Ubisoft has been one of the prominent game publishers in the market for years. With franchises such as Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six, and the new but popular Assassins Creed, they have made a name for themselves as one of the biggest names in the publishing industry. They have always been able to showcase their games well, with great quality and a good sense of marketing, but one area of the industry they haven’t been able to penetrate is the PC.
Almost all of Ubisoft’s games have always been available for the PC. Those that haven’t released alongside the consoles have made it to the PC eventually. But off late there seems to be a change in their strategy regarding the platform. As time passes by, they seem to be getting more hostile towards it. Just recently they revealed Ghost Recon online for the PC. A good prospect, but it comes at the price of the cancellation of Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter. Also I am Alive is being averted on the platform. And this just seems like a sign of things to come in the near future. I’m pretty sure that the other Ubisoft properties such as Rainbow six and Assassins Creed will follow the same route.
The main reason why Ubisoft seem to hate the platform is piracy. And its not entirely untrue that piracy does hurt the gaming industry. The Witcher 2 was downloaded over 4.5 million times according to the developer CDprojekt. Other games such as the Call of Duty series, Starcraft 2, Crysis have all experienced humongous rates of piracy and have been affected by the losses incurred. The developer for I am Alive said that ” If only 50,000 people buy the game, then it’s not worth it”. In today’s world, where game development is becoming more and more expensive, piracy is becoming a major problem. And with the state of the economy being so whimsical, it puts further pressure on game companies to make games that they know will sell. So when you make an excellent game, and it gets downloaded for free, it can be a huge kick in the n&*s. So then is Ubisofts stand justified???
No, it’s not. And I won’t be giving personal opinions on why they’ve got their strategy wrong. Rather, lets just look at the facts. I talked about how the Witcher 2 was pirated over 5 million times. But at the same time, it sold more than a million copies in three months; the same feat took its predecessor over two years to achieve. Now I don’t know how many more copies it would have sold had it not been pirated. But what I do know is that I know a lot of people, who would rather just play something else if they can’t play a particular game for free. And the developers themselves were happy with these numbers. Other games such as the Call of Duty series, Starcraft 2, and Crysis have all sold handsomely on the PC despite having high piracy rates. Crytek, which whined a lot about the PC platform, managed to sell over 3 million copies of Crysis. 2011 was an especially good year for the pc. Battlefield 3 and Skyrim have both penetrated the million mark on the PC at retail, and are supposedly selling very well digitally. Why then has Ubisoft not been able to capitalize on the PC market? Do their games not appeal to the PC crowd?
The answer again is no. There is a very simple rule to life when it comes to interactions – If you treat others well, then they will treat you well as well. This is something Ubisoft just haven’t learnt. Constant disregard for the platform, delayed releases, buggy ports, hefty use of DRM have all created a dislike for their games in the minds of the PC gamers. Games released by companies like Blizzard and Bioware are called “labors of love”, but you cannot say the same about Ubisoft games from a PC gamers perspective. Skyrim was released with a shitload of bugs, but it still sold well, because Bethesda care for their PC fanbase, and have been constantly trying to address every problem out there. It just takes a little bit of dedication and trust in your fanbase, and they will support you. And the one difference about games released on the PC and those released on the consoles is that PC games may be poor starters when it comes to sales, but they have great legs; they keep selling at a steady pace. You just need a good understanding of the platform to achieve success.
Where then does this bitter relationship go from here? My money is on Ubisoft abandoning the platform entirely in the near future, and then jumping the bandwagon again after a few years. But, if they actually understand their mistakes and try to make amends with their diminishing PC fanbase, then maybe they will see some positive results. And then finally we won’t need to do things like “go to settings.ini and change the values of consolification and pc explosion to zero to go from 5 FPS to 6 FPS” to rectify a buggy port for a game released 10 months after its release on the consoles.