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- Immortals Fenyx Rising
Immortals Fenyx Rising recently came out. It’s a middling yet functional game in its own right, one that could see success if positioned in the right way at the right time. But that positioning was ironically made harder by its own publisher, Ubisoft. The French giant seemingly sent the game out to die, pitting a new IP right against two console launches and a whole swath of bigger games, including two of its own big titles, Watch Dogs Legion and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Given these obstacles, it’s clear that Immortals should not have come out now and it’s not the first time the publisher has buried its own games either.
Lost to the sands of time
This trend seemingly began in 2003 when Ubisoft came under fire for putting a future cult classic, Beyond Good and Evil, right up against Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The Prince was the obvious winner here as it got many sequels and is currently being remade. Beyond Good and Evil, on the other hand, has struggled since and its sequel is seemingly stuck in development hell. Both were well-received games at the time but it’s hard to not see that initial positioning as something that had quite the rippling effect.
2011 was similar as Rayman Origins and Assassin’s Creed Revelations both released on November 15. Origins was a platformer, a genre that, outside of Nintendo, doesn’t see much love at the full retail price point. And Revelations was the follow-up to the ninth best-selling game of 2010, according to the NPD. It was a pairing that was destined to have a clear winner and loser, which was a shame since Origins is one of the best 2D platformers ever created and Revelations was a tired sequel that is hardly remembered within its own series. Origins was also sandwiched between games like Super Mario 3D Land, Skyrim, Modern Warfare 2, Skyrim, Skyward Sword, and Saints Row: The Third, but, again, Ubisoft shouldn’t have piled on, too.
2014 had the same problem, but within a single series. Assassin’s Creed Unity and Assassin’s Creed Rogue also hit the same day, albeit on different generations. The former was a bug-ridden mess on the new consoles, both of which were headline-grabbing aspects that sucked up all the oxygen and cast Rogue to the shadows. Rogue is one of the best entries in the franchise, but it was being dumped out on old systems in the older AC engine. Its interesting ideas weren’t given room to flourish and it has been unfairly overlooked since.
Ubisoft still has not learned its lesson as Immortals could not have come at a worse time. The PS5 and Xbox Series X/S consoles released alongside an absurd amount of games that most people are still playing through, many of which are in established series. How is a new IP supposed to go up against a new Spider-Man game, a remake of a popular Soulslike, another decent Call of Duty, and a half-reboot of Yakuza, just to name a few? And what about Cyberpunk 2077 which comes out a week later?
It’s a tough proposition, but, as has been the case in aforementioned years, Ubisoft also helped make this situation even tougher. Watch Dogs Legion and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla both came out within the past month or so and all three draw from the signature Ubisoft open-world formula. Copying the same blueprint is already tiring, but exponentially more so when it’s done so close together, especially for the one to get the short straw and come out last.
So who is Immortals for and why did it need to come out now in one of the busiest gaming seasons in recent years? Ubisoft fans have two other games to choose from and it’s highly unlikely people have completed both or are passing up both in favor of Immortals. People who don’t like Ubisoft games probably won’t be that drawn to this because of its mediocre reviews and slavish adherence to the Ubisoft formula. Some may have been looking forward to it and it might end up doing just fine but the timing has undoubtedly shrunk that audience and its potential.
Ubisoft can’t do much about other publishers, but it can stop itself from directly competing with itself by favoring some of its games at the expense of others. Immortals Fenyx Rising is not a great game yet it could work in a calmer period of the year where it at least gets more than a picosecond in the spotlight and is further from other samey Ubisoft titles. New titles need space to stand out. But as it stands, it’s a ho-hum new franchise squeezed in between console launches and a long list of excellent games while also sitting in the shadow of the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077. Immortals and its hardships are like Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the mountain, but, in this scenario, Ubisoft is also the mountain itself making the whole journey ever harder.