Ubisoft to pivot from AAA to F2P and back catalogue

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buzz_killington

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#1  Edited By buzz_killington

Apparently in today's earnings call, Ubisoft CFO has mentioned that they're going to pivot away from "relying" on several AAA releases a year more into F2P and squeezing what they can out of their back catalogue. Link from IGN.

He also mentioned that their new big investor Tencent is supposed to help them crack F2P on mobile in China and beyond.

This is weird since Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, The Division and Siege all seemed to do well for them over the past few years and they haven't had notable huge flops unlike EA. I can see they do one AC game every other years until that well runs dry, and they keep remaking stuff and do one new live service game every 2-3 years (Star Wars probably next up).

This is kinda sad also. Another AAA powerhouse signaling a pivot away from this business model & yet fewer big games going forward. I think EA is going to do the same very soon, but they're pretty much there already anyways.

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Hayt

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I guess saying your moving to focus on shameless cashgrabs is what stockholders want to hear but yuck.

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bigsocrates

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If you look at the statements it's not entirely clear what this means. It may mean they're not going to rely ONLY on AAA (he never actually says pivot away from AAA) but instead try to diversify their portfolio, which...makes sense. They're also clearly going to try to monetize older games and live service games more, which...to me is in some ways more distressing than mobile.

Honestly, though, with every Ubisoft AAA game being some version of the same game at this point it doesn't bother me so much that there may be fewer of them. I actually played and enjoyed Immortals: Fenyx Rising, but was it a necessary game? Other than some Assassin's Creed games in the new style that people have liked when was the last Ubisoft AAA game that really hit critically? They stopped taking risks and doing interesting things a long time ago.

It does suck to see them go into that mobile grind, though. There are good mobile games, of course, but they are a tiny sliver on a sea of garbage.

Hopefully monetizing the back catalog will involve releasing remasters and remakes of some of the good old Ubi properties and not just, like, shoving more micros into games that have already been released.

Rereleasing the Scott Pilgrim game was a good start. Now give us a remaster of Driver: San Francisco, YOU COWARDS!

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FRANZlSKA

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Honestly, this seems like a good call to me. Ubisoft has been doing fairly well for themselves lately, but also I feel like recent years have been about par w/ the AC: Unity era in terms of people being sort of tired of their whole formula. It got bad enough with Breakpoint and some of those other ones that they specifically delayed their most recent batch of open world titles to try and shake things up, and it sounded like once those titles finally released reception was fairly tepid, and the games had a lot of the issues people complained about before. If this means that Ubisoft can afford to chill out for a little while and spend some more time on each game, that'd for sure be the best move.

Even if they end up still churning out games at roughly the same rate, and now they've just dropped a series or two, Ubisoft still has one of the largest back catalogues of any company I can think of, short of maybe EA, it's kind of weird their only real back catalogue push so far was that subscription service.

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buzz_killington

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If you look at the statements it's not entirely clear what this means. It may mean they're not going to rely ONLY on AAA (he never actually says pivot away from AAA) but instead try to diversify their portfolio, which...makes sense. They're also clearly going to try to monetize older games and live service games more, which...to me is in some ways more distressing than mobile.

I guess I read it as "cut down from 3-4 AAA releases a year to 1 which is probably a live service game like The Division". But you're right, they're not 100% moving away.

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Shindig

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More of the big companies should do this, to be honest. In these uncertain times, they have all that manpower at their disposal and they could produce several smaller products than banking on the AAA.

It also goes back to the way manufacturing of the new consoles has been hit. AAA lives on those systems and if they're slow to ship and sell, that directly hits the market potential for top tier XSX and PS5 software.

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bigsocrates

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@buzz_killington: He says they're going to continue to have a strong slate of AAA releases, so I doubt that means they'll cut down to 1. Maybe from 3-4 down to 2-3, but nowhere does he say they're giving up that business and he says the opposite.

And again, if Ubisoft didn't come out with Immortals: Fenyx Rising and Watch Dogs: Legion (Both games that I played, completed, and liked) is it some great loss to gaming? A lot of their releases are just kind of filler games, and pretty samey.

