What Is Ubisoft’s ‘Ambitious PC Project’?

By Alec Meer on May 12th, 2011 at 6:37 pm.

I love this picture. I wish I could think of a better justification for using it than that.
Poor old Ubisoft has taken a few money-knocks, admit its latest financial results, which involved a $74.1m / £45.5m loss for the last fiscal year. This has, sadly, led to the cancellation of several unnamed games. Everyone’s praying it’s not Beyond Good & Evil 2, of course, but it’ll probably be a while until we find out what definitely faced the axe. However, a piece of good news for RPS-types is that the reorganisation (which is a word that sounds like it’s positive but actually means lay-offs, closures and cancellations) resulting from these bad times has lead to Ubi looking more confidently at the PC as a gaming platform…

Said Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot in a press release, “In the coming days, we will officially announce an ambitious project on PC based on one of our top gamer franchises that will illustrate our capacity to take advantage of new business models.”

Which sounds like a) an MMO sorta thing b) A Facebook kinda thing c) a free-to-play kinda thing. Or all of the above.

Top gamer franchises? Let’s see, we’ve got Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six, Tom Clancy’s Whatever Else They Want To Put There, The Settlers… Any and all of those would make for pretty fascinating online-centric projects in their own right. BUT WHICH?

Ongoing rumours of an Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, fuelled by some ARGy stuff and quiet name-slips, have led to speculation this PC title is its true identity. Maybe. I know Brotherhood did exceptionally well on consoles though, so I’d be enormously surprised if they turned that franchise away from console.

Always good to hear of any publisher recognising the superiority of the once and future king of gaming platforms, eh? STRONG LIKE OX. Oops, got a bit fervent there. Must calm down; I’m a 32 year old man, I should be beyond such behaviour.

It’s not all doom and gloom for Ubi, by the way- while its income was a net loss, its sales were up some 19%. Which basically means they’re selling truckloads of games, but not earning enough money from them. Earn more from your games, publisher!

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104 Comments »

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  1. Kdansky says:

    >It’s not all doom and gloom for Ubi, by the way- while its income was a net loss, its sales were up some 19%. Which basically means they’re selling truckloads of games, but not earning enough money from them. Earn more from your games, publisher!

    It means their production is too expensive. If you sell 20% extra but lose money doing so, you’re spending too much in development. Which seems perfectly true with AAA games.

    • Xercies says:

      And no one at any point has come up and said, hang on a minute, this idea is broken. Why are we doing thsi again?

    • Jad says:

      Because then PC gamers flip out that Crysis 2 was didn’t have DirectX11tesslationorgygraphics, and didn’t “push their systems to the limit” even though that would have made an already expensive production even more expensive.

    • sinelnic says:

      Why not necessarily, they could be spending too much in sales, distribution, marketing or senior management. Only the Lord knows what their cost structure is.

    • Bhazor says:

      Well personally I think it might be due to some publishers (Activision in particular) spending as much on advertising as they do on actual game development.

    • malkav11 says:

      It means they’re spending too much on completely stupid DRM.

      …well, no, probably not.

    • Eolirin says:

      Ubi also had some one time costs last year that more than swamped their gains; they would’ve had a small profit without them. http://www.montrealgazette.com/story_print.html?id=4773448&sponsor=

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      Maybe it’s because everyone is buying the ubisoft ‘Classic’ Games, you know before Ubi was taken over by Satan & Minions & co.

      Recent ubisoft Games I have bought; IL-2, Silent Hunter 4, Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, Prince of persia SoT & WW(Realised how shit these last two were so never bothered playing them)

    • Premium User Badge

      MajorManiac says:

      Wow. Talk about hubris, or perhaps it was a genuine accident.

  2. Teronfel says:

    Assassin’s Creed MMO!

    • LazerBeast says:

      Assassin’s Creed MMO sounds about right.

    • Vinraith says:

      Wow, that would suck.

