Ubisoft doesn’t want to be as reliant on AAA game releases as it has in the past, and will instead look more closely at free-to-play games and its back catalog to make money.In an earnings call today following the company’s Q3 financial results, the publisher said that its plans for fiscal 2022 (the period from April 2021 through March 2022) included three AAA game releases, but that in the future, Ubisoft didn’t want AAA games to be the focus of its business model.
“We said for a number of years that our normal template is to come with either three or four AAA games, so we’ll stick to that plan for fiscal 2022,” said CFO Frederick Duguet. “But we see that we are progressively, continuously moving from a model that used to be only focused on AAA releases to a model where we have a combination of strong releases from AAA and strong back catalog dynamics, but also complimenting our program of new releases with free-to-play and other premium experiences.”
He went on to specify that the company had a number of titles, AAA and otherwise, in the pipeline, naming Far Cry 6, Rainbow Six Quarantine, Skull & Bones, Riders Republic, the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time remake, and Roller Champions. He also nodded to a previously-announced Assassin’s Creed mobile game planned to come to China with the help of Ubisoft investor Tencent, which he said was a part of the company ramping up its investment and interest in free-to-play games, especially on mobile. Mobile currently makes up about 9% of the company’s total business.
“In fiscal 2022, we will continue our evolution from a AAA release-centric model toward a model where AAA stands alongside new premium and free-to-play innovative experiences across platforms,” Duguet said. “These diverse experiences will feed on each other through complementary gameplay and business models.”
Notably, there wasn’t a single mention on the call about Ubisoft’s free-to-play battle royale Hyper Scape, which flopped tremendously at launch and is currently undergoing an overhaul.
Elsewhere in the call, CEO Yves Guillemot also noted that the company’s back catalog — or its already-released games that are still bringing in revenue long term — will also play a heavier role in the company’s revenues in the future, and already are. As an example, six-year-old Rainbow Six Siege added 15 million new players in the last 12 months, growing to 70 million total players since launch, and is still a major revenue driver for the publisher.
“We are continuing to move toward an increasingly pronounced recurrence of our revenues on the back of growing audiences,” said Guillemot. “Therefore, we expect our highly-profitable back catalog to account for an even larger share of our business going forward.”
Ubisoft has struggled in recent years to get its AAA game releases out in a timely manner, with the publisher delaying Rainbow Six Quarantine, Gods & Monsters, and Watch Dogs Legion a year out from their intended release during a 2019 earnings call, then pushing Quarantine again the following year alongside Far Cry 6, and delaying its upcoming Avatar game into 2022. And that’s not to mention whatever’s going on with Skull & Bones, which has been delayed multiple times and seems to have been rebooted entirely mid-development.
Meanwhile, Ubisoft’s financials indicate that games like Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, Far Cry 5, The Crew 2, Anno 1800, older Just Dance games, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and aforementioned Rainbow Six Siege are still doing meaningful numbers for the company, meaning it doesn’t necessarily need to churn out multiple blockbusters a year to keep making money — though based on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s launch sales breaking records, it certainly doesn’t hurt.