Ubisoft aims to reclaim its gaming throne with 'Assassin's Creed Mirage' amidst a tumultuous past, banking on a steady stream of new releases and strategic investments in cloud gaming and VR.
Ubisoft has released the latest chapter of its wildly popular ‘Assassin’s Creed’ franchise today following a period of market decline and misconduct allegations that saw top executives out the door.
The French video game giant has experienced a tumultuous few years due to tumbling share prices, accusations of widespread sexism, discrimination and harassment in its offices worldwide and numerous delays in the release of new games.
However with the release of ‘Assassin’s Creed Mirage’, the 13th major instalment in the ‘Assassin’s Creed’ series, and a new ‘Avatar’ game based on the blockbuster film due to hit the shelves in December, Ubisoft is hoping for a reset.
"For the past four or five years, the company has disappointed enormously because it has postponed a lot of its new games," said Charles-Louis Planade, an industry analyst at Midcap Partners.
These new games "are clearly going to improve the company's financial health, and get back to being the Ubisoft we knew a few years ago", Planade told AFP.
Taking no chances, the group is launching ’Mirage’, set in ninth-century Baghdad, at 50 euros ($53) instead of the 70 euros often set for new titles.
What strategies are fuelling Ubisoft's rebound?
This renewed push for success follows a challenging period for Ubisoft. The allegations of sexism, discrimination, and harassment in 2020, led to the removal of several executives, including its creative director.
CEO Yves Guillemot stepped in temporarily until the appointment of Igor Monceau in September 2021, and the company has been working on a comprehensive overhaul of its human resources department to address these issues.
Investing in the future
In addition to its focus on new game releases, Ubisoft is also investing heavily in cloud gaming and virtual reality.
In August it signed a deal with Activision Blizzard, the target of a takeover bid by Microsoft, that would give it the cloud gaming rights for Activision games for the next 15 years.
With cloud gaming, players can stream a title from platforms like Netflix, without having to buy a traditional console and game cartridge.
"We strongly believe in the next five to 10 years, many games will be streamed and will also be produced in the cloud," Guillemot told The Financial Times in September. "That's what pushed us to go forward with the deal."
The cleared horizon has helped Ubisoft stock climb around 13% since the start of the year, despite a profit warning in January that sent shares tumbling to levels not seen since 2016.
With a market value of nearly €4 billion, it remains one of the smaller publishers as mergers and takeovers swirl, but for the moment the Guillemot family appears well in control, after sealing an alliance with Chinese giant Tencent that gives it a 10% Ubisoft stake.