I understand why Ubisoft Entertainment SA (UBI) is releasing two huge titles within two weeks of one another: first-person open world game Far Cry Primal and shared-world shooter RPG Tom Clancy’s The Division. The French publisher wants to have both out the door with enough time to account for early sales before its fiscal year ends in March 2016. Still, I am skeptical: Does releasing big titles this close together hurt overall revenue potential, as one cannibalizes sales of the other? Or are the titles different enough that there is minimal overlap between audiences? See below for my personal take, and let me know your thoughts!
During its 3rd quarter 2015 earnings last week, Ubisoft Entertainment SA (UBI) reiterated the high expectations for its upcoming release schedule especially for two anticipated titles: Far Cry Primal on Tuesday, February 23rd and The Division on Tuesday, March 8th. For context, the publisher estimates that sales for last quarter of 2015 will bump to €591 mil ($662 mil) which would be more than three times the same quarter of 2014 and a 5% increase over this past quarter. This is a key quarter for UBI, as sluggish sales for Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate have caused the firm to lower its full-year expectations.
I have a couple thoughts though with the titles overall and their release schedule in particular. First, Far Cry Primal is coming out a little over a year after Far Cry 4 which leads me to view it almost as an expansion than a full release. It seems to be recycling significant assets from the previous title, including similar animals and character models, and I’m skeptical that it can innovate enough to capture those outside of Far Cry’s base audience.
On the other hand, I’m quite high on The Division though worry that it may end up being too ambitious. Pre-order figures are encouraging (some estimates are as much as 1 million copies), but UBI was careful to not release statistics on how many players were involved in their January closed beta. An open beta is upcoming this month, so we may learn then the true potential of the game’s audience size.
And the other, arguably more important thought, is that I don’t know if there’s enough differentiation across the titles with both being open-world action-shooters. If target audiences overlap too much, consumers are forced to choose which full-price retail release to buy or maybe even rent one instead of purchasing it. This will at best defer sales to a later quarter, and at worst could eliminate them entirely. It will be interesting to see results come mid-April, when NPD Group reports industry-wide software sales, and then UBI’s year-end financials.
Personally, I will be purchasing both titles upon release. But am I the exception? UBI is banking on that not being the case.
Sources: Ubisoft Entertainment SA Third-Quarter 2015-16 Earnings Press Release, Ubisoft Massive The Division Close Beta Statistics, VGChartz (take this as you will).