If you were holding out hope that Ubisoft would one day stop going down the route of always online, microtransactions, season passes and subscriptions, then think again. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot has said all of Ubisoft’s AAA titles going forward will be live operations, meaning games-as-service with continued support, paid-for content and regular updates, providing long tails rather than short, sharp impact.
"All our games now are bringing live operations," said Guillemot. "But the operations are all different. Ghost Recon's live operations are different from Rainbow Six's, and will be different from Assassin's Creed.
"Clearly the philosophy of all the games that we make is to be able to justify and bring live operations to titles for as long as we think it fits for the game."
I’d hazard a guess that Rainbow Six: Siege was a major instigator of this movement. The squad-based tactical online shooter didn’t really make a huge splash when it launched, but the player base has surged upwards in the years since. It’s now far more popular than it was even on launch day in 2015. Part of the reason behind this, aside from it being a fantastic game, is the continued support. Free maps and operators are rolled out regularly, supplemented by paid cosmetics or shortcut unlocks. It means there’s always going to be some fresh changes right around the corner, and it’s a far cheaper process for Ubisoft than the risk of churning out regular Rainbow Six titles which may or may not be well received.
This switch is evident in Ubisoft’s Financial Year 2017 performance. The revenue split is increasingly towards ‘Player Recurring Investment’ (PRI), which refers to players spending additional cash on the game after the initial retail copy. This includes in-game items, DLCs, season passes and subscriptions. Two years ago just 8% of Ubisoft’s revenue came from PRI, rising to 21% this year. Along with 29% of Ubi’s income coming from the sale of digital titles, 50% of Ubisoft’s entire revenue split is from digital purchases.
The overall goal here is laid out in Ubisoft’s forecasts. Ubi is cutting down from five AAA titles per year to a target of four and predicts revenue from microtransactions will exceed 25% of the publisher’s total revenue.
Ubisoft has swiftly become on the biggest AAA proponents of games-as-service, so it comes as little surprise to see this is how it's panning out. It should also be stressed that this doesn't mean every game is going to be littered with microtransactions. Some are obviously going to benefit more than others, yet you can expect all future Ubisoft titles to feature DLC expansions of some sort. Far Cry 5, Assassin's Creed Origins and The Crew 2 are all ripe for both expansions and microtransactions, as well as additional live running support such as new targets to take out in AC: Origins, weapons for Far Cry 5, or race challenges in The Crew 2.
Ubisoft's microtransaction plans aren't going anywhere soon then, how do you feel about this? Would you prefer a once and done purchase, or do you like the long tails currently afforded to Ubisoft's titles? Let us know below!