Everything You Need to Know About Why Ubisoft Is In Trouble

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Ubisoft's Leadership: The Biggest Problem? 4
Credit: Ubisoft

Ubisoft isn't doing great. The company hasn't had a hit in a long time, its stock prices are low, and just about the biggest news out of the company in years was a sexual harassment scandal. To put it simply, it's all not very good. But why? What happened to the forward-thinking publisher that gave birth to Assassin's Creed and created Rainbow Six Siege? In this article, we'll try to answer that question and tell you everything you need to know about why Ubisoft is in trouble.

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Ubisoft's Leadership: The Biggest Problem?

Ubisoft's Leadership: The Biggest Problem?
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Credit: Ubisoft

Ubisoft has an almost-shocking number of employees, over 20,000 spread across the world, so why are there so few Ubisoft games and even fewer hits? Why are so many games getting canceled, and with all that talent, why does it seem like a lot of Ubisoft games play just about the same as one another?

The answer here is leadership. Ubisoft is owned and ran by the Guillemot family who've been running things since the family founded the company decades prior. For some companies, like Valve, having the founder and CEO stay in control can lead to great things and sustained success, but other times, it allows for bad decisions and management to go unchanged.

Games getting canceled, unambitious projects, and too much bloat all around are all problems that fall under the purview of management, not the actual employees, artists, and programmers that build the games Ubisoft is best known for. This is all not to mention that helming an international conglomerate with tens of thousands of employees spread across the world makes it extraordinarily hard to focus on a singular vision.

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Altogether, with stock prices low, and only a few major releases anticipated throughout the calendar 2023 year, the biggest source of Ubisoft's problems can be traced back to the decision-makers in charge. But there are other things holding Ubisoft back, too.

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Does Ubisoft Have an Innovation Problem?

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Far Cry, The Division, Watch Dogs, Assassin's Creed, Ghost Recon, Immortals Fenyx Rising, and much more: What do they all have in common? Well, they're all action-packed third-person games (outside of Far Cry) with big open-world environments, RPG elements, huge checklists of things to do, and endless content. In a lot of ways, modern Ubisoft games kind of develop themselves.

There's just so much in the way of overlap between Ubisoft's main franchises and successes that a lot of their projects start to feel the same. They end up with similar gameplay loops running on similar engines with similar things to do within them. Of course, not all of Ubisoft's games work like that, but a lot of them do, most especially games from the brand's most well-known IP.

Beyond the similarity, a lot of Ubisoft's games can feel like imitations of other more successful games. Watch Dogs is techy GTA. Assassin's Creed is Witcher-lite, nowadays. Immortals Fenyx Rising is Breath of the Wild. So on and so forth. Now, a game being derivative isn't unusual or even necessarily a bad thing, but when you couple that with the similarity between Ubisoft's games and how long they've been making those kinds of games, it can feel stale.

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So, Ubisoft needs to take some risks and innovate, which doesn't feel like it's coming with the next couple open-world action-adventure games from the company in Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, Skull & Bones, or the next Assassin's Creed game. But at the same time, innovation and risk-taking is not necessarily a road to profitability, either.

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This puts Ubisoft in a rough place. On one hand, they've got to release big new projects that they can rely on doing well enough, so that's where the next three familiar-looking Ubisoft games come from. But at the same time, as Ubisoft releases more and more games that don't feel exciting, new, or fresh, the company is going to have less and less success.

On the other hand, greenlighting unique projects and taking risks means canceling games that don't work out and burning money, which is what we've been seeing from Ubisoft with the brand's announcement of cancelation after cancelation of unannounced internal projects. But with each project that does release not becoming a major hit, there's inevitably going to be less money available to invest in taking risks on new projects.

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The question becomes: Can Ubisoft manage to continue along as it has long enough for the brand to manage to greenlight, develop, and release some truly exciting, world-class games that feel fresh and unique? And more importantly, what does a game like that even look like?

Ubisoft: The Road to Success

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Credit: Ubisoft

Ubisoft is one of the biggest gaming companies in the world, so as a brand, it definitely has some unique strengths it can leverage during game development.

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First off, considering Ubisoft is so large and has so much access to talent, the company can leverage that workforce to build some amazingly big, complicated, deep experiences. But of course, it'll be important to not make games that feel bloated, either.

To that end, Ubisoft needs to stop chasing trends and making games that have so much of the same DNA as their previous games. As one of the biggest gaming companies out there, Ubisoft should be setting trends and not trying to, time after time, put its own spin on familiar concepts that don't work out.

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And perhaps most importantly, Ubisoft needs vision. The company needs studios with a key figurehead or team of people running the show that have a vision for what they're developing, an idea that they're passionate about driving towards as a goal. Ubisoft needs less design-by-committee where executives and managers and administrators come in between the actual developers and making something truly exciting and new.

A good way to do this is by focusing on some totally new IP instead of, for example, another Tom Clancy game or Assassin's Creed, however much a new version of one of those may well seek to try and shake things up. And not just a new IP like Watch Dogs that shared so much with games like GTA or Saint's Row but truly new IP that does things Ubisoft hasn't done much of before.

Of course, this won't be easy, but hopefully Ubisoft can manage it, and we'll all have to wait and see if the brand actually does.