Ubisoft have had a couple of rough weeks – with rumors being spread that Watch Dogs 2 has not sold well within the UK and Polygon accusing The Ezio Collection of not lacking new graphics within the game. Although Polygons article has turned out not to be fully true, with Ubisoft coming out and releasing a statement against Polygon’s article, it feels like Ubisoft are coasting into unclear waters. Ubisoft are caught between a cycle of poorly received games and a potential hostile takeover by Vivendi, what they really need is a win – and that is not an easy thing to achieve.
Yet, despite trying to need a game which is a mass seller, Ubisoft are not in the worst position. With some heavy hitting titles behind them and a team based all over the world, you could argue that they have the means and the man power to produce a good AAA game. The problem is they seem to keep on producing games which are not getting the numbers and they keep on facing technical issues – despite Watch Dogs 2 being a lot better than the first Watch Dogs and being more well received by critics, Watch Dogs have reportedly just sold under 80 thousands copies within the UK. Watch Dogs 2 also faced hard reports of the multiplayer not working and bugs being found all across the game, factors which will have contributed to the sales. The sales figures for The Ezio Collection still have not been released, but it is questionable if it will even be able to reach anywhere near the top spot.
It is not be a surprise that Ubisoft released The Ezio Collection, especially around the Holiday season. Ezio is generally considered one of the most loved characters from the Assassin’s Creed franchise, with his Italian charisma and constant dedication to the Assassins way of life. To make a remaster of his life cycle in the series (and the fact that it covers three of the games within the series) made sense. Despite the love for Ezio, the reception of the collection by both critics and fans has been luke warm at best, indicating that this is a game which has a market which it was trying to attract, but no gamer really wanting it to begin with.
I do think that it is a shame the collection is struggling to appeal to gamers, as I am a massive fan of the Creed universe. I have played through all of the games, tried to defend the series when Assassin’s Creed: Unity came out a broken mess (it was okay when it was all fixed!), I have my own personal rank of the best game (you may think Assassin’s Creed II, but I was a massive fan of Brotherhood myself). After the disastrous time that Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed: Unity had it felt like the series was starting to lose its way a little bit. The story lines seems to be going off in completely different directions, Desmond’s story had ended, leaving the current world story line a bit more dead in the water, and then the games were nowhere near the polished material they should have been. I started to worry for the franchise, wondering how they could pick themselves up from such a disastrous time. They did not do such a bad job in the end, managing to bring a little bit with Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate which felt a lot more like the old franchise I know and loved.
When Ubsioft said they were taking the Creed series on a break we all thought that was what the series needed – a year to rest and gather thoughts on where they were going with the game. It felt like they were still being dogged by the disasters that happened with Assassin’s Creed: Unity, and fans were not ready to forgive quickly all of the faults that happened within the game. A game each year felt like too much, that there was not enough time to actually want a new game, or to release anything new which players wanted. We did not need The Ezio collection – it is just another remaster that nobody really asked for, and this keeps on happening with the gaming industry. Instead of trying to innovate and bring together new ideas, they play on nostalgia and release remasters. Whilst I am sure remasters are not always an easy thing to make, it does feel like the cheap, money grab option. I will admit that I am one of those people who will buy a remaster, especially if it a remaster of a series which I really enjoy – but it does create the idea that remasters will sell and therefore companies will keep on making them.
As I said at the start of this article, Ubisoft is starting to back itself into a corner, and really needs to come out with something which will really draw back in players and produce those heavy sales. I do believe that if the Assassin’s Creed franchise can bring back all those things players enjoyed – innovation, charismatic characters, pretty graphics and time period to rediscover – it could be a big hit. This is one of the things that fans want, just like Call Of Duty fans, you look back at the older games you have played and hope that the magic they had can be brought into the newer games.
So I do believe that instead of releasing a remaster, Ubsioft should have stuck with their original plans. They should have waited a year, really focused on redeveloping the brands and coming back with a game which was bug free and introduced us to new experiences and characters. I even believe that a VR experience of the Assassin’s Creed universe is not such a bad idea (who does not want to experience doing the eagle jump?!). I am hoping that making The Ezio Collection has not taken Ubsioft too far from making the New Assassin’s Creed game because if they manage to get it correct, it really could bring back the fan base and sales.
However, there is another year to wait, so it is hard to predict what it is going to be delivered, how far Ubisoft are in the development cycle and even what time era it could be set within. With so little information to go on, we can only wait and see if Ubisoft managed to pull of a fantastic game for the Assassin’s Creed Universe, or a game which will keep the franchise feeling a bit like a joke.