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Ubisoft's Reaction to 'Ghost Recon Breakpoint' Flopping Is Surprisingly Honest

Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot has called the game's reception a "disappointment."

by Ricardo Contreras
Oct 25 2019, 3:41pm

Image courtesy of Ubisoft

A slew of games from multiple developers were delayed on Thursday, but even more surprising than The Last of Us Part II being pushed back so soon after the launch date was announced was Ubisoft's surprisingly honest and accurate things to say about the disappointing performance of two of their recent releases. In a press release, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot spoke to the less than stellar launch of both The Division 2 and Ghost Recon Breakpoint. We discuss the delays, The Outer Worlds politics, and more on this week's Waypoint Radio. You can read an excerpt and listen to the full episode below.

Patrick: Ubisoft had their quarterly results, or yearly results, I'm not sure which but basically: Watch Dogs 3 delayed into the next fiscal year, which means anywhere between April of next year and next March. My guess is it's just next spring like The Last of Us, which means it now joins Cyberpunk. Also a prime candidate [for a delay,] still don't believe that game is coming out when they say it is.

Austin: What are they saying? Are they saying March or April?

Patrick: I can't remember, but that game seems like a prime summer game if they wanted to move out of the way of things. Gods and Monsters, a game that we've seen barely anything of, but what Ubisoft has characterized as their riff on Breath of the Wild to some degree. That's been pushed out of the fiscal year into the next. And they characterize The Division 2 and Breakpoint basically as commercial failures.

Austin: Wow.

Patrick: Which is interesting.

Austin: Yeah. Not that it felt like those things were unstoppable, but the question of "are Ubisoft games going to hit the market?" is has been really hard to predict because there've been so many games that they've put out where I've been like "Oof, this sucks."

Patrick: And then it's a huge hit.

Austin: It's a huge hit with a long tail, specifically.

Patrick: Which still maybe the case with both those games. Ubisoft at this point deserves the benefit of the doubt that they will find ways to –

Rob: Get the good word out.

Patrick: Yeah, what was that, I forget, the Viking game.

Rob: For Honor.

Patrick: For Honor, right. That game was a nightmare at launch. They turned that game around. I don't know what their plans are for any of these. I don't know, like when they characterize it as a disappointment, what does a disappointment mean to Ubisoft? I don't know. Oh, they also delayed Rainbow Six Quarantine and Roller Champions. So those are both out past March.

They also said they have two unknown AAA games that have not been announced that will launch between April 1st, 2020 and March 1st 2021. So Ubisoft has a long history of "yo, next gen, we're gonna punch it in the mouth." And I fully expect this generation specifically to have more complete, full games than we are used to having at lunch. We started moving away from that with PS4 and Xbox One, but I think with the PS5 and whatever they call the Xbox is going to have more games that just feel like they've been more baked, more cooked than we've been used to in the past, and it sounds like they're going to have at least one of those.

Austin: The Breakpoint quote is super interesting. It's a little long, but I'm going to read the whole thing.

However, we have not capitalized on the potential of our latest two AAA releases. For Ghost Recon Breakpoint, while the game’s quality appeared on track – based on E3, Gamescom, previews and our latest internal playtests –, critical reception and sales during the game’s first weeks were very disappointing. As we have done with past titles, we will continue to support the game and listen to the community in order to deliver the necessary improvements. At this stage, we have identified three main reasons behind this underperformance: • First, it is harder to generate interest for a sequel to a Live multiplayer game, when prior iterations benefited from years of optimization. Consequently, we need to make sure there is more time between each iteration of Live games.

Which is like, yeah, people are still playing Wildands. The Wildlands community is still popping. They were not ready to move on to Breakpoint.

Rob: That would seem even truer of The Division.

Austin: Yeah, absolutely, right?

"Second, our strategy of introducing gameplay innovations in our games has had a very positive impact on our brands. However, to win over players, these innovations need to be perfectly implemented in order to offer an optimal experience. This has not yet been sufficiently the case with Ghost Recon Breakpoint. While the change of formula has been very well received by some players, with an average daily playtime per player of over three hours, it also has been strongly rejected by a significant portion of the community."

They're like "the people just aren't on our next level shit. We just got to dumb it down." That's what they're saying. I do think that's interesting, especially with Watch Dogs Legion coming out. If they are being like "Ooh, we got to be a little more conservative in design, or we have to make sure that this is seamless." Something that is so weird as Legion could get hammered.

Patrick: I wonder if it's more like finding a, like when I joked about "find a white guy to put on the cover." It's like how do you project the hero fantasy even if what you end up doing in the game is like not that, but you need a way to get people in the door. I wonder if they're going to try and find some way [to do that.] Some games that don't have a [set] main character, like right Mass Effect, right? They just put the dude on the front. I wonder if Watch Dogs at some point picks a hero character as part of the marketing, even if in the game itself–

Austin: Or do they make it so everyone gets the same lead for–

Patrick: Or you start with a lead and then the game transitions to ... Then they kill the motherfucker in the first hour. And then that's when the reveal happens of what you're doing in the game.

Austin: Right. "Finally Ghost Recon: Breakpoint did not come in with enough differentiation factors, which prevented the game's intrinsic qualities from standing out." That's a sentence.

Patrick: That's probably true, right? If you looked at those games side-by-side, could you could you have meaningfully pulled them apart if you weren't paying attention like we were? I don't know that you could. Rainbow Six hasn't gotten a sequel for a reason. The sequel that they're doing is a spin-off that is PVE as opposed to PVP.

And I think maybe that's probably the lesson they're learning with Ghost Recon, is that if they were going to do a sequel, it needed to be like so tangentially different or like 10 years later, you know what I mean? Those are surprisingly interesting and honest insights about [their games.] You don't usually hear a company even say shit like that about why it didn't perform, and those all make sense in immediate hindsight for why a game like that might underperform out of the gate.


Discussed: Paradox Con 1:09, The Outer Worlds 14:53, The Last of Us 2 Delay 1:18:25, Crusader Kings III 1:30:14, MMO minute 1:41:04, Death Stranding 1:50:21, A Bewitching Revolution 1:51:22, Sea Salt 1:55:26

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