Ubisoft pushes back next Assassin’s Creed title in already thin year

UBISOFT Entertainment has delayed the next Assassin's Creed title, pushing it from February to spring, marking the second such setback in recent days for the French video game publisher.

The new game, code-named Rift and set in the Middle East, was originally planned as an expansion to 2020's Assassin's Creed Valhalla but morphed into a standalone game in order to fill a hole in Ubisoft's thin release schedule for this fiscal year. Ubisoft's office in Bordeaux is leading development on the game and asked for more time because Rift is running far behind schedule, according to a person familiar with the company's plans. 

The delay will impact Ubisoft's balance sheet as the game moves from the company's current fiscal year, which ends in March, to the next. The game is now expected to be released in the May to June period. An Ubisoft spokesperson didn't immediately have a comment.

On Thursday (Jul 21), as part of its quarterly earnings call, Ubisoft said it had delayed its upcoming Avatar game and a "smaller unannounced premium" title. That was a reference to Rift, the person familiar with the plans said, asking not to be identified discussing information that isn't public.

Ubisoft hasn't yet announced the game but has said it will reveal more information on the future of Assassin's Creed in September. Ubisoft also has big plans for the series in the form of the upcoming live service game Assassin's Creed Infinity, Bloomberg has reported.

Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, based on the movie franchise in partnership with Disney, was expected to be released this fall but is now pushed back until at least 2023, Ubisoft said.

The two setbacks leave the publisher with a weak lineup that includes just 2 potential blockbusters this fall: a Nintendo Switch exclusive in the Mario + Rabbids franchise, scheduled for October, and a pirate game called Skull & Bones that has been through a difficult development process and was delayed several times before finally landing on a release date this November.

Ubisoft shares have fallen about 4.5 per cent this year, dragged down by concerns about delayed game launches caused by the pandemic. Chief executive Yves Guillemot said working conditions in the industry are still difficult as people "can't come to the office as often". But many other video game companies have adapted to remote work and maintained productivity even as they switched to hybrid or completely virtual schedules. BLOOMBERG



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