feature, it ended up becoming the game company’s biggest ever unveiling. In an earnings call statement, chief financial officer Frédérick Duget stated that the trailer accrued over 100 million views in just ten days to make it the most viewed trailer in Ubisoft history. Furthermore, they saw a "very meaningful spike in player engagement" with Origins and Odyssey, showing the excitement around the game franchise.
Exploring a very popular but not fatigued theme
The theme of Norse, which spans Norse mythology and the historical civilization of the Vikings, is filled with rich lore and stories that are perfect for creative mediums in the entertainment industry. In terms of video gaming, Valhalla will naturally draw comparisons to God of War.
The PlayStation 4 exclusive sold 3.1 million units in its first three days, with the gameplay perfectly capturing the realms and tales of Norse mythology, as well as put the focus on some of its lesser-known characters. As Valhalla focuses on the exploits of the Vikings in Britain, and their wars against Alfred the Great, it should be able to distinguish itself from the 2018 Game of the Year.
It’s not just on consoles where creatives have found space to draw from Norse, though, with movies, series, and other gaming platforms drawing from different parts of the theme. The biggest name in Norse right now is Thor as a character within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The focus on Odinson draws in aspects of the mythology, with several scenes in his movies exploring the realm of Asgard and several other characters within the lore.
Of course, the Vikings themselves provide ample inspiration through their part in European history. The renowned warriors and conquerors became famous for their use of langskips to shoot across the open ocean. This iconic aspect is what the developers behind the free online slot game Viking Glory have decided to lean into. The game has the player set sail alongside a painted Viking warrior and Odin’s raven; it would be interesting to see some naval aspects in Valhalla – perhaps drawing some mechanics from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag that have been refined further in Odyssey.
For followers of the Valhalla game, though, television series The Last Kingdom will be of peak interest. Having started on the BBC for two seasons, with production then moved onto Netflix’s books, the four-season show focuses on the Vikings conquering England and Alfred the Great’s efforts to push back. The protagonist, Uhtred, is torn between the Viking and the English side, allowing the show to follow both sides of the conflicts and develop great characters drawn from history on both sides.
While the unveiling was massive and the theme is incredibly popular right now, to become the most successful Assassin’s Creed game, the cross-platform, cross-generation release still has some big numbers to scale. In 2016, the Assassin’s Creed franchise had already sent out over 100 million copies. Now, with the two mainline releases of Origins and Odyssey in the last few years, the franchise has eclipsed 140 million sales.
So, Ubisoft may have to see close to, or in excess of, 20 million units shipped for Valhalla for it to become the most successful entry in the franchise. Once some real gameplay footage has been shown, we’ll be able to judge the likelihood of this outcome better.