Ubisoft: Can There Be Too Much Assassin’s Creed?

Gamers have a fever, and the only prescription is more Assassin’s Creed — at least if you ask Ubisoft. At its recent annual Ubisoft Forward event, the company announced a whopping half-dozen projects. This strategy could break open the Chinese market while leveraging owned IP in a more live service-like model, but it’s potentially setting Ubisoft up for disappointment.

An Absolute Smorgasbord

  • Assassin’s Creed: Mirage: The series is returning to its original Middle Eastern setting with a “shorter, more narrative-driven game”
    • 2023 launch on last-gen & current gen consoles, PC, & Luna
  • Codename Red: Focused on “open-world RPG design,” the title finally answers longtime fans’ calls for an entry set in feudal Japan
    • Red would more closely resemble the most recent mainline entry, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
  • Codename Hexe: Little was revealed, other than that the game would be very different from previous entries
    • Teaser trailer has a darker & more mystical tone
  • Codename Infinity: Not a game, but more of a social hub or game launcher
    • Infinity itself will be free, but some content will be paid-Includes multiplayer
    • Will connect overall story and meta-narrative of individual games
  • Codename Jade: RPG/action-adventure mobile game set in China
    • Free-to-play
  • Netflix Multimedia: Ubisoft announced plans to bring three games to the streaming service
    • An original Assassin’s Creed mobile game, as well as two non-Assassin’s Creed mobile games
    • Also a live-action streaming series and animated content

Source: Ubisoft

A Company With a Plan
For Ubisoft, these moves make sense on several levels. They may not be very original, but one can’t fault the company for at least iterating on success. 

  • Work With What You Got: Internally, these games align with Ubisoft’s desire to “have a better long-term approach” with its flagship franchises. They also open up transmedia opportunities, as emphasized by Chief Portfolio Officer Sandrine Caloiaro.
  • Games-as-a-Service: Ubisoft is already notorious for this (see Rainbow Six Siege), but the company more than ever is doubling down on ensuring its games have long life cycles – and spending cycles.
  • An Eye On China: Codename Jade could be Ubisoft’s best chance at breaking into the notoriously tough and insular Chinese gaming market. It’s going to be released on the dominant gaming platform in China and features a local setting to boot. Coming on the heels of Chinese gaming giant Tencent growing its stake in Ubisoft to 49.9% earlier this month, Ubisoft is clearly serious about making a go at Chinese gamers. 
Will Ubisoft’s Reach Exceed Its Grasp?
Unfortunately, it’s hard to see Ubisoft executing a plan so grand without hiccups.
  • Market Saturation: Short of film juggernauts like Harry Potter or Star Wars, it’s hard to recall so many projects being unveiled at once. Even if these planned games play differently, they will all carry the same branding — and potential baggage of previous releases.
    • Even the gold standard of franchise iteration, Call of Duty, is not immune to  brand fatigue
  • Overpromise, underdeliver: There is a very real chance that due to the inherently chaotic and unpredictable nature of video game development, titles are likely to encounter delays. This could mean pared back games or late releases, neither of which will thrill gamers.