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Weak holiday sales drive Ubisoft to lower its profit expectations

Ubisoft is lowering its full-year profit expectations in the wake of a weaker-than-expected holiday quarter, which saw sales fall roughly 30 percent year-over-year. …


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Ubisoft Talks Rainbow Six Siege Netcode, Clan Support, And Most Popular Operators

Rainbow Six Siege was one of the toughest review games I've had to score. While I absolutely love the intense competitive core of the multiplayer matches when both teams have strong communication and execution, the supporting content is sparse and server complications dampened my enthusiasm for the game. We recently discussed some of these issues with Siege creative director Xavier Marquis.

The Rainbow Six trajectory changed quite a bit when Ubisoft walked away from Patriots. What, if anything, was preserved from that project and used in Siege? 

Back when the next-generation consoles were first announced in 2013, Ubisoft executive management and the core Rainbow Six development team decided that we would focus our efforts for Rainbow Six fully towards next-gen development. One of our tech groups at the time, the RealBlast team, created a prototype of the procedural destruction technology and we quickly realized its potential. This technology was still early on in development and not compatible with the vision of Rainbow Six Patriots. As a result, Ubisoft made the bold decision to cancel Patriots and hand over the development of the next Rainbow Six game to a fresh team with a new direction. 

What was the primary motivation for abandoning a single-player campaign altogether? Were you worried about alienating longtime fans who have come to expect this component?

The decision was a result of our desire to focus on the deep replayability of the game's multiplayer and co-op modes. Ubisoft is known as an expert at making open-world games, but with Siege, our objective was to work on a completely different model, one built around the multiplayer experience. For the development team, foregoing a campaign was the best means to deliver the most engaging multiplayer experience possible.

One of Siege's biggest strengths is that all the maps are designed specifically for one multiplayer mode. Was this liberating for the design team to not have to make sure it works for DM, CTF, and all the other conventional modes that are traditionally tacked onto a multiplayer game?

We made the decision for all of the game modes to be derivatives of TDM in order to offer players the advantage of simple rules to follow so that whatever happens, when a player takes down another player, he or she is contributing to the global progression of the game's scenario. Eliminating the opposing team remains the game's core concept, while the placement of the hostage, bomb, or area that needs to be secured are all conditions that focus the siege on a specific location on the map.  

This simplification makes it easier for the player to grasp the core concept of the game while also allowing them to put in the time to discover the complexity of Siege and the intricacies of each map, along with procedural destruction, unique operators, team communication, and friendly fire.   

The sound design plays such an integral role in the matches, creating tension in anticipation of an attack. When in the development process did you determine that so much emphasis should be placed on the audio?

Audio was always a key area of emphasis for us from the onset of production. In Siege, you have to make tactical decisions using small scraps of information like audio cues that add to the tension in the game. This was the main reason we chose to focus so heavily on the sound and eliminate things like a mini-map which informs too quickly, too easily, and with too much comfort. We wanted the player to collect this information themselves. We wanted players to use audio in a realistic manner. For example, in real life, if you're woken up at night by a sound, the first sense that you trigger is your hearing, followed by vision. You maintain silence to hear better, keeping a sharp ear to pick up any information. Even before establishing visual contact, sound lets you anticipate, even verify the location of an enemy even if a wall or ceiling separates the both of you. This concept is what drove the audio design for the game. 

Each operator has a unique strength, giving players several tactical choices, but players can't help but gravitate toward favorites. Who have been the most used operators thus far?

Our recent data indicates that Thermite, Fuze, and Ash are the top three selected attackers. Kapkan, Castle, and Rook are the top three selected defenders. Obviously, the metagame is still rather young and the way the community plays the game and the operators they choose will evolve along with the game. 

Customization has traditionally been such a big part of the Rainbow Six multiplayer experience, letting players tweak everything from weapon loadouts to how much armor they choose to wear in battle. With the introduction of operators this clearly took a backseat. Was there a contentious debate about abandoning or minimizing the impact of one of the brand's signature elements?

