Ubisoft may need a massive hit soon, or else

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    Yesterday was a bleak day for Ubisoft, a major game publisher that looks increasingly like it’s on the brink.

    A poor earnings report led to a 13.79% share drop, a 74.25% drop from a peak about five years ago. Its market cap has dropped to just $2.57 billion, a fractional amount compared to the $69 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard that Microsoft is trying to make. Even Bungie, a studio with literally one-of-a-kind game, Destiny 2, has just been bought by Sony for $3.5 billion.

    What went wrong now? Where to start:

    • Sales of Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope lagged.
    • Ubisoft has canceled three unannounced projects and will move those team members to other games.
    • Ubisoft has again delayed the meme-worthy Skull and Bones pirate game for the fifth or sixth time, a game that is due to be released at some point due to a deal they made with the Singapore government.

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    Ubisoft Yves Guillemot had a rather nasty message for his staff after all this:

    Of course, it’s more than just these recent setbacks that have plagued Ubisoft.

    • Former blockbuster series like Far Cry have faded in relevance. Watch Dogs was a series that never really took off in any meaningful capacity.
    • Despite Valhalla performing well, a general sense of franchise fatigue seems to have set in with Assassin’s Creed, which Ubisoft over-relies on, and multiple new future games have been announced.
    • Ubisoft went to great lengths to get into NFTs and web3 only to roundly mock those ambitions and now it’s not clear if that part of the business still exists.

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    • Ubisoft has poured huge amounts of money into developing free-to-play games with little success. A battle royale like Hyperscape came and went with barely a blip. Upcoming shooter XDefiant seemed like a strange idea from the start. The Division Heartland doesn’t quite seem like the direction fans hoped the franchise would take. Overall, the Tom Clancy offering has stagnated.
    • The most promising game on a grand scale, Beyond Good and Evil 2, has pretty much disappeared from existence after being revealed in 2017 altogether. Ubisoft still claims it hasn’t been canceled, but its status is a complete question mark and has been for almost a decade now.

    All this has led them to a pretty precarious point where they rely heavily on two big upcoming games outside of the Assassin’s Creed titles already announced. That would be Massive’s Avatar: Frontier of Pandora, reportedly out this year, but with frequent project delays, who knows. And then a new, upcoming Star Wars title, also from Massive, which still seems a long way off. It’s a big gamble whether an Avatar video game can perform as well as the hugely popular movies. And we know so little about this Star Wars project that it’s hard to say anything about it.

    Ubisoft has often felt like a company that will try anything, VR, Stadia, motion controls, NFTs, F2P shooters, forever chasing trends while having relatively little success doing so. Their greatest creation remains the “Ubisoft open-world game”, which may have once been a good thing, but it’s a concept that has soured, and really only Assassin’s Creed seems to be the last somewhat sane franchise in that realm. And “healthy” might be a stretch there (I don’t have much faith in the upcoming AC: Mirage).

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    I’m not sure Guillemot’s “I just want you to work harder” is going to accomplish much. Ubisoft needs some big hits, and fast, or I’m not sure what’s going to happen here.

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