Ubisoft, a company with a fistful of excellent franchises and a historic pedigree in triple A titles, has had a rather bad year. No, scratch that, they’ve had an absolutely terrible year. And whilst EA and Activision are known as the big bad wolves of the modern day games industry, this has been the year where both those companies have attempted to right some of their wrongs (let’s just forget Battlefield 4 ever happened). Ubisoft seems to have been intent on watching its competition mess up and then attempt to do the same thing itself.
Let’s start at last year’s E3: Ubisoft unveiled their new game ‘Watch Dogs’ to manic critical reception and worldwide consumer buzz. It looked excellent, the idea was fresh, and the graphics looked phenomenal. I don’t feel like I’d be out of line in saying that it sold the idea of the new generation of consoles to a lot of people just from those rainy city shots. But by the time its release had rolled around the game had suffered numerous release date pushbacks and, as the game fell into our hands, the realisation that the graphics we saw and cooed at during its unveiling simply weren’t there. In fact some PC players ended up digging into the code of the game to find out that the graphics had indeed been pegged back.
The game itself was absolutely dire and devoid of any form of creative games design. The hacking was a poor gimmick that all too often ended up taking a back seat to typical third person shooter mechanics and though it sold well, the game was rinsed by reviewers and consumers in their masses. Now fast forward to the hype building around Assassins Creed: Unity and the seemingly big changes they’d made to their successful but increasingly stale formula and there was real expectation that this would be the first AC in years to deliver. Well, that didn’t happen.
Unity ended up bouncing back and forth between ten different studios and released looking and performing very much like it was until in the Alpha stage of development. Not only did it have characters without faces and frame rate drops from a supposed locked 30 frames-per-second to an unplayable 19 on the Playstation 4, it had micro-transactions within it, the most expensive of which cost £69.99. Let’s be clear, when you buy a game and the micro transactions are more expensive than the game itself, you’re doing it wrong.
Adding to this: a video emerged of Ubisoft marketing man Tony Key Senior saying during a presentation that through micro-transactions, the company plans on forcing a $60 consumer up to a $200 dollar consumer. Now I understand that money is good for business, but customer relations come first. Companies have risen and fallen because of breakdowns with their consumers and Ubisoft’s stock falling by 12.9% on the week of Assassins Creed: Unity’s release should serve as evidence that their business practices have gotten out of control and that they need a real overhaul of how they work as a company.
As a consumer, blatant money grabbing and a lack of care put into products should be held accountable and many of us are protesting with our wallets. As someone who is hoping to enter the industry after University however, I really hope that you steady your increasingly rocky ship, Ubisoft.