We've had a lot of debates here internally on this topic and ultimately we decided to go with what I refer to as the "tactical choice." Each operator and their respective abilities represents a unique tactical choice and the option for only one player to select that certain operator on each team amplifies the importance of their choice.

We decided to put less emphasis on customization because we felt it led you to think too much about yourself and your own personal playstyle instead of the operators and their abilities. When you pick an operator before a round, you not only choose a specific playstyle, you also share this information with your team and tell them what's not available anymore. Choosing an operator is a first step towards communicating with your teammates. Operators are meant to create identifiable characters in the game and allow players to think in shared, yet precise, terms based on their characteristics.

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After a player dies, they can still use the various cameras placed around the map and feed intel to their teammates. Why did you decide to give them such a powerful role after taking a fatal bullet?

In Siege, the team takes precedence over the individual. During an assault, the unit must become a team and support one another every second. We wanted players to keep influencing the match even after they died, tracking the targets and communicating information until the very end of a match.

Netcode is such a critical component to competitive multiplayer, and Siege shipped with some problems in that department like matchmaking errors, lag, and random disconnects. Given that multiplayer is the centerpiece of the game, in retrospect do you wish you held the beta earlier than a week before the game released so you could have spent more time on a fix?

As you mentioned, netcode is absolutely critical for a game like Siege. Many of us on the dev team are demanding players ourselves and knew from the start that the online experience would be of the utmost importance for the success of the game. There is something about a game being live that is both stressful and incredibly thrilling. We learn a great deal every day and it allows us to see issues more clearly as they are happening in live conditions.

The Open Beta revealed several issues that we fixed in the final game, but there were some issues that arose after launch that weren't possible to reproduce prior to the game's release, even in the betas. I am proud to say that we have a team of more than 100 people working on the live operations. For them, as for me, work really starts when the game has been released.

When do you hope to have all the network issues shored up?

This is a continuous process as we continue to optimize the online performance. We've been super busy after launch making constant adjustments, and based on both our monitoring tools and the community sentiment, we feel that we have greatly improved on network issues and are seeing large number of matches processed successfully each day.

Why did you decide to forgo clan support for a game that's so focused on teamplay? Do you have plans to integrate these features in the future?

Clan support is an element we are currently considering for implementation in the future. The future is bright for Rainbow Six Siege and we still have exciting new features in the works.  

Players can't check out their global stats from the game menus and instead must go to the website to see their performance breakdowns. Why did you go this route?

The idea of tracking and sharing players' performance stats is important for us. Players usually take the time to check out their stats during down time whether they are in the game or not.  We believe that the web is the best platform to showcase this detailed information and we decided to focus on delivering a solid web interface that works on both mobile and PC, though we are looking to provide more access to this information in the future.

You have clearly built this game to grow moving forward, with the promise of new maps, operators, modes and weapons that will be free to download or unlockable using in-game currency or real money. Can you offer any specifics about the next couple content drops?

We plan on having new major content updates every 3-4 months with regular title updates in between.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Ubisoft Confirms No New Assassin’s Creed This Year, Watch Dogs Coming By March 2017

Ubisoft has confirmed reports that the main branch of the Assassin’s Creed franchise is taking a break this year. A note from the publisher reveals that the decision goes back to the feedback received from the troubled launch of Assassin’s Creed Unity.

“This year, we also are stepping back and re-examining the Assassin’s Creed franchise,” the company says. “As a result, we’ve decided that there will not be a new Assassin’s Creed game in 2016. Since the release of Assassin’s Creed Unity, we’ve learned a lot based on your feedback. We’ve also updated our development processes and recommitted to making Assassin’s Creed a premier open-world franchise. We’re 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.”

In January, rumors circulated indicating that the series would skip 2016. Reports also indicated that the next installment will take us to ancient Egypt.

