from the freebiesoft dept
The embrace of “free” in the video game industry continues to pick up speed. We were just discussing the years-long success Epic Games has had with Fortnite, a free-to-play game that has nevertheless racked up $9 billion over the course of two years. The point of that post wasn’t that all games have to be free-to-play. The point was that there are methods in the industry that completely negate the idea that has far too long permeated industry mentality which amounts to: you cannot compete with “free” or piracy. Not only does the story of Fortnite prove that isn’t true, it proves that it’s not true in spectacular fashion.
Ubisoft, as a company, has a somewhat tortured history when it comes to its own outlook on this sort of thing. On the one hand, the company has looked for data on just what kind of impact piracy has on its own bottom line. On the other hand, Ubisoft is also a company that has done more to implement restrictive, broken, annoying, and failed DRM than perhaps any other video game company on the planet. It’s also a company that certainly has experimented with free-to-play games in the past, but it has always been much more focused on releasing a handful of AAA games per year and making its money that way.
That, it seems, is about to change. During a recent earnings call, Ubisoft indicated that it was no longer going to primarily focus on that staccato AAA release strategy and will instead incorporate an increased focus on releasing free-to-play games as well.
The company provided an update on its game development strategy during its full-year earnings call on Tuesday, when it said it intends to be less reliant on AAA releases as part of its overall product mix.
“In line with the evolution of our high-quality line-up that is increasingly diverse, we are moving on from our prior comment regarding releasing 3-4 premium AAAs per year,” said Ubisoft’s chief financial officer Frederick Duguet. “It is indeed no longer a proper indication of our value creation dynamics. For example, our expectation for Just Dance and Riders Republic are consistent with some of the industry’s AAA performers. Additionally, we are building high-end free-to-play games to be trending towards AAA ambitions over the long-term,” he added.
Other Ubisoft reps chimed in on Twitter to assure fans of the company’s AAA games that those will still come, but the company is looking to build a larger percentage of its revenue off the sort of free-to-play games that, again, negate the concern about piracy and “free”. Notably, the company has also indicated that it is taking a cautious approach with this new strategy when it comes to the next fiscal year, but that it also sees a lot of potential in getting some of its biggest franchises into this model as well.
“We recognise this is the first year we are coming meaningfully into the space. That’s why we need to take reasonable assumptions for year one on the top line as well as on the contribution, but of course we want to make sure this is a strong contributor in the long-term to the expansion of the overall brand on console and PC, and then of course will come mobile at a later time.”
Duguet elaborated on the new direction: “We think that we have a great opportunity to meaningfully expand the audiences of our biggest franchises.
As with all things when it comes to releasing free-to-play games, the way it’s done is everything. If Ubisoft is looking at all of this strictly as a cash-cow in the sense that it’s going to load these games up with in-game purchases that effect core gameplay, it will fail. That type of thing just annoys, well, everyone. But, as several very well done free-to-play games including Fortnite have demonstrated, there are certainly right ways to do free-to-play. If Ubisoft does this the right way, perhaps it can largely get out of the dumb DRM, complaining about piracy business and back to making money off of making great games.