Watchdogs delayed! The Crew delayed! A recorded $161 million loss in the first six months of Ubisoft’s financial year! Not to mention that, in those financial documents, the company notes the cancellation of various projects. Oh the humanity!
I know, I know, stacked up sensationally like that, there might be a cause for concern with one of the most popular gaming publishers and developers out there. But strip away the emotion, and you’ll find that there really is nothing to fear in terms of the survival of Ubisoft.
First point, that loss in profit. You know, if you catch any company at the right time you can wring out a technical loss in revenue from them. Don’t be scared by that loss because it’s an incomplete statistic. Development cycles, are just that: a cycle. There’s the pre-production, production, post-production, and retail period of a game; and during every period but the retail one, the company funnels funds into the project with little to no ability of a recoup. The financial report released that everyone is worrying over comes at a time where Ubisoft is entrenched in production. Check back in after all of these blockbusters are released, then we'll talk.
I mean, look at the games that Ubisoft has in their line-up right now: Assassin’s Creed, The Division, Watchdogs, The Crew, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Just Dance 2014, Splinter Cell, and Rayman Legends. Of that list, three games are currently out, and heck Assassin’s Creed is only half out (with the Xbox One, PS4, and PC versions still in the wings). That leaves development costs for five other games not recouped yet. They’re still in the production stages, and a loss in funds is to be expected. If we’re sitting here next year and there’s still a loss in revenue, then maybe there’s something to worry about. But for now, the bowstring is taunt on Ubisoft’s wicked arrow of profit, and in the next year we’re going to see it let fly.
Next is the issue of delayed games. Ubisoft is a publisher as well as a developer, meaning that they fund and help publish games that may not be under their in-house development teams. This is the case with South Park: The Stick of Truth. Obsidian Entertainment is the developer on it, and Ubisoft’s role is largely an administrative one--keeping Obsidian on task and making sure that when the game does come out, it sells as well as possible. Delaying the game shows no weakness in the monolithic company that is Ubisoft. In fact what it actually means is they’re making sure that a game coming out bearing the Ubisoft logo will be solid. Don’t you hate, in a group project, when the entire team gets a C- because of the part of the project you didn’t do? That’s what Ubisoft is trying to avoid here.
Isn’t it worse though, when you get a C on a project and it was completely your fault? That’s what Ubisoft is trying to avoid with Watch Dogs and The Crew. They already have a few blockbusters coming out for this next-gen, and those can hold down the fort while Ubisoft polishes their other titles to a gleam. As that famous quote by Miyamoto goes, “a delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever.” That said, a delayed game is the result of a definite hitch in the production schedule, and Ubisoft will need to make sure that this year's spate doesn't turn into a trend.
Ubisoft is playing the long game, it’s spreading out its releases to garner maximum interest. Do not be worried my gaming friends, the company is doing just fine.