As if you couldn’t tell from its recent announcements, Ubisoft is going to make a bigger push for free-to-play games in the future. In its full-year earnings call from earlier this week, the developer and publisher said that it is “building high-end free-to-play games to be trending towards AAA ambitions over the long-term.”
Ubisoft Senior Analyst Sean Lama clarified some of that commentary, which had centered around the notion that Ubisoft would make fewer full-priced AAA games, via Twitter:
Hi. Regarding the Ubisoft comment, it's in reference to F2P becoming a larger share of the revenue pie, not an indication that there will be less traditional paid games like AC. The content mix is expanding, not changing. A good comp is the evolution of CoD since Warzone.
— Shonboppin (@shonboppin) May 11, 2021
Some of the interpretations of the article I’m seeing are incorrect. I mostly wanted to steer the convo away from “F2P games are replacing AAA paid games” to “F2P is going to be an additional way to experience some of these IPs”, and pointed to CoD as a good example of the model
— Shonboppin (@shonboppin) May 12, 2021
While we don’t want to read too much into Lama’s comments — as he suggested we not do regarding the original news — it’s curious that he uses Call of Duty: Warzone as a comparison, as we’ve already guessed free-to-play The Division Heartland, announced last week, will be a battle royale. This moves that probability needle a little farther in that direction, I’d think.
Overall, though, I think that Ubisoft’s decision to focus more on F2P titles is just a case of a big developer realizing there’s money to be made outside of the traditional boxed-game market. It’s a sort of “Everyone else is doing it, so why don’t we?” situation.
As for the games “trending toward AAA,” I think that’s still a bit of a mental block for some people, who still lump F2P games in with cheaply made, low-quality games. There certainly are plenty of those — F2P and paid — but there are also plenty that achieve high production values and top-tier graphics. Warzone is a spinoff of a major AAA game, but there are plenty of standalone F2P titles, like Apex Legends, Guild Wars 2, Genshin Impact, and even Fortnite, that nobody would think of as low-grade. Ubisoft likely won’t skimp on the budget for whatever it makes in the future, but don’t invest too much in the company’s likely future claims that its games represent some kind of pinnacle of F2P design and polish.