Monday, 1 April 2013

Assassin's Creed Goes Annual

We're going to need more historical backdrops....

When you think of games that get new instalments every year you probably either think of sports titles like Fifa or Madden, or you might instead go to first person shooters like the Call of Duty or Battlefield franchises. However, when someone asks you what an annual game is, does Assassin's Creed spring to mind? If not, then that will be changing soon enough, because it has become rather clear that Ubisoft is more than ready and willing to give us a new game on a yearly basis.

It's interesting, if somewhat off-putting, to see Ubisoft Montreal CEO Yannis Mallat try to talk away prior statements made by the people that worked on the series. Namely Jean-Francois Bolvin's comment of "You can't plough a field every year," in regards to making titles. That was back in 2010, when Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood was released. The logic behind the statement is sound; to use another analogy, if you tap the well too many times then eventually you're going to run dry.

Mallat though, is of the mindset that, "It's our breakthrough. When you have quality content, the frequency of coming out with the game is not an issue at all." And that people want to see more and more Assassin's Creed games coming out on a regular basis, since "... people expect more and more of that content. So it's natural to be able to provide that content. The gamers are happy and it's our job to make them happy."

Given the latest sales figures for Assassin's Creed 3 it's hard to refute that stance. Still, when you think of annual titles, it's hard not to also think about franchises being run right into the ground. Even though Call of Duty and Battlefield have been wildly successful, they've each gotten a lot of flak for pumping out sequel after sequel. Likewise, sports franchise games have come under attack for barely changing from year to year.

Trying to further assuage concerns, Mallat did mention that it wasn't the same team working on every single iteration of the franchise. "What I described with the roadmap is we have several teams. So they are resting. The team that has delivered Assassin's Creed 3, they're not working on Black Flag. They're resting. They are refreshing their minds and then working on something else that is not announced."

While it's nice to know that they're spreading the work around, it still doesn't really get that shadow of doubt out of my mind. The original Assassin's Creed was something that was a gamble, they didn't know how people were going to react to it. It did well, not great, but well enough to get further support. Now I'm worried that the exact opposite is happening, that it'll become the next franchise that's "too big to fail" and will end up being run right into the ground because of it.

At the same time though, the thing is that as long as people keep buying the games, then Ubisoft is going to keep cranking them out, even if the quality does suffer in the long term. Of course if people stop buying them then the series probably goes away, a real lose-lose scenario from the looks of it.

I guess that in the end regardless of what happens this is a reminder that the video game business is, you know, a business. Whether or not something gets overused doesn't ultimately matter, so long as there is profit to be made. It's an understandable mindset, just not one that I like.

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