Last year was a rough one for Ubisoft, with two major titles falling short of expectations. The Division 2 and Ghost Recon Breakpoint both launched with a great deal of fanfare, but muted success compared to their predecessors. The underperformance lead to Ubisoft postponing a number of planned releases beyond the current fiscal year ending on March 31, 2020, including Watch Dogs Legion, Gods & Monsters, and Rainbow Six Quarantine.
Part of the reason behind the delays was trying to offer more points of differentiation between its titles. As a fix for that problem, Ubisoft is changing the organization behind the narrative teams responsible for its titles. According to a report by VGC, Ubisoft is expanding its Paris editorial team and giving individual groups more autonomy. The Paris team has generally provided oversight on all Ubisoft titles.
"We are reinforcing our editorial team to be more agile and better accompany our development teams around the world as they create the best gaming experiences for players," an Ubisoft spokesperson told VGC.
All teams will still report to Ubisoft chief creative officer Serge Hascoet, but seven vice presidents under him will be assigned their own franchises. The team of vice presidents includes existing editorial members, but also add developers from Canadian studios, including Child of Light creative director Patrick Plourde and Splinter Cell: Blacklist creative director Maxime Beland. (Beland recently returned to Ubisoft after a year at Epic Games.) Ubisoft is hoping that more resources and more autonomy will see greater variety in Ubisoft game narratives.
These changes aren't surprising given previous statements by Ubisoft executives. Ubisoft previously noted that Ghost Recon Breakpoint "did not come in with enough differentiation factors," which was one reason for its underperformance.
"We'll spend more time, and have an additional pillar in our quality approach: building differentiation elements to improve the marketability of our games. We have to come with a compelling story of the places you go. It's very important to make sure that even if it's in an open world, it's really well-worked and that the characters are stronger," said Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot during a recent conference call for the first half 2019-20 earnings.
The change in editorial teams will probably benefit the Tom Clancy line of titles. Assassin's Creed and Far Cry each have their own flavor of storytelling, but all of the Tom Clancy titles can run together, offering similar stories of near-future military dudes. So perhaps this change can allow franchises like that The Division, Ghost Recon, and Splinter Cell to tell more unique stories, while also leading to more creative swings in other Ubisoft franchises.