In its earnings report for the quarter, Ubisoft lays out plans for the coming fiscal year (April 1, 2016 through March 31, 2017). Included are For Honor, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, Ghost Recon: Wildlands, a new Watch Dogs game, and “a new high-potential AAA brand with strong digital live services.”

Ubisoft will be holding its third quarter earnings call this afternoon. 

 

Our Take
This is the right call for the Assassin’s Creed series. Despite Syndicate’s critical acclaim, sales suffered on the potent memories of Unity’s failures. A retooled Assassin’s Creed could re-energize excitement from fans that have drifted away. 

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Ubisoft Sales Miss Expectations, Publisher Expects Big Fourth Quarter

Ubisoft today announced its earnings for the third quarter, falling short of its expectations for the period. The company also revealed some big moves for the coming fiscal year, including Assassin’s Creed taking a break and another Watch Dogs game.

Sales for the quarter were €561.8 million, down from €809.7 million in the prior year and short of the €600 million target. The first nine months of the year significantly trail last year’s performance. Ubisoft has reduced its sales and operating income targets for the year.

The first nine months of 2014-15 were €1.29 billion compared to €769.1 million for 2015-16. Fourth quarter will likely be significantly stronger, with the release of The Division and Far Cry Primal on current-gen and PC.

The publisher’s digital profile and back catalog continue to grow. For the first nine months of the year, digital sales increased from 21.2 percent of total to 27 percent. Back catalog increased 42.6 percent during the first nine months, reaching €280.8 million.

Ubisoft expects that the 2016-17 will see increases in sales and operating income, even without the release of Assassin’s Creed. The company has laid out a number of games for the coming fiscal year, including For Honor, South Park The Fractured But Whole, Ghost Recon Wildlands, Watch Dogs, and a new “high-potential AAA brand.” More Rainbow Six Siege DLC will also be released during the coming fiscal year.

 

Our Take
Ubisoft’s decision to give Assassin’s Creed a break is one that will ultimately preserve the brand for the long-term. Filling in with a Watch Dogs game, bringing back Ghost Recon, and delivering a new South Park RPG all have huge potential. For Honor has the chance to strike big if it is content-rich enough and priced to match its offerings.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Ubisoft Offers Up Strange Pairing Of Free Valiant Hearts With Xbox One Far Cry Primal Pre-Purchase

The concept of “free with purchase” games isn’t a foreign one to the game industry. Last year, players that bought Fallout 4 on Xbox One received Fallout 3 for free. Bayonetta 2 on Wii U came with the original bundled in.

Often, these deals are logical pairings. Sometimes, we’re left to wonder.

Microsoft and Ubisoft announced today that those who pre-purchase Far Cry Primal on Xbox One will receive a free game. No, it’s not Far Cry 4. It’s also not a backward compatible version of Far Cry 3.

Instead, it’s the Xbox One version of the World War 1 adventure game, Valiant Hearts. The historically-rooted tale follows a number of characters and a faithful dog throughout the war in Europe.

In order to take advantage of the offer, you need to lock in your Primal pre-purchase and download your copy of Valiant Hearts by April 14. Far Cry Primal will be out on February 23 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. A PC version arrives on March 1. For more on Far Cry Primal, check out our most recent preview.

[Source: Xbox.com]

 

Our Take
I enjoyed Valiant Hearts quite a lot. The pairing of these two isn’t obvious, but a free (with purchase) game is nothing to shrug at, especially if it’s a good one.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Ubisoft Offers Up Strange Pairing Of Free Valiant Hearts With Xbox One Far Cry Primal Pre-Purchase

The concept of “free with purchase” games isn’t a foreign one to the game industry. Last year, players that bought Fallout 4 on Xbox One received Fallout 3 for free. Bayonetta 2 on Wii U came with the original bundled in.

Often, these deals are logical pairings. Sometimes, we’re left to wonder.

