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A hot potato: Ubisoft, once voted the most hated video game brand in the world, has been endearing itself to the general public once again. On this occasion, CEO Yves Guillemot has defended the $70 price tag (for the console versions) it's slapped on Skull and Bones, a game that has many live service elements. He says that amount of money is justified because it's a "quadruple-A" game.
Few titles have seen a development as long or as difficult as Skull and Bones. Its launch was delayed an astounding six times following the original reveal at E3 in 2017 – work on the game began back in 2013. It's also reported to have gone over budget and cost around $200 million, not to mention the number of management changes, shifts in game direction, etc.
In a conference call Q&A session that took place after Ubisoft's Q3 fiscal year 2024 results, Guillemot was asked about Skull and Bones' live service approach; a trailer for the year 1 roadmap was released at the same time as the open beta this week.
The caller wanted to know if Guillemot felt charging $70/$60 for Skull and Bones was a good idea, given its live service-focus, or whether it would have been better to make it a free-to-play title that could have attracted more players and help establish an online community. The CEO said the sheer size of the game and the fact that he considers it a AAAA title justifies the price.
"You will see that Skull and Bones is a fully-fledged game," Guillemot said. "It's a very big game, and we feel that people will really see how vast and complete that game is. It's a really full, triple […] quadruple-A game, that will deliver in the long run."
The open beta for Skull and Bones is currently live and runs until February 11. Guillemot's confidence in it being a AAAA game that people will be happy to pay for may be misplaced, given that a lot of players (but not all) are complaining about it being average and a bit boring, earning it the name Dull and Bones; I know of two players who quit within the hour.
Ubisoft will likely have had its eye on Diablo 4 when pricing Skull and Bones. Blizzard's ARPG also cost $70 at launch and has live service content. It brought in $666 million in revenue in just five days post-release, but then Diablo 4 had a lot of hype pushing those initial sales.
Guillemot might also be tempting fate by calling Skull and Bones a AAAA title. The last time we heard that expression was from Krafton, the parent of Striking Distance Studios, when talking about The Callisto Protocol, a Dead Space-style horror that saw disappointing reviews and sales.
Skull and Bones launches on February 16, 2024, priced $69.99, or you can play three days early by pre-ordering the $99.99 Premium edition. The PC versions are $10 cheaper. Progression in the open beta up to the rank of Brigand (tier 6 rank 1) will carry over to the full game.