Is the Games Industry in a Rut?
Ubisoft Studios just announced their latest game, “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag” with a picture of what the cover art of the game may look like.
The name and image clearly suggests a pirate theme for the games storyline and aesthetic. While this can be an interesting theme for the franchise. One can’t help but wonder if Ubisoft is merely dragging their feet until the next great idea hits them in the face.
“Assassin’s Creed 3” is their latest released installment of the franchise, and was met with middling reviews and poor fan reception after the first few months. Large chunks of the game, such as a three-hour beginning where the playable character is not the main one, could have been left out or summarized in a cut-scene. The game suffered from poor pacing, poor character acting, and minor mechanical issues that all contribute to the games mediocrity.
This is an example of a studio in distress, not monetarily, but creatively. There have been seven “Assassin’s Creed” games over the course of a five year period. Ubisoft is a large studio, and is working on other projects like the much anticipated “Watch_Dogs” and “Splinter Cell” games for the next generation of consoles, but I believe their time with “Assassin’s Creed” might be up.
The problem with the franchise’s recent instillations is they have not iterated enough, or at least not as much as compared to previous jumps. The jump in technology from “Assassin’s Creed” to “Assassin’s Creed 2” was massive; there was improved crowd dynamics, different types of cover systems, new and interesting enemy types, and great work on the new character, Ezio Auditore, a hotheaded violent youth who learns patience and discipline to reclaim his families honor and become an Assassin. The character was so well received that he was used in two sequential games as a result.
The jump in technology from “Assassin’s Creed: Revelations,” which ended Ezio’s story, to “Assassin’s Creed 3,” was minuscule in comparison. There were hardly any new mechanics and some had been taken out.
So what can Ubisoft do in order to avoid a “Call of Duty”-esque backlash for “over-sequalization?” Stop. If they stop making the “Assassin’s Creed” franchise for a few years and devote time to another series before moving back to it. I believe the company will be able to come up with more interesting ideas, and be able to implement them in a meaningful way.
This is a lesson many other companies have already learned. Valve, a highly respected company, waits years in-between its game releases, and does a lot of in-house testing to make sure the game is good. Even the “Halo” franchise, which has seen seven iterations as well, manages to space releases out in order to clearly define goals and the story before development begins.
Like a great philosopher once said, “patience is a virtue.”
By Sean Burke