Generation Gap? – Ubisoft, Rocksteady, and the console transition

takes a look at the leap of faith Ubisoft and Rocksteady are taking into the next-generation

Batman Arkham Knight

On March 21, 2014, after a leak of supposed test game footage, Ubisoft officially unveiled Assassin’s Creed: Unity, the seventh full game in the now annualised series, which will undoubtedly be released before Christmas this year. The game is set to be an Xbox One and PlayStation 4 exclusive, making Unity, alongside the recently announced Batman: Arkham Knight, some of the first examples of major game franchises announcing multi-platform, next-generation games.

This is a huge step forward for the new consoles as, up until this point, there have been relatively few exclusive games good enough to warrant purchasing an entirely new console. Most games released on the next-gen consoles up until this point have simply been higher resolution versions of games released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (Call of Duty: Ghosts, FIFA 14 and Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag spring to mind). Whilst being a huge developmental step this is also a huge risk for the game developers, who are leaving behind the current generation for the next, which could be a risky move and there may still be large numbers of people yet to make the upgrade.

There is the point where Rocksteady’s and Ubisoft’s paths seem to diverge. However, whereas Rocksteady has chosen to release only one title this year, rumours are circulating that Ubisoft is planning to release two Assassin’s Creed games in 2014; Unity for next-generation consoles and another, codenamed “Comet”, for PS3 and 360. At first, this may seem like a cunning corporate cash grab, but upon closer inspection, Ubisoft has come up with quite an ingenious plan to keep its franchise alive during a difficult and unpredictable console transition.

Assassin's Creed Unity

Rocksteady has ‘placed all its eggs in one basket’ so to speak, releasing only one game for next-generation consoles in the hope that enough will be sold during the course of the year to ensure Arkham Knight enjoys huge sales upon its release. Ubisoft has taken a similar approach with Unity, which will undoubtedly be the flagship of the two games; however, by releasing “Comet”, they have ensured that a large proportion of their customer base will not be alienated by the console transition.

This is extremely important for a brand like Assassin’s Creed where gameplay is often overshadowed by story and the lore of the wider Assassin’s Creed universe. Fans without a next-gen console may well feel left out if Ubisoft only released Assassin’s Creed on PS4 and Xbox One this year. Then again, if Ubisoft releases the same game for both generations, the innovation and quality of the next-gen version could be held back.

Releasing two separate games for the separate generations seems like the best solution for a huge franchise to navigate the console transition. The stunning pre-alpha footage in Unity’s teaser trailer shows that we can be excited for a truly next-gen Assassin’s Creed this year, safe in the knowledge that, if we don’t get our hands on a new console, Comet will provide us enough Assassin’s Creed to get our teeth into. It is also great news for hardcore fans of the series, many of whom will be willing to fork out enough cash for both games, therefore getting twice as much Assassin’s Creed than they were originally expecting.

The move of releasing two Assassin’s Creed games in one year will undeniably be a financial win for Ubisoft; however, it will also be a huge win for the fans. For once a games publisher might well have come up with a money-making plan that most gamers can be happy about.

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