    • Teronfel says:

      Yeah,but what else could it be?I wouldn’t call “ambitius” a facebook game,so it has to be an mmo and from all Ubisoft’s big titles only AssCreed mmo would make sense

    • Mr_Initials says:

      An assassin’s creed MMO sounds great but what do you end up with when everyone is the same class? No one wants to be a courtesan.

    • rei says:

      You’d be surprised. There are “courtesans” even in games that don’t have courtesans.

    • Pattom says:

      Didn’t Ubi hire the team behind World in Conflict to do something AC-related a while back? Is it possible that this is the same project they’ve been working on?

  3. MMMMMONTYKILL says:

    I hope their new business model will include such radical thinking as not treating their customers like cretins.

    • Premium User Badge

      Daiv says:

      Treating their customers like cretins would be an improvement. Currently we PC gamers are somewhere between “enemies” and “prey”.

    • Paul says:

      Seeing as Brotherhood has no DRM whatsoever (seriously, it can be played completely in offline mode without dvd in drive) and the PC version it outstanding, by far the best, even including DLC for free…I would say they no longer treat us like enemies, prey or cretins. Whether it stays that way we will see.

    • somini says:

      @Paul
      You can’t play DLC offline, nor use the Global Economy to earn more money. But it’s an offline mode…

    • Antsy says:

      @Paul
      There are many ubisoft games that still utilise their dreadful DRM. Games that we’d probably want to buy otherwise.

    • malkav11 says:

      Server activation is hardly “no DRM whatsoever”.

  4. Delusibeta says:

    It’s not AssCreed Revelations, since GameInformer has confirmed that it does exist and that it’s the final chapter of Ezio’s involvement. Therefore, it’s fair to conclude that it’s going to be like the previous three AssCreed games in being multiformat.
    http://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2011/05/05/acrcoverrevealjune.aspx

  5. Kazang says:

    Maybe if they hadn’t poked all their paying customers in the eye with their retarded DRM they would be making more money.

    • RP says:

      They’ll never ever see that though.

    • Dakia says:

      That was my initial thought and pretty much the exact reason that I don’t remember the last time I bought an Ubi game.

  6. mod the world says:

    “which involved a $74.1m / £45.5m loss for the last fiscal year.”
    But how can this be, considering they eliminated piracy with their consumerfriendly always online DRM!

    • Premium User Badge

      Durkonkell says:

      UNPOSSIBLE!

      (If they’ve axed BG&E 2 because they shot themselves in the foot on full auto with their insane DRM, their journey to the dark side will be complete and I will never forgive them.)

  7. LMN8R says:

    Could it have something to do with Mania Planet? Seems like the timing fits for an official reveal of all Trackmania stuff, and tying Mania Planet together with their hinted-at ShootMania and QuestMania.

  8. BatmanBaggins says:

    If only their “ambitious PC project” was a port of AssCreed: Revelations that had the same release date as the console versions.

  9. Nameless1 says:

    AHAHahhahahahah.
    Nothing more to say.

  10. Premium User Badge

    VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    Ongoing rumours of an Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, fuelled by some ARGy bargy

    Fixed that for you.

    They had better not have cancelled BG&E2, or else.

    • somini says:

      If BG&E2 is cancelled, I will personally torture Yves Guillemot. And I will pirate every (good) game they release, until they un-cancel it.

  11. Freud says:

    Haven’t bought a game from them since they started with their absurd DRM. Won’t buy one until they stop with it. Line in the sand. Grmbl grmbl.

    • somini says:

      AC:Brotherhood has an offline mode, it’s actually not that bad. Not worse than Steam, meaning it’s awesome.

  12. Hellraiserzlo says:

    Some f2p with pay for hats game, very exiting.

  13. Serious J says:

    Oh hey, a company that pissed off a huge amount of their customer base lost a shitload of money… nothing to see here, move along now.

  14. dogsolitude_uk says:

    It wouldn’t be something to do with that ‘Dust’ thing, with the shaman guys and the masks would it?

    http://www.fromdustgame.com/

    I’m really quite looking forward to that… Not massively fussed about Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Splinter Cell or the other stuff, but a new Chessmaster or Silent Hunter might be cool.

