Making comment alongside Ubisoft’s annual results for FY19/20, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot was refreshingly honest about the company’s predicted earnings for the coming year. While Ubisoft was targeting €600m in profits, back by five triple-A launched across the 12-month period, the uncertainties around the pandemic meant that this may have to be scaled back to €400m and only four, or even fewer, major releases.
“The coming months will provide more visibility on whether we can maintain our release plans. Additionally, it is unclear what effects the economic crisis is going to have on the operating conditions of our business partners and on consumer spending. For the sake of transparency and in order to reflect the potential impact of those external uncertainties, we have decided to supplement our targets with a range,” said Guillemot.
“It notably reflects the possibility that we decide to postpone the release of a AAA title to 2021-22”
“The bottom range presents our estimate of the impact that these external factors could have if they were to actually materialize. It notably reflects the possibility that we decide to postpone the release of a AAA title to 2021-22, if it ensures to maximize the long-term potential of our line-up.”
An accompanying deck to the results shows that while working from home impacts upon production may well delay a single major title, it was possible that external impacts on “business partners and consumption” could reduce that lower still.
So what titles are we talking about. Ubisoft confirmed that it had five major titles lined up for FY20/21 – though the date on most of those titles are still to be confirmed: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Watch Dogs Legion, Rainbow Six Quarantine and Gods & Monsters, plus one unannounced title to come “from our biggest franchises”, probably something Far Cry-related.
Of those it seems that the unannounced title would be the most likely to slip back, though Gods & Monsters, as the new untried franchise might also be a good candidate for delay, as launching new IP into an uncertain market, could be considered one uncertainty too many.
We’ll likely get some additional hints on all this from Ubisoft’s July event.
Ubisoft has had a pretty tough year. With the headline figure of net bookings down 24.4 per cent year-on-year. Within that though, digital net bookings were only down 9.7 per cent, and recurrent spending (microtransactions) was actually up by 9.0 per cent.
The fall then came mainly from boxed product sales then, against a background of a waning console market and the delay of both Watch Dogs Legion and Gods & Monsters out of the financial year. So the key metrics going forward look good, as do the various engagement metrics which Ubisoft put out.
“Our initial targets for 2020-21 remain in sight as we are currently benefiting from excellent momentum”
And pandemic-aside it sees that performance continuing into this year: “Our initial targets for 2020-21 remain in sight as we are currently benefiting from excellent momentum, especially with stronger than anticipated performance in back catalog, digital and PRI, coupled with the most ambitious line-up of the industry for the year.”
Finally, Ubisoft revealed figures for the Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla launch, which broke records with 100m views of the trailer in 10 days and 200 million views of the trailer and related user-generated content. Of course, putting your trailer out under a pandemic lockdown is bound to boost figures, but it still shows a healthy appetite for the latest incarnation – although let’s be honest anyone could have told Ubisoft that Vikings (as with pirates, ninjas and cowboys) were going to be a better bet than Greeks and Romans.