I guess my view is both that Ubi could afford to focus more on a lower number of games AND this is just a bunch of investor speak that might or might not mean anything, and what it might mean is expansion into new lines of complimentary business rather than a true pivot away from AAA.

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buzz_killington

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@bigsocrates: Immortals specially feels like they had a free studio and a quota to meet. At least their production pipelines haven't been ground to a halt like EA. I guess we'll see where the chips fall.

Also, they mention even freakin' Skull & Bones as a "real video game that will be released at some point" in the call but not BG&E 2. At this point I think that game trumps Duke Nukem Forever in the development hell category. 2008 to infinity!

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Jesus_Phish

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#9  Edited By Jesus_Phish
@buzz_killington said:

This is weird since Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, The Division and Siege all seemed to do well for them over the past few years and they haven't had notable huge flops unlike EA.

I wouldn't say they haven't had notable flops.

Breakpoint was a disaster.

Watchdog Legions seems like people already forgot about it.

Hyper Scape exists, but is like Starlink in that Starlink came into toys to life way too late for anyone to care to the point they had to just let you buy the toys digitally. Right now Hyper Scape has 109 viewer on Twitch. The Crew 2 was a mess.

Maybe none of these are Anthem level flops, but they've probably more misses than people realize.

The only real flops EA have had are the Bioware games (Anthem/Mass Effect Andromeda). For all the hate and rage that Battlefront 2 got at release, like Siege and For Honor, it managed to find it's legs and is rather popular (and good).

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ZombiePie

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I mean... didn't they JUST shit-can Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake? Ultimately, I cannot imagine Ubisoft making a huge pivot away from their tentpole franchises. Say what you will about the state of current-era Assassin's Creed games, but every new release makes a ton of money.

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Haz_Kaj

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Make a new damn Prince of Persia. Or new ip. Stop rehashing the same ip over and over.

Breakpoint failing was a good thing. Hopefully they wake up.

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TheRealTurk

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Well, I'm not exactly enthused about the "FTP" pivot because there has never been a FTP game that wasn't gross and terrible, but if this ends up in Ubisoft making smaller games, then it might not be the worst thing. There was a period, deep in the mists of time and gaming pre-history known as "early last-gen" that Ubisoft actually made some cool creative games rather than just endless bloated open world checklist simulator. Child of Light comes to mind.

I'd rather see more of that. Those games are cheaper to make, too, which means that Ubi could stand to take a few more risks and maybe get out of the creative rut they're in.

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MrGreenMan

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Good Riddance. This company is a complete joke. All the allegations against this company(mostly the sexual abuse allegations) already had me writing them off, this just instills i will never be buying a Ubisoft game again.

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Humanity

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#14 Humanity  Online

Most of their modern games are so full to the brim with Helix points and micro transactions that the only thing they’re actually missing are free-to-play cooldown timers. There ha been an increasing amount of grumbling how AC Valhalla has the same amount of unique armor sets to purchase as there are in the game.

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alistercat

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#15 alistercat  Online

I can safely say there will never be a F2P game that satisfies me. It doesn't matter how good the idea, the economics of the game will always lay themselves bare and I'll be immediately discouraged from getting invested in it. I'm out of touch.

Not that they had huge success on the path they were on, but I could see myself playing their games once or twice a year.

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ToughShed

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LOL.

They already put out like 3 games a year now and they are all the fucking same. Rotten company.

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SSully

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I always wondered why bigger companies like this don’t dedicated a few small teams to basically be indie houses or R&D teams. I feel like they tried it with Grow Home, but stopped. I feel like it would be in their interest to having teams trying out new ideas to try and find a new thing, or at least a refinement on current ideas (like Valheim).

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Shindig

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It wasn't just Grow Home, though. It was Child of Light and Valliant Hearts. They had something good and then reverted to type.

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bigsocrates

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@ssully: Sony does do this. They have published and developed a lot of smaller games over the years, often to great effect.