    • somini says:

      From Dust, or as I call it ‘Populous:Finally a Sequel’ is multi-platform, consoletoys can play it too.

    • Zenicetus says:

      a new Chessmaster or Silent Hunter might be cool.

      I wouldn’t count on a new Silent Hunter or anything along those lines. Ubi has been busy crapping on the heads of simulation fans recently, between the unpolished Silent Hunter 5 release, and (what sounds like) a horrendous unfinished release of IL-2 Cliffs of Dover. They just ran out of money and time on both projects.

      This new thing will probably be an Assassin’s Creed multiplayer game of some kind, I’m guessing. That game at least works, and they have a ton of art assets already available for world-building.

    • dogsolitude_uk says:

      Yeah, the thing about Chessmaster and Silent Hunter were just wishful thinking on my part :)

      I fully accept we’ve got about as much chance of a new Chessmaster as we have of the next Chancellor of the Exchequer being a cat. :)

    • dadioflex says:

      Check out the Silent Hunter iPad game to see where that franchise would be going…

  15. Kolchak says:

    Can I get a real sequel to Rainbow Six Raven Shield? Not that Vegas crap, I want to be able to control other characters and plan for a mission. If Ubisoft did that I would really appreciate it.

    • The_Great_Skratsby says:

      Oh yes please, that would almost make up for Rainbow Six’s years of hiatus.

      Almost. Those Vegas Gears of Door Breaching imposters just wont fool us.

    • MMMMMONTYKILL says:

      Don’t hold your breath, it would be a monumental shift in their strategy to return to making games that are complicated and nuanced.

    • Milky1985 says:

      Best bet for that kinda game is frozen synapse, have to play ahead with that one! (and it sitll won’t stop the sodding shotguns)

  16. Rii says:

    Assassin’s Creed: the MMO?

  17. KauhuK says:

    Fullmetal Assassin: Brotherhood. The epic combination of alchemy and assassinations meets MMO.

  18. endaround says:

    Might and Magic.

    • Nick says:

      Online.

      *cries*

    • Davie says:

      Age of Magic of Mightcraft Worlds Online.

      Any more stock MMO nomenclature we can shove on there?

    • Batolemaeus says:

      “Age of Magic of Mightcraft Worlds Online: The Beginning: The Social Game: Collectors Edition”

  19. Jimbo says:

    It’s probably the Assassin Management bit from Brotherhood, but on Facebook.

  20. MMMMMONTYKILL says:

    I wonder what happened at Ubisoft that caused them to stray so far from the standard set in their annus mirabilis of 2005:

    Raven Shield: December 2004
    Silent Hunter III: March 2005
    Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory: October 2005

  21. ZIGS says:

    Whatever it is, I bet it’ll have terrible mouse acceleration

  22. Acorino says:

    >>“In the coming days, we will officially announce an ambitious project on PC based on one of our top gamer franchises that will illustrate our capacity to take advantage of new business models.”

    Yeah, the bolded part doesn’t make it sound very promising. Probably one of the things Alec said.

  23. Jumwa says:

    I really didn’t like Beyond Good and Evil, so I can’t say it being canceled would bum me out. And, well… frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever liked anything they’ve done. All their games play like clunky messes to me.

    That’s not even touching on the DRM silliness.

  24. Premium User Badge

    Acosta says:

    The Settlers, Facebook game following Farmville ideas.

    You know is truth.

  25. Jad says:

    The moment I read the headline I responded “a MMO”. And yep, read down a little and get:

    Said Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot in a press release, “In the coming days, we will officially announce an ambitious project on PC based on one of our top gamer franchises that will illustrate our capacity to take advantage of new business models.

    Which sounds like a) an MMO sorta thing b) A Facebook kinda thing c) a free-to-play kinda thing. Or all of the above.

    Go me.

    • patstew says:

      Hasn’t the MMO craze died down a bit now? WOW was hugely successful, but then everyone else had a go and either failed (APB, Tabula Rasa, god knows how many others), or limped onwards without acheiving anything like WOW did, and now it’s a very crowded market. Not to mention The Old Republic is coming out soon.

