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Ubisoft delay Skull and Bones yet again, together with a mystery "large game"

Is it Star Wars Outlaws?

A high def screenshot from Skull And Bones showing a huge red-sailed pirate ship sailing away from an explosion
Image credit: Ubisoft

Ubisoft's multiplayer Jolly Rog 'em up Skull and Bones is caught on the reefs once again. Recently tipped to appear in early fiscal year 2023-2024, it's now due to make landfall in the publisher's FYQ4 - sometime between January and March 2024. What's the Golden Age of Piracy equivalent for "vapourware"? I'm picturing a spectral vessel like the Flying Dutchman, crewed by glum-faced producers and with a big grimacing statue of company CEO Yves Guillemot affixed to the prow.

The troubled naval combat sim isn't the only Ubisoft project experiencing misadventures. As revealed in their latest earnings report, the publisher have also pushed back a mysterious "large game", originally due to launch before the end of their current fiscal year, to the next fiscal year, which means at some point after 31st March 2024. Speculation runs rife that the anonymous blockbuster is Ubisoft Massive's Star Wars Outlaws.

The latter rumour comes from Ethan Gach over at Kotaku, drawing on reporting earlier in the year. Whatever the other "large game" is, Ubisoft are framing this second delay as a show of strength, reflecting financial "overperformance in Q2 and the current positive momentum of Ubisoft's brands", according to a statement. As such, Ubisoft feel they can pull off their "announced guidance of strong top line growth and non-[International Financial Reporting Standards] operating income of approximately €400 million, without releasing the other large game [they] had initially planned to launch during the last quarter of the current fiscal year." Launching this unspecified game in financial year 2024-2025 will allow Ubisoft "to maximize its value creation".

In other words, they say they're making fat stacks right now and are spacing their investments out a bit so they can make even fatter stacks next year. Who even needs that silly Star Wars game or whatever it is, when you've got Assassin's Creed: Mirage achieving a "solid launch with week 1 number of players in line with Assassin's Creed Origins and Assassin's Creed Odyssey", to say nothing of The Crew Motorfest accomplishing "franchise record unit sell through, consumer spending and season pass adoption rate on the opening week"? (The full written report is over here.)

If you missed Star Wars Outlaws, it's an open world game featuring a Han-Solo-ish female protagonist who must attempt a heist of galactic proportions. She's got a baleful robot buddy and a space dog and likes to hide behind things shooting at people. Ubisoft Massive are calling it an exercise in Star Wars tourism, with planets full of familiar Star Wars species and props, from Rodians to Tie Fighters. Graham was quite impressed by the last gameplay trailer, which reminded him more of Uncharted than the studio's previous Division looter-shooters.

As for Skull and Bones, words fail me. I do want it to be good, as somebody who savoured the salty boat-smashing interludes of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag (which is rumoured to be getting the remake treatment), but the poor thing has been in development since 2013. Fingers crossed this is the final delay.

In amongst the game delays, Ubisoft also announced that they've reduced their headcount by over 1,000 people from a year ago - the cuts are due to a mixture of voluntary departures, layoffs and not replacing employees. More on that front as we get it.

Thanks to Eurogamer for passing this on.

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