Ahead of its earnings call today, Ubisoft released a revised set of targets for several upcoming games, pushing them out past March 2020. While the publisher says the adjustment reflected a sharp downward revision in response to Ghost Recon Breakpoint, CEO Yves Guillemot commented a little further on where Breakpoint fell apart for Ubisoft.
In a statement within the release, Guillemot identified the strength of Ubisoft's back-catalog that was still performing well in 2019, including Rainbow Six Siege and Assassin's Creed Odyssey. But in terms of Breakpoint, Ubisoft's high hopes for the game—based on previews and internal playtests—fell short of the mark.
Guillemot outlines three reasons for the lack of results from Breakpoint: the first, he says, is that it's difficult to generate interest in a living multiplayer game. Breakpoint would inevitably draw comparisons to Ghost Recon Wildlands, a game that benefitted over time from continuous updates, and so Breakpoint's launch state was judged against Wildlands' livelihood over years. "Consequently, we need to make sure there is more time between each iteration of Live games," Guillemot says.
He carries on this issue in the second point, where Guillemot identifies that Breakpoint has not had the time to evolve that other games have, into an "optimal experience."
"While the change of formula has been very well received by some players, with an average daily playtime per player of over three hours, it has also been strongly rejected by a significant portion of the community," Guillemot says. He also noted that Breakpoint did not come in with enough "differentiation factors," which made it difficult for Breakpoint to stand out. In a year filled with loot games, from a Destiny 2 expansion and Borderlands 3 to Ubisoft's own The Division 2, it makes sense Ghost Recon had trouble standing out.
Guillemot says he is confident in the company's capacity to adapt and evolve, but there was some tension in the earnings call that followed, as a surprisingly heated Q&A session saw several investors asking why things were taking such a sudden turn for Ubisoft. Some questioned the quality assurance on Breakpoint, citing criticisms of both the state of the game and its model. Guillemot tried to assuage concerns on Breakpoint's microtransaction model, after one caller asked if this was "rebelling" against monetization.
"What you need to know is, for us, it is not something we are happy with, but it is pushing the company to perform better," Guillemot said at the end of the call. "And that's what we are going to work on to continue to surprise gamers with very high quality experiences."
With many games now set to launch in the next fiscal year, it seems like Ubisoft is hopeful it can right the ship ahead of major launches like Watch Dogs Legion. But it does seem pretty clear that, at least for service games like The Division, Ghost Recon, and even unreleased ones like Rainbow Six, the publisher will have to rethink its model and launch status, as well as shifting attitudes toward games-as-service titles.