Ubisoft is one of the largest studios in the video game industry. In Canada, more than 4,500 people work at its facilities in Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg. Not bad for a French company that established itself in the country in 1997.
However, all is not going like clockwork for the company founded by the Guillemot brothers. In one year, Ubisoft’s stock has lost more than 30% of its value. The giant is running out of steam after several years of uninterrupted growth. The stock is now around $ 83, a far cry from the peak of $ 150 seen in the summer of 2018. Over the past six months, the tumble has been dramatic. I am not here to share a tax analysis, but you will understand why, in my opinion, Ubisoft today is a shadow of itself. Everything is related to cash.
Anyone familiar with the stock market knows that jolts are part of the game. However, for a stock to lose so much of its value in such a short period of time, there are often more serious reasons to consider. The legal action brought by Solidaires Informatique is a good example. Let us recall the rationale for such an approach: “cases of sexual harassment within the Ubisoft group with the complacency of Human Resources departments, protecting harassers and silencing victims”.
Nothing good seller for the shareholders. Yet I believe it is not this scandal that hurts the publisher the most. Over the years, Ubisoft has abandoned a growing number of its franchises to focus on a handful of games, most of them in the form of a service (games as a service or GAAS). Much more profitable, doesn’t it? Yes and no, I would say. Certainly games like Rainbow Six Siege represent quite a bonanza with a Season Pass and more microtransactions than I can count.
Unfortunately, it’s a race to the bottom. Innovation is killed in the process, always in the hope of extracting as many tickets as possible from fans. The recent announcement of Tom Clancy’s XDefiant is a good example: instead of creating a Tom Clancy experience based on tactics, anti-terrorist missions and advanced planning of operations, we end up with yet another GAAS this time in 6 against 6 and, let’s bet it, rotten to the core of DLC.
With so many employees under its umbrella, Ubisoft has no room for error. What we are seeing is a desire to standardize its offer, with all the sterile aspect that this represents. Why take a risk with a single player game when I can get a hundred times the winnings with a multi game? Money and creativity don’t mix, especially when you’re accountable to people who bet big on your name.
If I peel through the history of Ubisoft, I see a cemetery of appreciated and forgotten licenses, collateral victims of an unbounded greed for the god GAAS. Take a look for yourself:
- Brother in arms : absence of more than 12 years after Hell’s Highway released in 2008 (I do not count the movable shutters here)
- Call of Juarez : absence of more than 8 years later Gunslinger released in 2013
- Driver : absence of almost 10 years since San Francisco released in 2011 (forgetting the mobile shutters)
- Prince of persia : absence of more than 10 years, the next game is a remake which was rejected due to its poor quality
- Rayman : absence of more than 7 years after the excellent Rayman legends released in August 2013
- Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six : absence of more than 13 years since Vegas 2 released in March 2008
- Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell : absence of more than 7 years later Blacklist released in August 2013
The time for experimentation with Ubisoft seems to be over. Yet it is not the lack of popular licenses of the past that is lacking. Beyond Good & Evil II is probably dead and buried at the time of this writing or, at the very least, on the ventilator. One of the latest surprises, which is signed by Ubisoft Montreal in the form of Child of Light, date of… 2014. If it were not forImmortals Fenyx Rising by Ubisoft Quebec in 2020, the picture would be even darker on this side of the province.
When a flagship series like Assassin’s Creed looks to play as a service with Infinity or that a production like Skull & Bones takes more than 8 years to reach an alpha phase, it makes you wonder what is wrong with Ubisoft. For my part, it is clear: Ubisoft dismisses its past and, suddenly, an important legacy in the industry for a short-term vision that will be unfavorable to it once the dust settles.