Is Assassin’s Creed in a Sequel Crisis?
As the sixth game in the Assassin’s Creed franchise gears up for release, one important question is being asked – is it too many sequels in too short a time?
When it comes to good games being released, you’ll find absolutely no complaint from me, the more games encouraging me to fire up my PS3 and pick up a controller, the better. But when the games are carbon copies of each other, you’ll see me running for the list of trade-in values quicker than you can ‘pre-owned’. This kind of game development killed off Activision’s world-encompassing Guitar Hero franchise and if something doesn’t change at Ubisoft, the Assassin’s Creed series could go the same way too.
It’s not just the critics that feel this way either, it’s being reflected in sales too. Assassin’s Creed 3 was a huge success, selling 12.5 million units to date, strongly boosted by the massive amount of pre-orders that the game received, but poor review sales and players reporting lacklustre experiences after playing means that many are currently debating whether or not the next game, Assassin’s Creed 4 : Black Flag, is worth their time. Such is the problem that Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot commented that “To come back to Assassin’s Creed 4, in [Ubisoft’s] numbers [they] expect less than last year” and a recent Ubisoft investor’s call echoed his statement. This is all rather concerning, especially as included in those forecasts are releases on both the PS4 and next-gen Xbox too.
Consumer fatigue is a seriously worrying issue for a franchise as it’s the devoted fanbase is what carries the game more than the casual consumer, the dedicated legion of players are also what justifies higher development costs, as they become the financial guarantee when the developer tries to make the next game bigger and better to appeal to the masses. However, Ubisoft aren’t wary of this and Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag creative director Jean Guesdon did nothing to soothe fears. After being asked if he’s “worried that players are getting weary of playing an Assassin’s Creed game every year”, Guesdon replied with “I think we have proven that this franchise is relevant, and that it has a long way to go.” So it seems that they have no plans of changing up the system that they’ve created.
Even more concerning is that in a recent interview, Guillemot reiterated this point as he said that on next generation consoles “[Ubisoft] will be able to release [their] franchises more and more regularly”, and that they planning on bringing the same sort of creative conveyor belt of sequels to Watch Dogs too, one of the studio’s most promising new IPs.
So what can Ubisoft do to remedy the situation? For a start they can just be more logical about their release schedule, spacing out at least a year between releases. This would allow the developer of the franchise to come up with fresher and more original ideas, it also means that by the time Ubisoft were gearing up for the next game, players would be that starved for a new Assassin’s Creed game. Pre-orders would shoot through the roof and it would give the casual gamers a reason to really take interest.
Alternatively, as it doesn’t seem likely that they plan on waiting between releases any time soon, Ubisoft could just launch a series of spin-offs. We saw this slightly with Assassin’s Creed : Liberations, which was released on PS Vita only. If they could find a way to create more unique worlds with well-developed characters like Aveline, that game’s protagonist, it would give plenty of cause for Ubisoft to release sequels till their heart’s content.
Whether Ubisoft dismisses this bout of consumer fatigue as a minor opinion or does something about it will be seen in the next year or so, but it will be fun playing through all of their games in the meantime.