In a nutshell: Ubisoft, once voted the most hated gaming brand in the world, isn't having a good time right now. In addition to lowering its financial projections target for the last quarter and admitting its recent releases didn't perform as well as expected, the company has canceled three more games, adding to the four it canceled in the summer. It has also delayed Skull and Bones for a sixth time.
It was back in July when Ubisoft announced the cancelation of four in-development games, including Splinter Cell VR and Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Frontline. Three more unannounced titles are joining the discarded pile, bringing the total to an expensive seven cancelations in one financial year.
Explaining its reasons for the move, Ubisoft pointed to Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope and Just Dance 2023 not performing as well as expected. The company also said it is "facing major challenges as the industry continues to shift towards mega-brands and long-lasting titles than [sic] can reach players across the globe, across platforms and business models."
There's some bad news for those hoping to play the finished version of Skull and Bones on March 9. The pirate sim is being delayed for an incredible sixth time to the early part of Ubisoft's 2023-24 fiscal year, which starts in April.
"Players will be able to discover the beauty of Skull and Bones in the upcoming beta phase. The additional time has already paid off and brought impressive improvements to its quality, which has been confirmed by recent playtests," Ubisoft said in its financial statement. "We believe players will be positively surprised by its evolution. We have decided to postpone its release in order to have more time to showcase a much more polished and balanced experience and to build awareness."
Those canned games have cost the company a lot of money. It has depreciated roughly €500 million ($538 million) in capitalized research and development expenses related to "upcoming premium and free-to-play games and the newly canceled titles."
Ubisoft has also lowered its financial projections for the October-December quarter from around €830 million ($891 million) to approximately €725 million ($779 million). It expects net bookings to fall by 10% for the year, having previously predicted those revenues to rise 10%. The company is looking to reduce expenses by another €200 million ($215 million) over the next two years through "targeted restructuring, divesting some non-core assets, and usual natural attrition." Unsurprisingly, Ubisoft's share price is in freefall (above).
2022 was far from Ubisoft's best year. There was the NFT debacle that saw the company's hubris over the non-fungible-token experiment with Ghost Recon Breakpoint thrown back in its face when it was wound down just four months after launch. There was also the talk of a buyout, or lack of one, disabling features in online games, allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct at certain Ubisoft studios, and let's not forget it charging $120 for Far Cry 6 GOTY Edition even though the game didn't win a GOTY award. For an organization voted the most-hated gaming brand in 2021, there was certainly plenty of schadenfreude among consumers.