In brief: Ubisoft is reportedly considering turning the Assassin's Creed franchise into a games-as-a-service (GaaS) title. With the success of Grand Theft Auto Online and other multiplayer online games, the company believes the market is ripe for a continuous Assassin's Creed hack-everybody-to-bits model.
Update: Almost immediately after leakers exposed Assassin's Creed Infinity, Ubisoft has confirmed work on the project in a blog post this afternoon. The production will be a collaborative effort between Ubisoft's Quebec and Montreal studios. The company did not have a lot to add, other than listing some of the project leads. It also did not admit that it was designing the project as a GaaS model.
The joint statement from the managing directors at Ubisoft Quebec and Ubisoft Montreal, Nathalie Bouchard and Christophe Derennes, respectively, indicated the move is not just an evolution of the franchise, but an evolution of the company as a whole.
"We wanted to share some key updates on the talented and creative minds that will now be working in a collaborative, cross-studio structure between Ubisoft Montreal and Ubisoft Quebec that will guide, grow, evolve, and define the overall future of Assassin's Creed that includes an important upcoming, early-in-development project codenamed Assassin's Creed Infinity. Rather than continuing to pass the baton from game to game, we profoundly believe this is an opportunity for one of Ubisoft's most beloved franchises to evolve in a more integrated and collaborative manner that's less centered on studios and more focused on talent and leadership, no matter where they are within Ubisoft."
Sources in the know told Bloomberg that the Ubisoft developers are working on a multiplayer-only title codenamed Assassin's Creed Infinity. Standalone titles in the franchise typically focus on one period in history. According to the insiders, Infinity will have multiple settings and timeframes that players can experience together.
The game is in early development and not planned for release for at least a few years, so details are scarce and constantly changing. The sources say Infinity will naturally expand over time, with DLC released at regular intervals. Additionally, future single-player titles will tie into the online version's story and lore. The hows and whys of the tie-ins are unclear.
A Ubisoft spokesperson would not discuss the game but did confirm that it exists. The developer's vision is to "exceed the expectations of fans who have been asking for a more cohesive approach" to Assassin's Creed games, the spokesperson said in a non-answer to an unasked question.
Whether fans have indeed been asking for a multiplayer platform in Assassin's Creed is debatable. Ubisoft has toyed with MP modes in past standalone versions, Unity and Revelations come to mind, but neither gained any real traction with the player base. Perhaps Ubisoft thinks that a dedicated multiplayer experience has a better chance of not being overshadowed by the single-player campaign.
There is undoubtedly a contingent of Assassin's Creed players that would like to see a well-executed MP world, but "well-executed" is the operative word. Too often, efforts to create GaaS models end up looking like nothing more than a blatant money grab (*cough* Fallout 76 *cough* Star Wars Battlefront II). What do you think? Would you be into a multiplayer Assassin's Creed game? Would you pay for it, or would it have to be free-to-play? Is Ubisoft taking a "leap of faith" into a pile of hay (or cash) that may or may not be there?