There was never a question about when the next Assassin's Creed game would be coming out--you knew it would be this year just as much as we did. Rather, the question was where it would take place. We'd speculated about plenty of potential time periods and locations in the past few months: Would it be set in 14th Century Japan? 13th Century Egypt, perhaps? Turns out, the answer is neither. Earlier this week, Kotaku posted leaked images of Assassin's Creed Unity, which suggested the next AC game would take place in Paris during the French Revolution. Not terribly surprising, what with all the death and assassinations that actually occurred during the conflict--but what is surprising is how Ubisoft handled the leaked information. Instead of denying Unity's existence, the company confirmed the leaked info and essentially said, "Screw it, here's a trailer." Kudos, Ubisoft.
See, in the Internet age, I find it very bizarre that some companies refuse to acknowledge the existence of their projects, particularly when faced with an info leak--and especially when we're talking about franchises that see regular sequels. Now, obviously, I have very limited knowledge about what goes on behind the scenes in regards to project announcements. I imagine it's extremely disappointing when a project you've been working on for years gets prematurely exposed, even if it's one people know is coming. But I'd argue that by leaning into Unity's leak and providing even a small morsel of game footage, Ubisoft has displayed a refreshing shift in mentality that will ultimately benefit the company's--and AC Unity's--perception.
How so? By cashing in on the excitement about Unity while it's still rampant, Ubisoft positions itself as a major publisher that's in touch with its audience. Watch the trailer again real quick. What does it tell you about the game? The most important bit of info to be had is the setting. It also confirms there's an assassin in it, which was a given, and that Unity is coming out during the holiday season this year (again, a given). There's no need for Ubisoft to expose all the nitty-gritty details about Unity just yet; simply providing a small tease is all that’s necessary to balloon public interest. It's a smart move that not only capitalizes on the buzz generated from leaked information, but will also minimize the spread of speculated misinformation going forward.
Now let's compare that approach to what we're experiencing with the Fallout 4 rumors right now. Casting documents from 2013 say the game not only exists, but will take place in a post-nuclear war Boston. That ties in pretty nicely to another rumor generated from a Reddit post back in 2012, which said that Bethesda had been researching Boston, as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Pretty convincing stuff, allegedly from multiple, separate sources. Yet Bethesda's response has more or less been, "We don't comment on rumor or speculation." For all I know, that's because Boston is one of a few possible settings for Fallout 4, though I find it hard to believe casting documents would exist if that were the case.
Bethesda's gone on record saying it's waiting for an appropriate time to announce a game we all know is being made, which begs the question: what's the point in waiting if the info's already out there? Bethesda's denial of the leaked information comes across as overly guarded and slightly out of touch. It's bred some confusion already; a few fan-made hoaxes tricked media outlets and fans alike before being proven as fakes. And when/if it's finally announced that Boston is, in fact, the setting of Fallout 4, there's a good chance you'll simply shrug. The buzz period will have already passed.
Again, there's no need to spill all the details when the cat's already out of the bag--Ubisoft has shown that giving a small taste of what's to come is an effective way to tap into pre-existing excitement. Even if the company wasn't ready to pull the curtain back on Assassin's Creed Unity, it has displayed a willingness to adapt to an Internet culture that frequently exposes upcoming games long before their creators had intended. In the long term, that could prove to be more healthy for developers and fans alike--here's hoping more companies will follow suit.