Last week, Ubisoft announced that one of their most profitable and popular franchises, “Assassin’s Creed,” will not be getting a major new installment in 2016--a sharp departure from the previous business model of releasing a new game every year.
Since 2009, gamers could expect the release of a new “Assassin’s Creed” game with the same regularity as the sun rising in the morning. The stealth-action series has traveled around the globe, taking place in various exotic environments and different time periods, ranging from Renaissance Italy to colonial America and industrial England.
“This year, we are stepping back and re-examining the ‘Assassin’s Creed’ franchise,” Ubisoft said in a statement. “As a result, we’ve decided that there will not be a new ‘Assassin’s Creed’ game in 2016.”
What exactly a “re-examining” of the franchise might mean is unclear, especially considering the reception of recent entries in the series. While gamers and critics praised “Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate” for getting back to the roots of the series, the entry preceding it, “Assassin’s Creed Unity,” was derided as one of the worst launches of all time. Technical issues, ranging from the pedestrian, such as characters clipping through walls, to the terrifying, such as character’s faces not loading properly, so damaged the game that Ubisoft had to cancel all planned DLC, apologize to fans and offer a free game to anyone who bought the season pass.
The Ubisoft statement goes on to suggest that the company will be improving the gameplay of the series.
Ubisoft is “taking this year to evolve the game mechanics and to make sure we’re delivering on the promise of ‘Assassin’s Creed’ offering unique and memorable gameplay experiences that make history everyone’s playground,” according to the statement.
Oversaturating the market has become a serious concern for Ubisoft over the past several years, in addition to the franchise’s reputation for bugs and glitches. Shortly after the release of “Syndicate,” Ubisoft admitted that the game’s sales in the first week were down compared to sales of “Unity” in the same time frame. Ubisoft blamed the lower sales on “Unity’s” poor launch and technical issues scaring gamers away, at least in the short term.
Releasing a new installment in a long-running franchise every year is a business strategy that has been perfected by the likes of “Call of Duty” and Nintendo, so it’s unclear what exactly motivated Ubisoft to halt production on a new game in their cash cow. Giving gamers a year to breathe and developers an extra year to plan out more entries may be just what the series needs to feel fresh and interesting again.
That’s not to say that “Assassin’s Creed” won’t be making any money for Ubisoft this year. Two “Assassin’s Creed Chronicles” games will be coming out this year, set in India and Russia respectively, though the “Chronicles” games have failed to reach the sales of the main entries in the series.
This is almost certainly not the end of “Assassin’s Creed,” though it does leave the future of the franchise in murky territory. What Ubisoft plans to do in terms of future installments will become clearer over the new few months, but right now it seems like the break will be a boon rather than a detriment for “Assassin’s Creed.”
Edward Pankowski is life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.