Ubisoft CEO explains why the company won’t abandon open-world games

‘Our goal is to make sure you can have a Unity within an Odyssey’

Over the course of this last console generation, smaller, more focused linear games have basically fallen out of fashion in favor of massive open-worlds. Even Nintendo got in on the action with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, creating a ridiculously large version of Hyrule with virtually no limits. Of all the triple-A publishers creating similar titles, Ubisoft is the most prolific. Virtually every game from the company is some kind of large scale world with tons of stuff to do.

Some fans of the company’s titles have been asking when Ubisoft will return to its classic games like Splinter Cell, Beyond Good and Evil, or even the earlier Assassin’s Creed games. Apparently, they won’t be anytime soon as CEO Yves Guillemot spoke to GamesIndustry.biz about the matter.

When questioned if something like Assassin’s Creed Unity would ever see a comeback -a game that featured a single location and shorter story-, Guillemot said, “No. Our goal is to make sure you can have a Unity within an Odyssey. If you want to have a story of 15 hours, you can have it, but you can also have other stories. You live in that world and you pursue what you want to pursue. You have an experience, many Unity-like experiences.”

Taken at face value, that makes sense. If you rush through newer games and ignore the plethora of side content, open-world titles can typically be finished in less than 20 hours. This is ignoring how titles like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, despite being good games, artificially gate off progression beyond bonkers ass XP systems (pushing you to microtransactions to speed the process up) and ridiculously gigantic worlds that can take an hour to get from one end to the other. Still, Guillemot is correct here.

If these game worlds are getting bigger and Ubisoft isn’t looking to go smaller scale, can that business model sustain itself? Guillemot believes it can. “What we’ve seen in the last few years is the number of players that play our games is constantly growing,” Guillemot asserts. “New markets are opening up and games live a lot longer than before. So at the moment, we see that we can continue to increase the investments because we know we can have a return on investment that can be quite long[-tailed].” This is obviously backed by DLC roadmaps, microtransaction schemes, and free content drops to keep players invested.

Even if people don’t participate in post-purchase spending, Guillemot notes that the average playtime of Odyssey, in particular, was around 60 hours per player. For him, this proves that “players got a lot from their investment in the game, a lot more than they got before.” With a good portion buying DLC and coming back to each game, it seems Ubisoft is right to believe this model is the future.

I’m not sure if I agree with everything Guillemot is saying, but far be it from me to tell you how to spend your time. If you enjoy sticking with a single game for prolonged periods of time, it doesn’t make you a bad person or a blight on this industry. Maybe the microtransactions are being taken to an extreme, but Ubisoft has cultivated fans of its brands that are very passionate. If they are getting something out of these larger worlds and continuously expanding narratives, then who’s to say Ubisoft is doing wrong?

Why Ubisoft isn’t abandoning its open worlds [GamesIndustry.biz]

Peter Glagowski
Former Dtoid staff member.