What constitutes as a big year for a gaming studio these days? Is it the big name title that turns all the heads, or the sleeper game that takes home all the awards? How about the game with all the promise in the world that actually delivers on its promise? Is it the studio that decides to make one game and do it really well? Here’s a thought. Take one big company with many moving parts, stop worrying about games stepping on each other and stretching out the bottom line, and start making the games people love. I am one of those people who hates the model of releasing whatever the newest version of a game is yearly. The severe lack of new intellectual property in the gaming market can be mind numbing. Whether its the newest COD, RPG, or MMO, the monotony of repetition tears my little gamers heart from my chest.
Enter The Division, Ghost Recon: Wildlands, South Park: Fractured But Whole, For Honor, and Far Cry Primal. The Division needed to be the answer to the juggernaut that is Destiny. Far Cry Primal needed to surpass the expectations laid out after the successful main game series. Ghost Recon proposes an open world co-op shooter with RPG elements set in the deep dark world of the drug cartels. South Park seeks to push the envelope even further on their already successful delve into the RPG game, even so far as to make fun of the widely maligned weak combat systems in their previous endeavor. For Honor promises to give a unique combat experience with your favorite warriors that no one has seen before.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a pretty big sports fan. I passed much of my childhood by playing baseball and basketball growing up specifically. In each of these sports players go through what we call “slumps.” A slump is when a play struggles to complete a task at which they would normally excel. For instance, a home run hitter may struggle with making contact with a baseball, much less getting on base. A three point shooter might run into a cold spell from beyond the arc for a long period of time. For the best players, often this time is short lived but noticeable, however for those less skilled or more prone to longer periods of drought these slumps could become permanent. Ubisoft has been making games for quite a long time. And just like a hitter coming out of a slump, or a shooter finding his range, Ubisoft has begun coming into their own again, not with a bang but steadily finding their footing before swinging for the fences.
In the “coming soon to a monitor to you” category, Ubisoft drives ever forward to land a knockout blow for the rest of 2016. If all holds true at the moment, South Park, Ghost Recon, and For Honor will all drop this year. South Park has the potential to find a nice niche in their TV market while delivering on a rarely done well when attempted humor market in video game world. Ghost Recon, while sharing some of the larger concepts of the Division in terms of scope and execution, draws very little on the namesake from which it follows. The vehicles alone separate it from The Division, not to mention the differences in choices it seems the gamers will have the ability to make. Lastly a game like For Honor has the chance to beak out into an entirely new IP. The visionaries behind For Honor are swimming in new water in terms of the breadth and scope of their desire to deliver an immersive fighting experience with your favorite style of warrior.
I would encourage you to scour the Ubisoft home page scanning through the games they have listed. Take in the beautiful sights and sounds of each game trailer or in depth interview. Through their transparency and cooperation with the community they have built, Ubisoft is in prime position to shake up the big boys who lead the field of game development at the moment.
All of these titles and accomplishments lead up to what would be the equivalent of a home run or last second game winning half court shot with the introduction of recently released The Division and the rest of the 2016 titles mentioned above. Though Ubisoft has not released the details of the sales from the first three days of The Division yet, they have confirmed that they have “shattered sales records” already. This wasn’t entirely unexpected. Far Cry Primal took the top spot in new games during its release month in February while its competitor and long standing favorite franchise, Street Fighter 5, took a measly seventh. By putting out a fun reliable list of titles over the last year and a half, Ubisoft has won back many of the former detractors. They have produced steady innovative games that have satisfied the urge to enjoy the nostalgia of previous titles while pushing the envelope in new adventures. As you have already read on this site, The Division seems to be a mashup of Diablo and Socom II for the new generation of gamers. The RPG elements will be enough to drive gamers of that genre while the PvP competitiveness for gear in the Dark Zone will challenge even the hardest of grizzled gamers.
If the sales of the two most recent titles from Ubisoft, and their recent rash of good decisions tells us anything, its that they have something special going on. The rest of the games coming out this year might not top The Division in sales, but if they deliver on half of what they promise I think there is a very good argument to be made that Ubisoft is having the best year of any studio in recent memory, and possibly ever.
So here’s to you Ubisoft. As I wrote in an earlier article, you have hit the sweet spot with DLC and micro-transactions. You have shown how you can bounce back out of slump like one of the greats. And finally you have displayed new forward thinking that will make the way for future developers much tougher to replicate and replace. My hope is that other AAA developers will take their example to heart and create new content that will push the gamer experience in an even more positive direction. Cheers Ubi!