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Quick Thoughts: Can The Division Replicate Destiny’s Success as a Shared-World Shooter?

Quick Thoughts: Simply put, can Tom Clancy’s The Division become as successful as its competitor Destiny, which made a record $500 million during its initial launch and was reported by Activision Blizzard Inc (ATVI) to be the top-selling new IP in North America and Europe in 2014?

 

Tom_Clancy's_The_Division

 

As noted in my previous article, publisher Ubisoft Entertainment SA (UBI) is releasing its biggest title of the year, Tom Clancy’s The Division, soon on March 8th. The shared-world, online shooter with RPG elements set in a frigid Manhattan is the firm’s biggest bet this year as it’s a brand new IP for which the firm expects it to “be one of the largest launches of a new brand in the history of the video game industry,” per CEO Yves Guillemot. And without an Assasin’s Creed title this year, and Watch Dogs 2 yet to be confirmed, The Division is the premier part of UBI’s calendar year portfolio.

Which leads me to my comparison to Activision Blizzard Inc (ATVI)’s hugely-popular online shooter Destiny. Stats from the firm’s reporting show the aforementioned record launch and even over a year later, the game has over 25 million registered users which have around 3 billion hours. It has yet to be seen if this success can be sustained through the decade-long plan that ATVI is rumored to have for the franchise, but with net revenues increasing last year to $4.6 billion (compared with $4.4 prior year), Destiny is a main contributing factor to the firm’s continued success as one of the world’s largest publishers.

 

ATVI 2015 Revenues

 

Going back to The Division, UBI hasn’t divulged their internal sales forecasts for the title in particular however they have released guidance of increased sales during final quarter of 2015-16 and relatively healthy full-year sales in 2016-17. From a consumer perspective, the game will scratch the same itch as Destiny from an RPG loot and leveling perspective however the key is its mechanics and narrative content, the latter of which was the main knock on Destiny when it first came out.

Based on this, it’s a fresh new IP that’s quite ambitious, so my personal take is if it delivers enough content between its story missions, side quests and “Dark Zone” PvP concept (which is an area many have compared to survival games where players can decide to either work together or fight against one another to collect the game’s best gear), I think that The Division can certainly compete with Destiny and even steal a portion of the games user base as ATVI hasn’t released new content since September 2015’s Taken King expansion. And ATVI announced that a sequel to Destiny won’t be out this year, which leaves the door open even further.

Whether it will generate $500 million in day-one sales or achieve 25 million users in its first year, that has yet to be seen, but the game is one of the year’s most intriguing releases.

 

Destiny Cover

Sources: Activision Blizzard Inc 4th Quarter & Full Year Financial Results 2015, Ubisoft 3rd Quarter 2015-16 Earnings, Xbox One UK.com

-Dom

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Quick Thoughts: Far Cry Primal & The Division Releasing Together Impact Ubisoft Sales?

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.

 

Ubisoft 2015Q4 Sales Forecast

 

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.

the-division-infographic

Click to enlarge

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).

-Dom