Skull And Bones has been delayed again, as Ubisoft deliver a financial report so bad they’re reportedly looking to sell to another company.
The start of a new generation of consoles is always difficult for publishers, and there’s always one or two (or almost the entire Japanese industry, in the case of the Xbox 360 era) that stumble during the transition, and this time round Ubisoft has been one of them.
The publisher’s problems began with controversy over toxic work conditions, which apart from anything else saw their share price tank. Now their latest sales results are so bad they’ve had to cancel three unannounced games and delay the 10-years-in-the-making Skull And Bones yet again.
This latest news has set the share price tumbling even further, as Ubisoft has to take a bath on €500 million (£442m) of research and development. This immediately led to rumours that, like Activision Blizzard, they’re now looking to be acquired, but according to insider Jeff Grubb that idea has already been ‘laughed at’ by potential suitors.
As soon as Microsoft announced its planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard every other major publisher came under the spotlight too, from EA to 2K, to see if they were planning to sell up as well.
Ubisoft indicated back in April that it had interest from private equity firms but, unlike other publishers, there were no rumours of other games or tech companies being interested.
According to a tweet from Grubb, ‘Ubisoft definitely already did the rounds proposing acquisitions and mergers with other similar companies, and it mostly got laughed at. It’s just too unwieldy. Its strength was its distributed development structure, and now that is an albatross.’
Ubisoft has dozens of separate studios all around the world, from the famous Ubisoft Montreal in Canada to studios in its native France and as far a field as Ukraine, India, and China.
Not all of these make their own games, with many just being support studios, but the problem Grubb is implying is the main reason why Square Enix is thought to have sold its Western developers, in order to make themselves more attractive to potential buyers.
So if Ubisoft suddenly ends up shutting down or selling off some of its subsidiaries it’ll likely not just be to save money.
It’s unclear if we’ll ever learn what the three unannounced games were but multiplayer pirate game Skull And Bones will no longer be released in March and is now down as merely sometime ‘early’ in Ubisoft’s next financial year – which begins this April.
Ubisoft didn’t have much out in 2022, which is part of the problem, but they specifically pointed at Mario + Rabbids Sparks Of Hope and Just Dance 2023 as underperforming.
Ubisoft CEO and co-founder Yves Guillemot blamed, ‘contrasted market dynamics as the industry continues to shift towards mega-brands and everlasting live games, in the context of worsening economic conditions affecting consumer spending.’
That explains their recent rush to make live service games based on existing properties such as The Division and Assassin’s Creed, which is likely to continue to be a focus if Guillemot thinks that’s where the industry is headed.
‘Today more than ever, I need your full energy and commitment to ensure we get back on the path to success,’ he wrote in an email to staff, obtained by Kotaku.
‘I am also asking that each of you be especially careful and strategic with your spending and initiatives, to ensure we’re being as efficient and lean as possible.’
Ubisoft appears to be at a turning point and what happens next for them is not at all clear.
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