It is quite facile to hate on what Ubisoft has come to be. Especially with their current business practices such as downgrading the final product, milking the crap out of their titles, making forgettable experiences, and how they abandoned an abundance of niche titles that could make a strong comeback nowadays.
After all, Ubisoft is a business, and a business's motive is money. It's all about the damn money. A company is not someone's friend, because at the end of the day, no matter how many great titles a company produces, it revolves back to cash. However, one has to admit that Ubisoft is an artist when it comes to persuading the consumer to buy the product. Similar to EA, Rockstar, and Activision, people always end up picking their games despite the false promises that we, of course, have seen multiple times already.
This article isn't about throwing the hate on Ubisoft. Instead, it'll tackle five points. Their origins and first decade, the start of their noticeable growth, the beginning of their downfall,the art of persuading, and lastly, the results.
Origins and First Decade
Back in the early 1980s, the five sons from the Guillemot family, Christian, Claude, Gérard, Michel, and Yves realized how expensive it was to buy computers and software from a French supplier compared to buying the same items in the United Kingdom and shipping them to France.
As a result, they came up with the idea of a mail-order business around computers and software. That business would be called Guillemot Informatique, and would be founded in 1984. The start was pretty rough, but shorty after, they began getting orders from French retailers, since they were able to undercut other suppliers by up to 50% of the cost of new titles.
By 1986, the company was seeing an increase in profit as it was earning US$5.8 million. In that same year, the five sons founded Guillemot Corporation, a company responsible for the distribution of computer hardware. The demand for video games software grew, and the brothers realised that it was time to get into the development industry side instead of only focusing on the publication and distribution side. Subsequently, Ubi Soft was founded on 28 March 1986, and from there, the journey had begun.
Ubi Soft, at the time, had a humble start. First, they hired a handful of employees that managed several branches in the company, as well as, programmers. The latter published a number of games that eventually turned up to be a success such as Ciné Clap, Fer et Flamme, and Zombi. Among these games, Zombi became a critical and commercial success, and had managed to sell five thousand copies by January 1987.
The company kept expanding dramatically, and by 1988, it had about a half-dozen developers. These developers included Michel Ancel, known for works such as Rayman and the remarkable Beyond Good and Evil. The expansion of the company would come with a price as the costs of maintaining the setting (le chateau ) became too expensive. The five brothers would have no other choice but to move to Paris, as well as, make a studio in Montreuil. By 1994, Ubi Soft was getting ready to break into the fifth generation consoles with tons of projects, but none of them would bring Ubi Soft to the limelight, except for one game. Rayman.
The Start of A Noticeable Growth
After the release of Rayman back in 1995 and its massive critical success, it brought Ubi Soft to the worldwide spotlight. In addition, it stroke other deals with Electronic Arts, Sierra On-Line, and MicroProse to distribute their titles in France. The company kept on expanding in other markets, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and German, and by 1993, Ubi Soft had become the number one distributor in France. (Insert Ichigo's Theme -Number One)
Despite the success of Rayman in Europe, it did not perform the same in other regions such as the USA. The five brothers then realized how they lacked a handful of IPs that would bring them dominance in the United States market. Years have passed, and Ubi Soft managed to purchase Red Storm Entertainment in 2000. This gave them access to Tom Clancy's IP, which eventually turned out to be a success in the United States, as well as, globally. To expand the series even further, Ubisoft stroke a deal with Microsoft to work on Tom Clancy's: Splinter Cell, which also turned up to be highly popular.
In 2003, Ubisoft would release a reboot of the classic Prince of Persia series called Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Another title that would be far successful than the Rayman series in terms of sales and recognition. At the same time, Ubisoft has also developed a new title called Beyond Good & Evil, but that one would receive a lukewarm reception at its release. However, thanks to fans, the game has managed to receive a cult following.
Ubisoft's success kept on expanding, and it seemed like there was no end to it. With Prince of Persia and Tom Clancy's at their disposal, the latter had another IP that would turn on to be a success even to this day. The IP which I'm talking about is Far Cry, and it managed to sell 730,000 units within four months of release.
When I say Ubisoft's success seemed like there was no end to it, I wasn't wrong. After Prince of Persia, the company needed a new fresh title that would boost their mainstream presence, and so Assassin's Creed was born. A title that would alter how Ubisoft create titles in the long run, but that title, in particular, would change how the company operate in the long run.
