Montreal – Ubisoft has released their quarterly fiscal outlook, and while some areas reflect the dismal economic performance being seen around the globe and across all industries, the bombshell that immediately grabbed our attention – especially that of MMO enthusiast Michael, is news that there will be a third Assassin’s Creed in 2010. With multiplayer. This new expansion is over and above the two DLC additions already slated for release over the next couple of months, and is not an expansion on Assassin’s Creed 2. With the Assassin’s Creed franchise at the top of my own personal favourites, this is exciting news indeed. Of course with Ubisoft’s fiscal year for 2010 not beginning until April, this could well mean it will still be another year before this new chapter appears on game machines everywhere.
Disappointing news also contained in this press release was notification that Splinter Cell: Convictions has been held back until April, and the highly anticipated R.U.S.E., currently in development over in France, has also been delayed.
Not surprisingly, Avatar the Game did not sell as well as was anticipated. Whether or not this is because many families don’t yet own the levels of technology – such as 3Dtv – required to play this title in the manner for which it was developed, or simply because the storyline didn’t grab gamer attention as much as was hoped, remains to be seen.
Yves Guillemot, Chief Executive Officer, spoke to the news contained in the fiscal report, stating that “Despite a number of highly successful titles, such as Assassin’s Creed 2 – which is expected to reach 9 million sell-in units by the end of March 2010 – and Just Dance – our great Wii success during the holiday season – Ubisoft has not met its financial targets. The considerable contraction in the DS market during the year particularly affected Ubisoft, leading to a €160 million (approx. 240 million CAD), or almost 50%, year-on-year drop in the Company’s casual segment sales. At the same time, like in 2008, the year 2009 saw the release of many more very high-quality games than in the past. Against this backdrop and with a view to further reduce our exposure to the DS, we intend to continue to refocus our development resources on our major franchises and on the Xbox360 and PS3, the two consoles that are expected to see sales growth in games for gamers in 2010. Ubisoft has already demonstrated its capacity for success in the high-end games market thanks to Assassin’s Creed 2, with sales 40% higher than for the first title. The 2010-11 line-up – which is stronger in franchises for Xbox360 and PS3 – reflects our refocusing efforts and should enable us to both win market share and enhance our profitability.”
With that said, Ghost Recon fans will be happy to know that a new title in that franchise is coming, along with Raving Rabbids 4 and of course the highly publicized Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, along with a new Driver title. Hopefully we will see vast improvements in the Driver franchise with the release of this new title.
Something in the Ubisoft statement does concern me, though. There is mention that the company will be focusing on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, which in the studio’s opinion are “the consoles which are expected to experience sustained sales growth in games for gamers in calendar 2010.” Does this mean that Ubisoft considers the Wii to be on the decline because of lower sales in the DS market? While the studio did also announce that other titles and innovations would be made public throughout the year, will the Rabbids be exiting from the Wii, the console which is credited with bringing families to the gaming arena – or will the Rabbids be Ubisoft’s main saving grace in the family market?
I do have to wonder about how Ubisoft concentrates its efforts on repeat business from franchise title fans (okay, I am guilty on that count), while not taking full advantage of the newer, high quality family titles like Academy of Champions Soccer from its Vancouver studio. While it certainly promoted the title to industry at E3 and GDC San Francisco, it did not, in my opinion at least, successfully promote the title to the buying public or to those buyers responsible for stocking stores, and I feel that this is one area in which the massive corporate hierarchy at Ubisoft fails – and could in part be responsible for lowered sales and lowered publicity – simply because there appears to be no logic or consistency in the flow of media relations and access to assets for publication and promotion (Ubisoft Corporate is not the only developer/publisher to be guilty of this). Perhaps this is an area which Ubisoft should be addressing when looking at their overall corporate performance as they enter their coming fiscal year – innovation isn’t important only in game development, it’s important in game marketing as well, because the times have changed, and not all game purchase dollars are spent the same way. In an age when citizens are urged to “buy local” – why not promote locally-made titles to the local buying public, so that they know when they spend money allocated to, say, family entertainment titles – they can base part of their decision on choosing to support a locally (or even nationally) made quality title, thereby also supporting their local economy. This would add another selling feature to Canadian-made titles, kind of in the way clothing has a “Made in Canada” label, but that’s just my opinion.