After six straight years of releasing a major entry in the Assassin's Creed series, Ubisoft has finally decided to take some time off. This year, for the first time since 2008, there will be no mainline Assassin's Creed game released in the fall.
The announcement is couched in a larger post that mentions the well received Assassin's Creed Syndicate and the in-production Assassin's Creed film, both of which could be considered successes for a franchise that seemed to be on its last legs just a few years ago. (Don't get me wrong, I'm not sure that movie is going to be good, but someone at Ubisoft better be getting a raise for getting that movie made at all.)
Then the post drops the big news:
This year, we also are stepping back and re-examining the Assassin’s Creed franchise. As a result, we’ve decided that there will not be a new Assassin’s Creed game in 2016. Since the release of Assassin’s Creed Unity, we’ve learned a lot based on your feedback. We’ve also updated our development processes and recommitted to making Assassin’s Creed a premier open-world franchise. We’re taking this year to evolve the game mechanics and to make sure we’re delivering on the promise of Assassin’s Creed offering unique and memorable gameplay experiences that make history everyone’s playground.
In some ways, this decision also feels like a success. At least some fans and critics of the series have been calling for the company to take a break ever since Assassin's Creed: Revelations released in 2011, and the choir of voices making that demand has only grown in number as the series has continued to release annually (and with fluctuating quality). While I'm sure there are a billion business reasons behind this decision, I also fundamentally hope that this means that the teams working on the series will be able to revitalize it.
Though it definitely isn't my favorite series of the last console cycle, Assassin's Creed might represent those years of AAA gaming better than any other franchise. From the early aspirations and untapped potential of the first game, to the explosive set pieces and character-driven intimacy of Assassin's Creed 2 and Brotherhood, to the early free-to-play mechanics and unfocused bloat of Assassin's Creed 3, it feels like Assassin's Creed sums up so much of what happened in gaming throughout those years.
In any case, I'm tentatively hopeful for the future of the franchise. It's needed this break for a long time. Let's just hope that Ubisoft will let its developers use this extra year to re-evaluate and improve the next entry in the series, and that it won't shift them over to work crunch on whatever big project they will release this fall.