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Daily Reaction: The Rise of Ubisoft

December 13, 2012 Written by Dan Oravasaari

As the next ‘day of Christmas’ passes, the Daily Reaction crew of Sebastian Moss and Dan Oravasaari discuss today’s portion of the Twelve Days of Christmas carol – Three French hens. With that, we go over France’s biggest developer and publisher, Ubisoft, and talk about their history, where they have shone, failed, and where they are going.

Dan: Only a few generations ago, I would never have even have known who Ubisoft was, as the behemoths at the time were major contenders like Electronic Arts, Acclaim, Midway, Capcom, and Square to name a few. Starting out in France in the late 80s, Ubisoft was founded by five brothers who eventually made deals to have their titles distributed by the major publishers of the time. Growing over the years, they were able to acquire a number of developers and even had EA purchase a significant portion of the company’s stock. Now they are one of the leading publishers in the world with titles that have globally sold millions of copies, and have an established lineup of memorable characters and franchises.

When look at the diversity of titles available from Ubisoft, we can see hit sellers to gamers of all ranges. Their most successful and advertised franchise, Assassin’s Creed, is a game that not only has sold well but is capable of competing with other massively popular titles. Yet, on the other end of the spectrum they have a slew of titles geared for younger gamers like Petz, Just Dance, Rayman, and Rabbids. Not to mention a number a number of games that have led innovation this generation and last, that have at one point or another become the must own games to get. The best example of this was their Prince of Persia series, that threw time manipulation into the forefront of gaming during its heyday, and continued to be successful until it eventually sputtered out.

While Ubisoft has had a number of successes with a great deal of their franchises, the one issue that seems to be a recurring problem this generation over previous ones, is the reliance of sequelizing successful brands. As Ubisoft saw the potential of the Assassin’s Creed series, they decided to turn it into an annual title, and released a number of subpar iterations that annoyed fans. Sadly, this concept of milking a series is not new to Ubisoft, who have essentially killed their Prince of Persia series, and seem to be doing the same with their Rabbid character.

Seb: Ubisoft have absolutely come a huge way this gen alone, growing with titles like Assassin’s Creed as well as managing to be one of the only publishers to profit off of the Wii with Just Dance. Assassin’s Creed 3 shows that the brand is only getting stronger, selling an enviable 7 million in its first month. While THQ may have struggled, Ubisoft have only gone from strength to strength.

They’ve had their fair share of stinkers, sure, like Racquet Sports and the Call of Juarez games, but they’ve generally managed to release good quality titles for the audience they target. Although, if you’re a PC gamer, you probably hate them for their always-on DRM obsession.

As for development teams, they have some of the largest studios in the world, being one of the first publishers to really take advantage of Canada’s aggressive tax incentives that has now led to other publishers setting up there.

Looking to the future, it’s clear that the French publisher isn’t planning to rest on its laurels. They’re aggressively experimenting with the potentially lucrative eSports genre with games like Shootmania and they’re hoping to advertise their brands while making money with some movies – such as an Assassin’s Creed one starring Michael Fassbender and a Splinter Cell one starring Tom Hardy.

As for console games, we’ve researched what they’re up to, and it includes a next gen racer, new IP, online RPG, more Assassin’s Creed and the Prince of Persia reboot. They’re really gearing up to hit the ground running next gen, and it’s sure to pay off in a big way.

We also have Watch_Dogs to look forward to (thought to be current and next gen), which could very well be their next big franchise. Ubisoft has previously said that they plan on making fewer games, but with bigger budgets – the downside of this is sequels, sequels, sequels, but the positive side is that we’re going to get the ambitiously huge types of games like Assassin’s Creed that only a few publishers have dared to ever release.

Where do you think Ubisoft and the games they have pushed out this generation? Do you think next year they will be able to match the success they currently have? Or do you think they have exhausted all of their potential? Let us know in the comments, or follow us at Seb and Dan to see us in a French maid outfit.

Be sure to email DR ideas,and podcast comments in your best french accent to  DailyReaction@PlayStationLifeStyle.net.