Ubisoft is going even bigger with a revamp and expansion to its Assassin’s Creed series that will include console, PC and mobile games, a return to multiplayer and an expanded partnership with Netflix.
Why it matters: Through Assassin’s Creed, the multinational game publisher is attempting a recovery in quality, productivity and reputation after several largely grim years.
- Assassin’s Creed had already been a bright spot for the company, with 2020’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, the 12th mainline game in the series, becoming the first to gross $1 billion.
- But releases in the series have slowed, some senior developers on the games have left, other Ubisoft projects have faltered and the company remains rocked by workplace misconduct scandals from the summer of 2020.
Details: Six new Assassin’s Creed games were previewed to Axios and other media in Paris at Ubisoft’s headquarters. They include 2023’s Assassin’s Creed Mirage, a scaled-down PC/console/streaming installment set in 9th century Baghdad, the undated, full-scale Codename Red set in feudal Japan, and another major release Codename Hexe.
- Also announced are two mobile games, a free-to-play open-world adventure called Assassin’s Creed Jade, set in ancient China, and an unspecified AC that will be offered through Netflix’s mobile gaming service.
- A new multiplayer Assassin’s Creed game called Invictus is also coming from Ubisoft developers who’ve worked on multiplayer franchises Rainbow 6 Siege and For Honor.
Between the lines: As part of a production revamp, Ubisoft is projecting longer development times for its Assassin’s Creed games, with the Red project, led by Ubisoft Quebec, getting more than three years of development that the studio had to make 2018’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.
- “By giving teams the same development budget in terms of dev months over a longer period of time, we believe our games can reach higher quality and be more sustainable from a human and technological point of view,” series executive producer Marc-Alexis Côté told reporters.
- Red is projected to be an epic, with years of post-release support, similar to recent Assassin’s Creed games. It is projected to reach the lengthening playing times of Odyssey and Valhalla that have thrilled some players but fatigued others.
- Hexe, led by original lead franchise studio Ubisoft Montreal, probably won’t be as long. “We’re not coming out with another 150-hour game right after Red,” Côté said of Hexe’s release. “Those games can live concurrently. It’s because they’ll approach game design, they’ll approach structure very differently.”
The Infinity twist: Ubisoft will offer these AC games differently, connecting them through a hub called Assassin’s Creed Infinity that will serve as an interactive portal to access past, present and future games.
- Côté told Axios that the Infinity approach would allow some studios to work on smaller projects and floated the idea of works led by Ubisoft’s Chengdu, Sofia and Singapore studios. (AC games not in development, despite rumors, Côté confirmed to Axios: a remake of the first Assassin’s Creed and a series “crossover” set in Egypt.)
- In a major change of format, Infinity will also house any new parts of Assassin’s Creed’s meta-story, the serialized modern-day narrative that previously popped up in each mainline AC.
A cloud of scandal: Allegations of workplace misconduct and abuses of power led to the exit of several top men across Ubisoft’s studios in mid-2020, followed by workplace reforms that have received mixed responses.
- Those issues have directly impacted Assassin’s Creed, leading to the firing of AC Valhalla’s creative director and raising questions about allegedly toxic management involving Côté and Odyssey creative director Jonathan Dumont, who is now overseeing Red.
- Ubisoft has consistently declined to discuss specifics but has said that anyone named in press reports has been investigated and disciplined as necessary.
- Côté told Axios that he “did not recognize myself,” in a press report critical of him. “But clearly some people saw me that way and I have to acknowledge it.”
- He said he “stood up in front of the entire studio and apologized for any mistakes that I may have done” and began talking to people in the studio about how he needed to improve. He learned that he occasionally made comments that hurt workers, comments he says weren’t intended to hurt those colleagues. “It was choking them up inside and making them feel disrespected.”
- He also believes he’s been more reactive to potential abuse: “We intervene much sooner when there’s any situation that might lead us down the path to harassment.”
The bottom line: Ubisoft sees Assassin’s Creed as the vehicle to take the company out of a slump, diversify its output, set an example for other internal franchises and, if Côté’s assessment of reform is accurate, clean up its act.
- Such proof would emerge in the years to come, in a future suddenly dense with new Assassin’s Creeds.
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