The Beginning of Downfall
The future looked bright for Ubisoft, and fans were eagerly awaiting a new title. In 2012, Ubisoft would reveal on an E3 event their newest IP, and that was Watch Dogs. Every gamer was pretty much hyped for the game. The graphics, the details, and the physics, everything looked next-gen. The future looked truly bright for Ubisoft, but only for a couple of months.
On May 27, 2014, Watch Dogs would be officially released. However, what everyone noticed is the graphical downgrade between the E3 showcase and the actual product. Gamers received something incomparable to what we saw back in 2012. Ubisoft lied, but at the same time, they persuaded the consumer to buy the game.
Regardless, the game managed to sell very well and cater to the casuals who were looking for another GTA-like game where you can steal a car, and shoot people. Speaking of GTA, Forbes once made an article where it talked about how Watch Dogs could overtake Grand Theft Auto. But at the end of the day, their prediction fell miserably.
I remember being hyped for Watch Dogs. I truly was and I got hooked with the hacking mechanics, but after buying it, and playing it from start to finish, I was massively disappointed. The game is mediocre, repetitive and adds nothing new to the table apart from the hacking abilities. The missions are repetitive, the guards are stupid, the driving feels awkward and so many problems. But at the end of the day, as a consumer, I was persuaded to buy the product. Ubisoft is a known artist for hyping fans with their pre-rendered gameplay showcases on events such as E3 or Gamescom where they succeed at hooking players instantly.
Watch Dogs received two sequels and both of them, unfortunately, suffered from the same issues as the original. One of them is being an overhyped average series that I don't think could dethrone the likes of GTA or Mafia anytime soon. It may be a fun series, but it doesn't possess an alternate idea that could replace Rockstar's game.
The recent Cyberpunk2077 controversy kind of reminds me of Assassin's Creed: Unity. You may not think that there's any relation between these two, but in fact, there is. When a game is overhyped, people tend to overlook the possibility that the game may have issues. And that's what happened to CP2077 and AC: Unity. Both of these games were released in an unplayable state during launch, requiring plenty of patches to fix them.
Yet, at the end of the day, both of these sold very well. Why, you may ask. The answer is simple: When a company hypes something, gamers are persuaded into buying that certain product. Similar to Watch Dogs, Assassins Creed: Unity looked fresh and graphically stunning with fluid parkour movements not seen in the previous series. But unfortunately, the bugs and the issues tarnished its reputation.
The video above you by crowbcat demonstrates every downgrade by Ubisoft in the past years. Luckily, Ubisoft stopped doing such things. Yet, what's interesting about all of this is how every downgraded product by Ubisoft performed well on the commercial side. On the contrary, games such as Tom Clancy's The Division, although sold well, it was met with a negative reception surrounding the noticeable downgraded graphics and the cut content.
Lastly, I believe that Ubisoft losing the publishing rights to the Call of Juarez wasn't a good idea. Call of Juarez possessed the possible potential to compete with bigger titles such as Call of Duty, Shadow Warrior, and Battlefield. We can only hope that Techland will make a solid return with the franchise now that they own the publishing rights.
The Art of Persuading
Whether it's a good game or a bad game, Ubisoft games will always manage to sell well. People would prefer getting the same product, but slightly changed rather than seeing something new, and that's what is currently happening. There are no huge differences between the recent Watch Dogs games nor the milked Assassins Creed franchise. The same games, with slight changes and a different story, that's it.
One of Ubisoft's ways of persuading the consumer to buy their product is by boosting his expectations.We have seen this with Watch Dogs E3 reveal, Assassins Creed: Unity, and Far Cry 3. People were excited for something that wasn't planned to be delivered, instead, something else was released, incomparable to the final product. Misrepresenting a product is not the big problem here, the bigger problem is how people will keep falling for it over and over. Truly, that's the definition of insanity as Vaas Montenegro said.
Of course this art of persuading isn't bad. Ubisoft has made some great games such as Child of Light, the Prince of Persia franchise, Splinter Cell....etc. But these titles are now forgotten, and they deserve a return.
The results are depressing but they have to be said. Ubisoft stopped being creative and they went down the mediocre road. Their recent titles are a one time experience. Meaning, you finish it once, you forget about it, and move on to something else. Except for completionists who enjoy playing games more than once.
Ubisoft used to make memorable experiences rather than forgotten ones. They've made games such as Evil Twin: Cyprien's Chronicles, XIII (original), I Am Alive, Red Steel, and Grow Up. Artistic, beautiful, and most of all, memorable experiences that are still cherished to this day by fans around the world.
I can only hope that Ubisoft would revive some of their forgotten classics such as Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, Brothers in Arms, and Beyond Good and Evil. in the foreseeable future.