2017 was a strong year for Ubisoft. The publisher released several hit games with the likes of Assassin’s Creed Origins, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, and new IP For Honor all making bank. It may come as a huge surprise then, that Ubisoft actually plans to release fewer games in future.
Ubisoft discussed its new business strategy during its latest financial briefing. In a statement, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot explains that “[Ubisoft’s] success reflects the industry’s move towards a model that is less dependent on releasing new games. New releases now only represent a part of our business, which is now focused on long-term engagement with our player communities.”
Guillemot also notes that “Our players not only play for more hours at a time, but do so over a period of months or even years” and that player engagement has “dramatically increased” thanks to its multiplayer titles. Two charts published by Ubisoft reveal that traditional games make significantly less money in their second year of availability than live games (games as a service) do.
Ubisoft’s strategy makes some business sense. Why release a brand new Assassin’s Creed game, when it can make a significant amount of money by selling Assassin’s Creed Origins DLC? Likewise, why should it release a sequel to For Honor when that game is still raking it in from microtransactions? The same goes for Rainbow Six Siege, which completely turned its fortunes around by establishing itself as a game as a service.
Moreover, Ubisoft has previously confirmed that it makes more money from microtransactions and DLC than it does from selling games digitally. Although many players have taken issue with microtransactions and loot boxes, it’s clear that this is still a huge money maker for Ubisoft, so much so that the publisher is willing to base its future business plans on it.
Fans of Ubisoft’s games can surely expect to see this games as a service business plan in action in 2018. Far Cry 5‘s season pass already promises to keep players engaged well after launch, for example. Meanwhile, pirate action game Skull & Bones has live events and microtransactions too. If it’s anything like the first game in the franchise, upcoming racing game The Crew 2 will also offer post-launch DLC packs.
Ubisoft isn’t the only publisher releasing games as a service, though, meaning that players have more ways than ever to spend their free-time. Ubisoft has a real challenge on its hands making its games seem more worthy of extended time commitments than its competitors.