How can a software house that lost its soul return to being well-liked among gamers?
The Golden Era
Ubisoft in the first 2000 had great success, thanks to the IP they acquired in those years.
Ubisoft has many important licenses, like “Tom Clancy,” thanks to his iconic characters and books like Jack Ryan.
Ubisoft took inspiration from some of them and created many iconic franchises like Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, and Splinter Cell.
The other biggest success for Ubisoft was the Prince of Persia Trilogy and Beyond Good and Evil.
Ubisoft has the merit to have created the best licensed game based on a movie, “King Kong: Official Game of the Movie,” a game that expanded the movie of Peter Jackson. He has cooperated with Michael Ancel to realize this.
The result was very good for the time and really innovative for the introduction of survival mechanics and the more focus on human characters than Kong, creating a sense of danger and anxiety in all game stories.
The open world phase
When the PS3 and Xbox 360 came on the market, Ubisoft started the production of a “Prince of Persia spin-off,” but this project became the first Assassin’s Creed.
Assassin’s Creed was innovative for the time because it showed the potential of the consoles, which permitted the creation of an open map prototype and the introduction of parkour in an open world.
In the first Assassin’s Creed, it is possible to see the “skeleton” of a “Ubisoft game,” as the players call all games of the software house.
Assassin’s Creed had some problems, like the repetitive gameplay loop (researching the target in many ways, stalking him, killing him, and in some cases, escaping from the guards) and the uncomfortable control system.
Ubisoft, with the sequel trilogy of Ezio Auditore, solves the most critical problems and creates the best storyline of the Assassin’s Creed franchise.
The series became the main franchise of Ubisoft, but another series has an important role in the story of the company.
Crytek in the early 2000s showed the X-isle Tech Demo with their new engine, the Cry engine, an engine that can create vast landscapes and complex physics.
Ubisoft showed much interest in the technology of Crytek, and after the success of the first Far Cry, Crytek sold the rights of Far Cry to Ubisoft because they started working on the first chapter of Crysis.
The Far Cry experiment
Ubisoft, to work better on Far Cry, created a new engine, the Dunia engine, a modified version of the original engine optimized for the open world.
Ubisoft made many experiments with Far Cry, like Far Cry Instincts and Predator, but these two titles weren’t as good as the original game.
In 2008, Ubisoft released one of the most divisive games in history, Far Cry 2.
Far Cry 2 was a game with great open-world mechanics like the physical map held by the character, the durability of the weapons, Marial fever, which created a sense of anxiety in the player, and the possibility of burning after a fire attack with a molotov or fire thrower.
These mechanics make the game more interesting, and thanks to its characteristic setting, located in African territory with weapon dealers, terrorists, and militias, this game is an underestimated gem to discover.
The real success of the series started in 2012 with the release of Far Cry 3, the title that inaugurated the second type of Ubisoft open world scheme.
Far Cry scheme:
- Casual character: a classic man who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- Charismatic villains: Vaas Montenegro, the most iconic of the series; Pagan Min; and Antón Castillo, very well played by Giancarlo Esposito.
- Enemy outposts: some enemy areas can become safe places with different benefits, from vehicles to weapons or ammo (all games have different types of outposts).
- Crafting mechanics: all chapters except the second Far Cry have a crafting mechanic based on the research of resources and use them to make the inventory bigger and make more objects like medical and support items.
- RPG mechanics: in the third chapter, a leveling system was introduced in all Farcry games for upgrading abilities, weapons, and the longevity of the game.
Far Cry New Dawn literally transforms the game into an action RPG, but with bad results.
Ubisoft still continues to use this scheme, and the sales results are good for the company, but this standardization is not good for the future of the gaming industry.
The butterfly effect
Ubisoft started the fall in the dark with the presentation of Watch Dogs in the E3 2012, a great game, but one thing about this trailer became a habit in the industry: use “false pre-rendered trailers or test builds that do not represent the final quality of the games.”.
This “little event” was only the beginning.
Ubisoft, after years of silence on the Rainbow Six series, announced a new chapter, Rainbow Six Patriots. This chapter had to show a violent, intense, and complex campaign.
This project was very ambitious and controversial, but with a bit of courage, it has the possibility to show the hidden potential of Ubisoft.
After some time of work, the high plains of Ubisoft wanted to focus their attention on games that can be profitable for a long time, and the entire game was canceled, and only two members of the original team remain.
This was the second step into the dark place.
The new team gave life to Rainbow Six Siege, a tactical FPS multiplayer game. This game was a controversial production because the old fans of the series abandoned the game and new young and casual players arrived.
Siege, like Watch Dogs, received a CGI-scripted trailer, and the differences from the real game were unbelievable.
Ubisoft was very close to losing its credibility with its original fan base.
The loss of focus and soul of Ubisoft helped to create the most hated situation of this year, the condition of AAAA Beyond Good and Evil 2.
The entire project, after a demo that showed a great level of ambition and a clear, innovative vision opening to the open universe genre to innovate the gaming industry, disappeared completely from the radar.
The only thing that happened was the abandonment of Michael Ancel, which is very bad news because the project has lost its main creator.
With a lot of problems, this mysterious project remains in a situation of life and death.
The future is uncertain.
The biggest lost chance with the new Avatar game
Ubisoft, with the production of Avatar, has a great chance to relaunch the company in a good way, and it’s “probably” possible.
Massive, the team of Ubisoft who produced the game, has access to the draft screenplays of all the next movies of Avatar.
This gives the studio a way to create a game that respects the canon, but the game director hasn’t shown much ambition or knowledge of the difference between what works on the IMAX screen and what does not work on the “little screen.”.
The lack of courage and ambition is very clear watching the world map, which does not give the original vibes of Pandora but only a normal forest, and the structure uses the farcry scheme adapted in the avatar world.
Massive has lost the chance to give what the avatar fans really want during the wait for the next movies.
An Avatar movie needs a lot of time to be produced, and Ubisoft can use this to its advantage by making one or two games between the exits of the movies.
Creating an Avatar universe is more complex, and with the possibility offered by video games, the game studio, with the collaboration of Cameron too, can explore the Avatar universe in many unpredictable ways.
Cameron has talked about his dream to expand the avatar universe with other media.
He talks about TV series, comics, and video games.
The biggest problem in this production is the Na’vi.
The Na’vi know more about Pandora than the human characters; this makes the difference between a “relaxing” experience with the total control of the situation offered by a Na’vi (the only possible choice of the game) and a human character, maybe from the RDA mercenary corps, to have a new controversial point of view and more dangerous and interesting gameplay options, thanks to the nature and species of Pandora.
There is a chance for Ubisoft
It has a short time to relaunch itself and this industry, and in particular, the investors do not take failures very well.
Ubisoft needs to stop following trends and return to its original core.
The company can have a chance to launch Beyond Good & Evil 2, giving a signal to all fans that Ubisoft is really back.
Give new life to some old franchises, like Prince of Persia and Splinter Cell, with the two remakes in development.
But the moment of truth is coming in 2024 with Star Wars Outlaws, maybe the real new hope for Ubisoft.
Good luck, Ubisoft!