    • Dominic White says:

      There’s only room in the entire games industry for a single WoW-scale online game, but that doesn’t mean that just having a playerbase equivalent to 1-2% of WoW’s isn’t highly profitable. There’s a hojillion MMOs out there. Maybe one fails for every five that launch. Most sites just tend not to report on the ones that are doing merely ‘okay’ or ‘well’. You only ever hear about the exceptional successes or the failures.

  26. patstew says:

    Beyond good & evil 2 is now a facebook game. Whoever takes a photo that brings down the government wins.

  27. Muzman says:

    Ubisoft gets situationist by sending virtual Marlon Brando to turn down the first gaming Oscar?

  28. skinlo says:

    Everyone is so bitter :(

  29. ArcaneSaint says:

    I have promised myself to stop pointing out spelling mistakes in articles on RPS, therefor I shall NOT make a comment about the word “Amibtious”, when they clearly meant “Ambitious”. There, I shall not make a remark about that.
    I will express my fear about your last sentence though, the “Earn more from your games, publisher” one. Does this mean RPS is now encouraging the big gaming industries to charge more for games or, worse, charge a little money a lot of times for things like (day one-)DLC, additional content, etc..? I’m worried.

    EDIT: also, the more AssCreed, the better.

  30. Tatourmi says:

    Rayman too nope? Rayman is one of their most well-known franchises.

  31. Hoaxfish says:

    DRM: the MMO: the DRM… DRM so obtuse that getting it to work will be a whole game in itself

    Learn to defeat multiple challenges using elaborate proof of identity skills. Time you actions to avoid DDOS attack sessions. Pay a monthly subscription to make sure the activation servers don’t go down.

  32. Eclipse says:

    I’m calling free2play The Settlers Online with facebook support

  33. MythArcana says:

    Once again, no mention of the forgotten Heroes VI that got bumped to November…but I don’t exactly have any faith in Ubisoft these days to produce the damned thing the way it should be. There is already talk of online accounts for H6, which implies it will also have Ubisoft’s DRACONIAN DRM which is failing their business miserably.

    Stop. Think. Consider. Then remove your DRM and watch your sales grow. Use the noodle, folks.

  34. Saiwyn says:

    A friend of mine gifted me a copy of Settlers 7.

    After the install I felt like I’d been raped in the ass and it made me never want to buy another Ubisoft game.

    That says something when a gift that was 100% free for me put me off of ever wanting to buy anything from them again.

  35. Shelley says:

    Quick, throw in more dee arr ems! It’s because of all this piracy!
    Yes, I know it’s terribly unimaginative. But does it feel good.
    (Personally I skipped at least, what, 3 titles because of their policy?)

    • dogsolitude_uk says:

      I skipped the Assassin’s Creed games, and the latest Silent Hunter. Also avoided a bunch of other games by other publishers because of their DRM too.

      I also emailed them to tell them what I’d done and why. The idea behind that being that most marketing depts see one letter as representing the views of anywhere between 50 and 500 people (depending on the market), and I didn’t want them blaming the sales-I-didn’t-make on my supposedly having pirated them instead.

      And no, I didn’t pirate them either… :)

  36. NarcoSleepy says:

    Assassin’s Creed: Man Boobs of Destiny

  37. manveruppd says:

    Any business types care to speculate how can they be taking such a huge loss while shifting more units? I’m no expert, but I would’ve thought that considering how much the Euro fell against the dollar in the past year, a French company trading in Euros whose biggest market is the US would be doing well from the exchange rate!

    Unless they flushed all that money down the toilet developing their new DRM system?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Their studio costs are huge. 200-developers don’t come cheap.

    • manveruppd says:

      So too many flops I guess? Cause 200 people is a pretty standard team size for a AAA blockbuster multiformat title these days, isn’t it? The ones made by smaller teams tend to be cause the porting to different platforms was done by outside contractors, and that’s usually when people start complaining about bugs.

  38. H77 says:

    Why is Gabe Newell in a Ubisoft game?

