Looks Like That’s It For AC Creator’s ’1666,’ Then

By Nathan Grayson on May 16th, 2013 at 12:00 pm.

'Noooo, I really wanted to see what that game was all about. Also, my spine!'

It’s like something out of a storybook. Guy meets gigantic, monolithic game publisher. Guy helps create publisher’s flagship franchise. Guy leaves to pursue something new and different. Guy’s company is bought by said gigantic, monolithic publisher due to hilariously unfortunate circumstances. Guy reluctantly returns to company. Guy gets fired a couple months later. AND FINALLY: Guy’s project is “suspended for an undisclosed period of time.” And some unrelated people somewhere else all lived happily ever after.

Yes, with Assassin’s Creed designer Patrice Desilets out of the picture, it seems Ubisoft’s decided it doesn’t really have any idea what to do with his next big thing, 1666. So now it’s going on the backburner indefinitely, something that – as the likes of StarCraft Ghost and End of Nations can tell you – doesn’t typically bode well in this industry. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot explained during an investor call:

“After more than two months of discussions with [Desilets], we couldn’t align our vision both on project development and team management. So consequently, our collaboration has ended, and we have suspended 1666 for an undisclosed period of time.”

What that means for the rest of THQ Montreal’s remains isn’t clear at this point. Ubisoft purchased the entire studio, so that means a number of people are now unaccounted for. Maybe they’ll all simply be relocated onto other projects, but this is the gaming industry we’re talking about. Layoffs wouldn’t exactly be unprecedented.

Desilets, meanwhile, has Ubisoft in his crosshairs for the recent turn of events, and he’s been quite vocal about the perceived injustice. ”Ubisoft’s actions are baseless and without merit,” he said shortly after his firing. “I intend to fight Ubisoft vigorously for my rights, for my team and for my game.”

Should we expect fireworks? Probably. For now, though, 1666 will remain a mystery. Or become another Assassin’s Creed game. These days, I suppose that’s pretty much always a possibility.

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63 Comments »

  1. bleeters says:

    Why bother buying up the development body if you don’t want what they’re working on, exactly?

    • belgand says:

      Because you want to kill it. Which sounds exactly like what happened here. A bit of real-world virtual-world assassination.

      They probably were afraid that it would compete with AC and haven’t quite run that completely into the ground yet.

    • jrodman says:

      Sir, this money isn’t going to waste itself!

    • Lars Westergren says:

      Loads of reasons why companies do stuff like that – killing off a competitor, acquiring other assets, thinking something is good but realizing it is not after the purchase, running out of money to finish the project due to miscalculation or economic turn around.

      With big companies you also get even worse reasons like: A department not realizing another department has an almost competing product, or they actually do realize it but there is internal rivalry and they want to do it anyway to “beat the other guys”. Or a boss just wants it as a prestige thing. Or they have lots of money and inertia so they are floundering around for new areas to expand into, but they are too slow and bureaucratic to fully commit to something and finish it, so they pour money into it for a few years and then go chasing after another hot new thing and cancel it.

      • Fanbuoy says:

        Or they just really hate Desilets.

        • Lukasz says:

          If they did it just to spite the guy then people responsible for that decision should be sacked.
          More likely they were afraid that 1666 will be too similar to AC and will cut into AC franchise profit. They wanted to turn it into AC spinoff but he didn’t want to agree. With the lead guy gone they didn’t see it as good project anymore and just like that its gone.

          • belgand says:

            They were going to be, but the people responsible for sacking them were sacked.

      • Shuck says:

        And in the game industry, sometimes you just want a pre-assembled team of experienced developers. That’s valuable in and of itself, not having to go to the effort and cost of interviewing, paying recruiters, etc. if you’re looking to expand. Of course, upper management isn’t part of what you want, so they get let go.

  2. Okami says:

    I think I read somewhere that the original publishing contract for 1666 stated that in the event the game should get cancelled for whatever reasons, IP rights and all assets would be returned to Desilets. Apparently this is why Ubisoft “suspended” the game instead of cancelling it. Of course that original contract was with THQ and I have no clue about laws and contracts, so I have no idea if Ubisoft would actually be bound by the original contract anyway..

  3. battles_atlas says:

    “for an undisclosed period of time”

    Is it the nature of the corporate world in which you become so relaxed about bending reality to your purpose that you forget what words actually mean which leads to nonsense like this? He means “indefinitely” right? Not “we know how long we’re suspending this for but we’re not going to tell you”.

    Or maybe he does want people to believe that. Either way, tit.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      I think he means “I know the period of time I am discussing is “forever” but I am not going to tell them that”

      Possibly he meant to say “indeterminate” but the truth accidentally slipped out.

