After facing a downward trend with its latest releases, Ubisoft has confirmed that there will be no Assassin's Creed game debuted in 2016. Following a streak of over eight years of annual releases, the news has come as a shock to many, although expected for some who have watched the series struggle to regain the momentum it once had.
Ubisoft's difficult decision might make sense to fans who have noticed stagnation in the franchise, but for Ubisoft it was a business decision that came at a great cost. With over 80 million copies sold across its library, Assassin's Creed is a huge source of revenue that fuel's the company's worldwide workforce of over 9,000 employees.
To put it in perspective, here's how each of the major releases on home consoles have sold:
Assassin's Creed - ~11.28 million units sold
Assassin's Creed II - ~11.36 million units sold
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood - ~6.92 million units sold
Assassin's Creed: Revelations - ~9.18 million units sold
Assassin's Creed III - ~13.05 million units sold
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag - ~12.72 million units sold
Assassins Creed: Unity- ~7.66 million units sold
Assassin's Creed: Rogue - ~2.38 million units sold
Assassin's Creed Syndicate - ~4.12 million units sold
There are two things to note about the data above. For one, Assassin's Creed: Unity and Assassin's Creed Rogue launched within the same release window and were targeted for different generations of home console hardware. Therefore, they can be treated as a psuedo-single release totaling at around 10.04 million copies sold. Secondly, Assassin's Creed Syndicate debuted four months ago and will see an increase in lifetime sales as it falls in price, especially during this holiday season. Depending on how well it performs in the next year its relatively well-received debut will signify either a less or more dramatic downward trend than many analysts anticipated.
With this data in mind, Ubisoft can expect the average Assassin's Creed home console release to sell around 9.5 million units, which equates to $570 million in total revenue when sold at $59.99 MSRP. Though, given recent trends it would be a safer bet to say that a new Assassin's Creed game launched only on Xbox One, PS4, and PC would sell between five and six million units, provided it remains within the expected deviation of recent releases. This would put it at around 330 million in total revenue.
That doesn't tell the whole story, though. A significant portion of Assassin's Creed's cash flows come from microtransactions, DLC, and merchandise, factors capable of doubling each release's revenue stream.
Without an Assassin's Creed game scheduled to debut in 2016, Ubisoft is missing out on hundreds of millions of dollars before the year's end. At this point it's made the decision that sitting out a year while giving the next Assassin's Creed release extra time to develop has value in the hundreds of millions, if not more. Some of that value will be difficult to measure, including reduced burnout of series fans who desire a greater evolution of its tried-and-tested formula.
It's a risky proposition that will place extraordinary emphasis on its next release. Gamers and investors will look at the inevitable 2017 Assassin's Creed release with watchful eyes as Ubisoft pushes to reinvigorate the franchise with the energy and innovation that once crowned it one of the most impactful modern video game IPs.