Ubisoft is pushing it with four open-world games in under four months

Ubisoft has gained such a reputation making open-world games that there is a telltale Ubisoft Formula™ pervasive across most of its portfolio. These relatively safe titles are rarely awful but also rarely surprising; they’re comfort food and that’s just fine. But comfort food has to be spread around and that’s not what Ubisoft is doing by releasing four open-world games in under four months. It’s just too damn much.

Ubisoft’s upcoming release schedule (sans the underwhelming Prince of Persia remake) looks like this:

That’s four big games in about three months and 20 days. Less than two weeks separate Watch Dogs from Assassin’s Creed and only three sit between Assassin’s Creed and Immortals. Immortals and Far Cry are two months and two weeks apart, which seems fine but not when everything is taken into context.

So many large worlds in such a small amount of time

Ubisoft is pushing it with four open-world games in under four months

A lot of that context is how long a lot of these games take get through. Watch Dogs Legion has a huge map and will probably top out near 20 to 30 hours. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Far Cry 6, as confirmed by the former’s team and the latter’s store listing, are supposed to be the biggest entries in their respective series, which were already bloated to begin with. Immortals is still an unknown entity, but it’s unlikely it’ll be a small game with its seven distinct zones. Factor in all of the inevitable DLC and these hour counts will only inflate.

Open-world games can be quite the undertaking and any one of these could be all-encompassing experiences that suck up all of your free time. So why would Ubisoft position them in a way where there is almost no break between any of them? No one runs a marathon and then laces up for another marathon in the next week yet Ubisoft is asking us to and cannibalizing itself in the process.

This is also where the Ubisoft Formula™ comes back into play since none of these games are probably going to be that radically different from one another. They’ll all likely share a similar skeleton to both one another and their past entries, which is bound to happen anyway with the third Watch Dogs game, thirteenth traditional Assassin’s Creed game, and roughly the ninth Far Cry game. The law of diminishing returns applies to both these series individually and Ubisoft’s output as a whole. Placing these games far enough apart helps combat fatigue caused by this law, but an all-out blitz in such a short period will not allow such a vital respite.

The bigger picture

Ubisoft is pushing it with four open-world games in under four months

Zooming out only makes the problem worse because of how packed this holiday season is. Yakuza: Like a Dragon, another large RPG, is releasing on the same day as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Then Cyberpunk 2077, probably the year’s biggest game and RPG, is coming out just nine days later. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and Spider-Man: Miles Morales are also hitting in November and while those two aren’t role-playing games, there’s only so much oxygen to go around.

And there’s also only so much money to go around. The unemployment rate in the United States is at an unhealthy 8.4% (and likely even higher due to furloughed employees). Money is tighter than usual for some — a reality that is going to impact who can buy non-essential items like new, expensive consoles. Ubisoft can’t expect people to nab all of its relatively similar games when releasing them so close to one another and the other fall heavy hitters, especially at a time like this. It’s forcing players to make harder decisions while also hurting itself, too.

The pandemic has undoubtedly impacted development schedules throughout Ubisoft from games we know about to games we haven’t heard about. Pushing these open-world titles could give the publisher a buffer to cover those bumps in the road and give them more room to breathe. Immortals: Fenyx Rising, a promising new title that deserves some space, would benefit from a late February or March release window while Far Cry 6 could use all the time it could get, given how mediocre Far Cry 5 and New Dawn were. Embracing the natural COVID-related delays and pushing these titles would be organically fix this problem.

No one wins when Ubisoft drops its biggest games in such a short amount of time. Players won’t have the time, money, or patience for all of these likely similar open-world games. Ubisoft is essentially pitting its own games against each other and forcing players to make tougher choices. While the jury is still out on Far Cry 6, the other three games look quite promising. But cramming them all together in such a short span is just asking for players to burn out this style of game or pick and choose what games to skip, which is a bad situation either way.