You'd be forgiven for thinking the fight for the military shooter crown was between two opposing forces.
Sure, Activision's Call of Duty is a launch-sales leviathan and EA boasts impressive figures with its Medal of Honor and BattlefieldFPS properties.
But to ignore Ubisoft would be a big mistake. The publisher has one card in its deck which its competitors lack.
It's not a subscription-based service like Call of Duty Elite – although it does have Ghost Recon Online on the way. And no it's not a fresh developer like Respawn Entertainment. Nor is it a new shooter spin-off game.
It's a novelist.
Tom Clancy has written 15 No.1 New York Times best-selling war novels, including several that have been adapted into films like The Hunt for Red October and Clear and Present Danger which screened in the ‘90s. That's not to mention over 30 video games based on his ideas arriving in the space of 14 years.
The Tom Clancy franchise is one of Ubisoft's premier properties,” Ubisoft brand manager Matt Benson tells MCV. The titles always deliver quality gameplay and a strong narrative to immerse gamers in the rich universe of the Clancy books.”
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
Today Ubisoft owns all IP rights to the Tom Clancy name for video games and merchandise. It's not wasting this opporunity and upper hand it has over its rivals. At least three new games are in the works, including FPS Rainbow 6: Patriots, PC free-to-play title Ghost Recon Online and third-person shooter Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, which hits consoles on May 25th.
Tom Clancy titles are proven evergreen sellers. And the publisher is clear it doesn't want to get caught up in a tunnel vision battle for No.1 with games like Call of Duty.
It's a funny situation,” adds Ubisoft's IP development director Adrian Lacey. Obviously Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter was out before CoD: Modern Warfare back in the day, and that was us setting the bar.
But we focus on Ghost Recon – we don't focus on what Battlefield is doing or what CoD is doing.
They do their fighting, they do their mechanics, they do it their way. And don't get me wrong – we play those video games. But that's not the experience we're selling, we're not all trying to make the same game.
We're making that Ghost Recon experience. And it's Tom Clancy so obviously it's always been very important to us. I think that's what separates us from the others. It's about giving the players a new shooter experience.”
Putting Future Soldier on the market during the typically quiet summer period is also a far cry from the Q4 battles of CoD and Battlefield.
I don't think the date matters,” says Lacey. For us it's about the quality of the experience. [The May release] gives shooter fans the opportunity to play something different and I think that timing will allow them to say, ‘you know what, I'm actually going to give this a go'.”
With five big separate Tom Clancy franchises around today – Rainbow Six, HAWX, Ghost Recon, Splinter Cell and EndWar, Ubisoft could fall into the trap of just publishing a series of sequels. But Tom Clancy games continue to innovate. Future Soldier is using Kinect technology and Ghost Recon Online is embracing the free-to-play model. There's even a live-action short film (see ‘Ubi's 1m Future Soldier plan'). The company is also excited by the prospect of new home consoles.
Lacey adds: We're looking at the future of consoles. We are looking at the interconnectivity with players today. That's an important thing to understand. Knowing what the player wants and trying to give them a unique experience. And that's something we're focused on at the moment.
The way we interact with other players and AI itself is very interesting and I think we'll be pushing that with Tom Clancy and Ghost Recon more and more.
Interconnectivity using different devices and applications is very important. I think it's the future of gaming and it's definitely the future of franchises like Tom Clancy and Ghost Recon.”