• Alberto Mezzalira

Ubisoft says it will no longer rely on 3 or 4 AAA games each year to focus more on free-to-play

Last Tuesday, during the annual “earnings call”, the Ubisoft

announced some changes in its product-mix strategy. This modification comes from the necessity of reallocating the financial resources to develop higher quality and more frequent content (both free and premium) for its free-to-play games.

Here’s what Freddrick Duguet, Ubisoft’s CFO, announced:

“In line with the evolution of our high-quality line-up that is increasingly diverse, we are moving on from our prior comment regarding releasing 3-4 premium AAAs per year. It is indeed no longer a proper indication of our value creation dynamics. For example, our expectation for Just Dance and Riders Republic are consistent with some of the industry’s AAA performers. Additionally, we are building high-end free-to-play games to be trending towards AAA ambitions over the long-term. This is purely a financial communication evolution and doesn’t change the fact that we continue to expect a high cadence of content delivery including powerful premium and free-to-play new releases.”

Of course, this declaration has created a lot of rumours and speculations about the future of Ubisoft's AAA franchises such as Assassin's Creed or Watchdogs; luckily, in order to clarify the situation a business analyst insider revealed on Twitter that “F2P becoming a larger share of the revenue pie, not an indication that there will be less traditional paid games like AC. The content mix is expanding, not changing”. So F2P games are not replacing AAA paid games, they are going to be an additional way to experience some of these IPs.

Last week we had a confirmation of this new strategy as Ubisoft announced the plan to expand The Division world with free-to-play content and new mobile games. Apparently, The Division will be the first IP to experience these changes.

“In terms of Heartland, the way we think about building the audience reach growth for our biggest franchises, so starting with The Division, is to come with high quality free-to-play games. We recognise this is the first year we are coming meaningfully into the space. That’s why we need to take reasonable assumptions for year one on the top line as well as on the contribution, but of course we want to make sure this is a strong contributor in the long-term to the expansion of the overall brand on console and PC, and then of course will come mobile at a later time.” Duguet said on Tuesday’s earnings call

Duguet elaborated on the new direction: “We think that we have a great opportunity to meaningfully expand the audiences of our biggest franchises. We have taken the time to learn from what we did last year with Hyper Scape. We are also learning of course with the launch we’ll be making of Roller Champions and we’ve been learning a lot with Brawlhalla, which is fast growing and we think it is now the time to come with high quality free-to-play games across all our biggest franchises across all platforms, but of course it will take time before proving it in a more assertive way. That’s why we want to be cautious in year one. If we are successful, that can have a very meaningful impact on the value creation of Ubisoft.”

The call was also extremely useful to get more info about Ubisoft upcoming games. In fact, the publisher declared that the current fiscal year, ending on March 31 2022, will include the releases of Far Cry 6, Rainbow Six Quarantine, The Division Heartland and Roller Champions. Unfortunately, the open-world pirate game Skull & Bones had been delayed again; the release is now scheduled during next fiscal year beginning in April 2022. This confirms that Ubisoft has no AAA games scheduled for release during the second half of the fiscal year, which includes the Christmas season.

Do you like this change of strategy? Will you spend more on f2p games now that the overall quality is growing? We want to hear your thoughts