  4. Radiant says:

    Jade Raymond’s revenge is now complete.

  5. tobias says:

    Word on the grapevine is that Desilets contract stipulated that should 1666 be cancelled by the studio, the IP rights would return to him. By putting the project on indefinite suspension, Ubisoft are effectively cancelling the project while retaining the rights to it.

    If it’s true, whether the reason behind Ubisofts move is a genuine intention to use the IP somewhere down the line, or corporate example-making, is another question.

    edit: Damn, there are some sneaky ninjas around.

    • sophof says:

      Well courts generally don’t care for people changing the meaning of words (see also the ‘games as a service’ nonsense). Sacking the people responsible for the game and effectively stopping al development without a clear indication to resume later is just ‘cancelling’.
      If this is indeed the case I doubt he’ll have a hard time winning this case in court.

  6. Gap Gen says:

    So, the person responsible for 1666 was fired? I suppose its prequel was plagued with problems.

    OR:

    I suppose people were a little reticent not having played the first 1665 games in the series.

  7. Surlywombat says:

    1666 was an interesting year. There is no doubt in my mind that it was going to be a open world sandbox in London. The spectacle of the great fire recreated in a game? People would pay to play that.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I imagine it like a 17th Century Half Life. Instead of Anomalous Materials you have Pudding Lane, and your job as a Theoretical Baker on their first day is to place a new sample of unstable dough in the oven.

    • Trumpeldor says:

      1666 was the year Shabbetai Tzvi converted to Islam. Changed the world forever – he could have been like Rabbi Akiva.

  8. Wut The Melon says:

    I’m still disappointed Désilets is remembered only for his Nice-idea-mediocre-execution (no pun intended) AC franchise and not for the absolute classic Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. I really want to play more games of his, even if they were published by Ubisoft. But, well, Ubisoft : (

    • HisMastersVoice says:

      He’s one of the few public developer faces that actually are developers with real input into the projects they run. I guess Eidos could pick him up if he still wants a job in this industry.

      • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

        Depends what contractual agreements have been signed(restrictive covenants) . If they want his ideas kept off the radar and have binned the game wouldn’t surprise me if he is barred from working for competitors for a year or two!

        • Somerled says:

          Two months of probably mostly arguing with Ubisoft might not be enough to enforce a non-compete, and if he had one with THQ it may not be transferable.

          • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

            As I said earlier the Lawyers will be loving this. I would imagine Ubisoft have a dedicated leagl team who will be more than happy to oblige in keeping him fighting his corner rather than developing for the competition!

          • frenchy2k1 says:

            He just needs to move to California, where work contract is “at will” and non-compete clauses are only legal if the entity pays for your time off work (so, they would need to pay you to do nothing).

            Does not happen very often…

    • Widthwood says:

      I’d be wary saying “no pun intended” around here if I were you..

      • cowardly says:

        Execute the heretic! He should be pun-ished for his denial of our nature!

      • Ninja Dodo says:

        I think the point is you either embrace the pun or you don’t make it. Denying your intention to pun displays a lack of commitment. If you genuinely did not intend to pun you could have changed it to something else. Neglecting to do so is admitting literary defeat.

  9. Greggh says:

    What a shame :’(

  10. jonahcutter says:

    That quote from Yves… now that’s a proper use of the word obfuscate.

  11. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    *sigh* Oh, Ubisoft. Will you ever learn? Then again, I suppose I could superimpose the name of any major games publisher and it’d still work.

  12. luukdeman111 says:

    This must be one of the most infuriating storys I’ve ever heard…. That project has had a team working on it for over a year and a completely unrelated company simply destroys it….

    That poor Desilets has put his passion into this project of his and now he’s on the street with his work pretty much gone to waste…. Bunch of dicks at ubisoft..

  13. Danda says:

    They can’t do that! I mean, they already did, but this is ridiculous. If they go to court, this will end like the Infinity Ward-gate.

    Anyway, if Ubisoft was a person, I would say he (she?) is full of spite and ungrateful.

  14. sinister agent says:

    God, you try giving these people the benefit of the doubt, and they just stubbornly keep on being massive, hateful arseholes.

    • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

      It’s a business decision, they have looked at the situation and decided they can make more money by binning previous costs and just sitting on it. There is no emotion involved just a glance at the balance sheet! They don’t make games for the love of gaming or us gamers they are there to produce the biggest possible profits for their shareholders! The bottom line!!

  15. jasondesante says:

    this is how you become a loved company by doing things like this. Next time I see a Ubisoft logo when I’m about to buy a game, I will! ;)

  16. Josh W says:

    Brutal

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