    • dogsolitude_uk says:

      Virtual Voodoo. The idea is that by putting the CEO of a rival company into a game and having thousands of gamers symbolically giving him grief they can bring down Valve and crown themselves Kings of Online DRM.

      This kind of thing is probably being done by Chaos Magicians round the world: make an avatar that represents your enemy and have him popped in online games over and over…

  39. Reapy says:

    I am kind of waiting for them to use the assassin’s creed engine for more than assasin’s creed. The textures, towns, random people walking around, climbing etc are all fantastic, you can do more than just what AC did in those towns. More RPG flavor things would be pretty cool, or just anything that could happen in a medieval town.

    I hope it is not an MMO, I am so done with those things :)

    • dadioflex says:

      If only more people were doing games like that, possibly set in the Wild West or a Noir LA.

    • Torgen says:

      I still cry bitter, bitter tears that Rockstar didn’t bring Red Dead Redemption to the PC. =(

  40. lamzor says:

    i really hope it wont be another “free” to play MMO.
    last “free” to play game i enjoyed(am enjoying) is die2nite. thx to RPS ofc.
    btw its funny how one source can turn the tides. for example frozen synapse creator joked on IRC that 80% of players are from RPS :)

  41. Buemba says:

    It’s gonna be a Petz Facebook game, isn’t it?

  42. Torgen says:

    Will *anyone* at Ubi have the sense to look at titles where they spent more on marketing than development, and fire marketing drones instead of programmers?

    Of course not.

    It would be interesting to compare marketing budgets for similar games and see what (if any increase) in sales the one with the larger marketing budget had, and see a “sales per marketing $$” chart on their titles.

  43. TickledBlue says:

    Step 1: Alienate all PC gamers by instituting a user vicious DRM system
    Step 2: ????
    Step 3: Profit from PC gamers

    OK I’m having a huge WTF moment here.

    If I was to be even remotely happy about this I feel like it would be the gamer equivalent to suffering from battered wife syndrome.

  44. spunior says:

    It surely is Assassin’s Creed Online. Forgot about this? http://twitter.com/Ubisoft/status/17248988705071104 And it’s no secret that Massive is working on an MMO title. (See also job section: http://www.massive.se/career/available-positions/ )

  45. GraveyardJimmy says:

    After the IL2 fiasco (that I haven’t heard anything from in this site) I dont have a huge amount of faith in Ubisoft.

    If only the last 3 months hadn’t been spent creating poorly implemented (switch-offable) epliepsy filter, the game might be playable.

    That said, Luthier and the team are doing a tremendous job at trying to fix it, the latest beta patch gave my 60fps over the channel, but there are still stuttering issues over land. I cant help but think that ubisoft have tried to push a game out before it is ready. With the team having to work weekends etc before release and knowing there were huge problems with it, is it not the publishers choice to make them release a unfinished product rather than delay a few weeks?

    A shame for the devs and the fans.

  46. Khann says:

    Excuse my ignorance (I know very, very little about how businesses operate), but did they actually lose $70m, or did they make $70m less? For the purposes of this comment, I’ll consider them two different things.

    This article suggests they had a gross profit of nearly 1 billion. Is there really such a huge discrepancy between gross and net profits?

    Once again, sorry about my utter lack of knowledge in regards to how businesses work. Would be very happy if somebody with some know-how could explain for me.

  47. BobsLawnService says:

    But do free to play MMO’s make enough money to dig a company like Ubisoft out of that financial hole they are in? I can see the model making a modest profit and keeping a studio afloat and paying off the initial dev costs after a few years.

  48. Yosharian says:

    The sooner massive publishers like Ubisoft hit the dirt, the sooner we can get some real innovation back into this industry. Reading down that list of ‘top gamer franchises’, I couldn’t give a flying fuck if any of those never saw the light of day again.

    BTW what’s with the man tits in the picture, jeez.

  49. rollermint says:

    Gut feeling is The Settlers : Online.
    Playable on browser.

  50. Very Real Talker says:

    it’s incredible that they are operating at a loss. It’s probably some accounting magical trick to avoid paying more taxes