Microsoft has funded a bunch of smaller games and bought up some not huge studios for Gamepass, so is trying to do the same (and to be fair Cuphead and Ori are fantastic smaller games funded by Microsoft so this one area where they've done pretty well.)

Nintendo is arguably the best in the business at this. Do you even Boxboy or Pushmo, bro?

EA dabbles in this by publishing smaller games like the Unraveled games, from time to time.

Activision isn't built for it and only cares about huge monster hits. The closest it comes is remastered or licensed games.

The reason that the third parties struggle more with this is that their marketing and sales teams aren't built to make this a profitable idea, and it requires an inordinate amount of time for the potential profit. Platform holders gain a lot from having smaller games on their platforms, and for Microsoft and Sony they have alternative distribution models to give these games value (PS+ and Gamepass/Games With Gold.)

The third parties have to actually sell the games, and that means getting them attention, and that can cost more than the games themselves the way that a company like Ubisoft does it (they aren't going to build a profile over the course of many years through painfully slow promotion and courting the press like many indie hits do.) And they would do all that to what purpose? To get a moderate hit? To build and train talent in house that they can just buy somewhere else if they want it?

It's just not worth it to them.

As for the chances of a monster hit like Minecraft or Fall Guys coming from such a program, you just can't predict what games will explode like that and to some degree the big studio system makes it hard for that to happen because those kinds of hits tend to require both some kind of out of the box idea and quixotic personal passion that the big studios are not built to do much with. So you spend a bunch of resources and executive time and the best you hope to do is create a moderate hit that makes more than it costs but is a rounding error in the Assassin's Creed profit records and at that point why even bother?

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Personally, I would be bummed if this meant them stopping making new Assassin's Creed games, because for some reason the new style of those really gels with me. It may help that, outside of dabbling with The Division, I don't play other Ubi open-world games. That being said, it doesn't sound like that is the case, and if having fewer AAA games a year and getting more revenue via F2P causes them to experiment a bit more and make their AAA games more unique, that would be a good thing. We'll see, I guess.

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@hayt said:

I guess saying your moving to focus on shameless cashgrabs is what stockholders want to hear but yuck.

Shareholders need affirmation that predators and grifters will continue to be protected, so what other avenue was there?

Creation of art??? An actual stance that isn't "status-quo is fine by me!"?? That's not the genial, family-run business we were all rooting to not be acquired a couple of years ago that I remember!

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FacelessVixen

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...So I guess I shouldn't hold my breath on Beyond Good and Evil 2.

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bigsocrates

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@facelessvixen: That's where the good news is. There is going to be a Beyond Good and Evil 2, and it will release on your favorite mobile platforms like IOS and Android. It won't just feature Jade from the first game but all your favorite Ubisoft characters will be there and Jade will be sneaking around and taking photos of your favorite Ubisoft villains like the Borgias from Assassin's Creed or Manbun McYogameanie from Watch Dogs 2. The Beyond Good and Evil franchise is very important to Ubisoft, which is why it's going beyond traditional console platforms to make the game accessible to everyone. You won't control Jade directly but will help her unlock doors and take the perfect photos through completing match 3 puzzles. Even better the game will be absolutely free to play, with no microtransactions necessary to complete it. Yes, Jade will now be using a vehicle that requires slowly recharging energy to get to the locations of her missions, but if you think the energy charges to slow you can buy a Pey'j Pack on the Android store and he will come refuel your ship, that way players who want to speed things up have the option to do so. Players will also be able to buy outfits for Jade and special weapons and equipment, which can be earned through in game currency too! It only takes 35 hours of play to earn enough to buy her outfit from the original game! And because

So not only are you getting Beyond Good & Evil 2, but you're getting it for free!

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FacelessVixen

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@bigsocrates: I see what you're doing there, but somehow streaming Desert Bus while eating lead paint chips sounds more appealing.

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someoneproud

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Meh, I was mostly done with their games anyways. All the grind and MTX was a real chore already so I sure as shit won't be playing their F2P stuff. That being said, I'm sure this will make them more money for a while.

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