Microsoft and Ubisoft announced today that those who pre-purchase Far Cry Primal on Xbox One will receive a free game. No, it’s not Far Cry 4. It’s also not a backward compatible version of Far Cry 3.

Instead, it’s the Xbox One version of the World War 1 adventure game, Valiant Hearts. The historically-rooted tale follows a number of characters and a faithful dog throughout the war in Europe.

In order to take advantage of the offer, you need to lock in your Primal pre-purchase and download your copy of Valiant Hearts by April 14. Far Cry Primal will be out on February 23 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. A PC version arrives on March 1. For more on Far Cry Primal, check out our most recent preview.

[Source: Xbox.com]

 

Our Take
I enjoyed Valiant Hearts quite a lot. The pairing of these two isn’t obvious, but a free (with purchase) game is nothing to shrug at, especially if it’s a good one.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Ubisoft and ESL form Rainbow Six Siege eSports league

Ubisoft and leading eSports outfit ESL have joined forces to give the developer’s tactical shooter, Rainbow Six Siege, its own dedicated eSports league.  …


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Ubisoft Partners With Elijah Wood’s Studio For VR Project

Prepare for synchronization – Ubisoft is partnering with
SpectreVision, the production company of The Lord of the Rings' film star
Elijah Wood, to make virtual reality games. The Ubisoft team involved in the
partnership includes Dean Evans, creator of the radical Far Cry 3: Blood
Dragon.

The division of Ubisoft partnering with SpectreVision, Fun
House, is responsible for smaller-in-scope titles like Child of Light and Grow
Home.

"As a longtime gamer, I'm first and foremost a fan and
admirer of Ubisoft," says Wood according to IGN's report from the Sundance
Film Festival in Utah. "So to be collaborating with them within the realm of VR is
an incredible treat!"

SpectreVision, established in 2010 by Wood and partners, uses
film, music, and now games to "tell heartfelt, character-driven stories
tackling real emotional and social issues that test the boundaries of the genre
space," according to its website.

SpectreVision CEO Lisa Whalen goes on to emphasize that
Ubisoft's position as a leading publisher and developer will help the partnership
succeed in creating new experiences in a "bold and original new format."

Creative director of Ubisoft's neon-drenched '80s action
film tribute, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Dean Evans, revealed on Twitter that he's
been involved in this collaboration between Fun House and SpectreVision. To
what degree Evans is involved is unclear. We've reached out to Ubisoft for
comment.

Ubisoft hasn't confirmed which VR platforms the collaborative games will launch for.

[Source: IGN]

Our Take
As someone who is hopeful for the future of VR, I'm happy to see a titan of industry like Ubisoft partnering with a studio like SpectreVision which appears to revel in taking risks and supporting unique projects. The big question is which VR platforms the future projects will release for: Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, or HTC Vive.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Microsoft And Ubisoft Team Up For Xbox One Division Bundle

The Division is one of the most anticipated games of the Spring, and you might be considering which of the three platforms to play it on. If you’ve not upgraded to a current-generation console, Microsoft and Ubisoft have something for you to consider.

A new bundle featuring The Division was announced today. The 1TB black Xbox One is a standard deco version that comes with the game.

If you pre-order the $ 399 bundle, you’ll get guaranteed access to the beta running at the end of this month. It ships out alongside the game (also releasing on PS4 and PC) on March 8.

[Source: Major Nelson]

 

Our Take
Microsoft is smart to stay aggressive with bundles until it reaches heavier market penetration. Bundles have the most impact at this point in the product cycle as a way to quietly offer a savings without dropping the price. Given Microsoft’s move to offer more outside of the holidays, I expect this to be a theme for the year.

www.GameInformer.com – The Feed

Ubisoft soars into the VR space with Eagle Flight

Announced today at the PlayStation Experience, and created by the Ubisoft Montreal Fun House group, the new game is a triple-A VR experience. We speak to creative director Charles Huteau. …


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