There's this constant battle in the video game industry between secrecy and transparency. Publishers are always working on more behind-the-scenes than the public is ever aware of, and there's good reason for it. Video games take time, creative visions can change, and some ideas never make it through production in one piece. Keeping details close to the chest is a crude way of managing expectations, a method to keep hype in check and control the messaging. You need only look at the list of Ubisoft games missing from E3 2021 to see what can happen when announcements are made prematurely.
Many of Ubisoft's MIA games have been in development for years, announced back at the midpoint of the PS4 and Xbox One generation. Announcing early has given many of these games (unfairly) the impression that they are working their way through differing degrees of development hell. The reality is that making big, ambitious games can take a lot of time and even more resources, and thankfully Ubisoft has plenty of each to share thanks to the enduring popularity of series like Assassin's Creed, The Division, and Far Cry. Still, if you're interested, you'll find all of the Ubisoft E3 2021 games that were missing-in-action below.
Beyond Good & Evil 2
Beyond Good & Evil 2 is another casualty of Ubisoft's transparency in 2017. This is a prequel to a game that released back in 2003, and it's at risk of aging itself out of relevancy with each passing year – Beyond Good & Evil's status as a cult classic can only stretch so far. Beyond Good & Evil 2 is carrying a lot of baggage on its shoulders too, given that it's rumored to have been in some form of production for 14 years now and was first teased back in 2008. Ubisoft released Alpha footage of the game two years ago and while it looked promising we've heard very little since. This is especially concerning given that the game's creative director Michel Ancel exited the company last year, leaving the fate of Beyond Good & Evil 2 somewhat uncertain.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake
When Ubisoft announced last year that its first ever remake was going to be of the legendary Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time it seemed like a slam dunk. While some had concerns over the visual fidelity of this enhanced version of a 2003 classic, many of us were just happy to see the Prince back in action – his star power waned as Assassin's Creed grew in popularity. Of course, the game has endured numerous delays since its first showing and is currently undated. Ubisoft hasn't offered a new look at the game in action either, presumably as it works on improving its graphical assets and on refining the overhauled camera and combat control. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time remake doesn't have a release date at this time, making the decision to not announce PS5 or Xbox Series X as platforms seem stranger with each passing month.
Skull & Bones
Yet another game announced during the Ubisoft E3 2017 press conference that has tumbled into the caverns of development hell, we haven't been given a substantial update on Skull & Bones for years now. The publisher first revealed Skull & Bones as a tactical action game; ship-to-ship battles that seemed to draw on the most beloved elements of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag. Skull & Bones was originally supposed to launch in 2018 but has been delayed no fewer than four times, now set to sail anywhere between April 2022 and March 2023. Last year, creative director Elisabeth Pellen said (opens in new tab) that "we dreamt something bigger for Skull & Bones, and these ambitions naturally came with bigger challenges" although we're yet to get a sense of what that looks like in reality. At this rate, we may be waiting until E3 2022 for more information.
The Division: Heartland
A few weeks ago, Ubisoft announced that it was upping its investment in the free-to-play space, beginning with The Division: Heartland. It seemed like a strange announcement at the time, what with Ubisoft Forward so close to airing. When that was followed by a huge leak, gameplay footage out of closed testing, it almost seemed a given that The Division: Heartland would get a good showing at the conference followed by a call-to-arms for Alpha testers. Sadly, Ubisoft got ahead of its E3 2021 showing to note that the upcoming game (due late 2021 or early 2022) would be a no-show, as would the new content The Division 2 expansion. Given the popularity of the series, and how recently announcements were made, it's a little surprising to see them skip the main Ubisoft Forward showcase entirely.
Back in 2018, I sat in an oppressively loud and hot room behind-closed-doors at Gamescom and was a little taken aback by what I was shown. Ubisoft was rebooting The Settlers, the iconic city-building and real-time strategy series, and it looked awesome. The gameplay I was shown was early, clearly conceptual of what the team was shooting to achieve, but it grabbed me nonetheless. This came shortly after Microsoft announced that Relic Entertainment was hard at work on Age of Empires 4 and it felt like all my RTS-themed dreams were coming true. And then… radio silence. The Settlers faded from view and, despite being originally slated for release in 2019, Ubisoft barely acknowledged its existence. In late 2020, The Settlers was postponed indefinitely for Ubisoft Blue Byte to get it right. We're still yet to learn how those efforts are going.
Ubisoft kicked 2021 off with an announcement none of us could have predicted: Massive Entertainment was working on a story-driven Star Wars game, with The Division developer now working on two of the biggest and most profitable movie IPs of all-time. Much like the way The Avatar Project (now called Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora) was revealed, the Star Wars announcement served as little more than an opportunity to generate a little hype and most-likely help drive recruitment to the hastily expanding studio. While any information or updates are most likely years away, so of us had hoped that we'd be treated to a stage-setter, a conceptual mood board (like we got with Avatar back in 2017) that at least teased the art direction, innovations to the Snowdrop engine, or type of open world we should be expecting to explore. Disappointing to see Ubisoft's Star Wars skip E3 2021, but not all that surprising.
Ubisoft revealed Roller Champions at E3 2019, unveiling it alongside a pre-Alpha demo on UPlay that ran through the E3 week. Since then, we've heard surprisingly little about Ubisoft's fun, free-to-play competitive sports game. We had expected to see more from the game during the E3 2021 presentation, given the game is set for launch later this year. The three-versus-three sports game has potential, especially with EA's excellent Knockout City demonstrating that there's a market out there for third-person shooters that switch out firearms for throwables in rubber ball form. Roller Champions should have launched "early 2021" for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, but we're still waiting for confirmation.
Ubisoft's VR games
It's easy to forget, but Ubisoft announced a new Splinter Cell game last year. Well, kind of. Announced in September of last year at the Oculus Connect virtual event, Red Storm Entertainment is working on Assassin's Creed and Splinter Cell games as Oculus VR exclusives. The problem is, that's all we know, and we were really looking forward to learning more about the Virtual Reality titles at Ubisoft Forward. The showcase came and went without any additional information but hopefully the studio, responsible for the likes of Werewolves Within and Star Trek: Bridge Crew, will have updates to share in the near future.