Over the course of 10 years, nine major editions, and a 2016 feature film, Assassin’s Creed has become France-based gaming company Ubisoft’s flagship franchise, selling more than 105 million games. But the juggernaut faltered in recent years, with a buggy release of Assassin’s Creed: Unity in 2014 and sliding sales for its follow-up, Syndicate, in 2015.
Ubisoft’s response? Take a year off and come back with a reimagined product. Assassin’s Creed: Origins, which lands in October and is set in ancient Egypt, eschews the rigid narratives of previous years in favor of open-world playing, a format that allows gamers to find something new every time they play.
“The hero in our game is not the assassin, it is the world itself,” says Laurent Detoc, president of Ubisoft North and South America. “We want every player to go in and make their own story so they don’t feel like they’re playing yet another Assassin’s Creed game.”
In August, the company opened a new studio, in Stockholm, and tasked it with creating a game adaptation of James Cameron’s hit movie Avatar. Though it won’t be released for several years, Avatar will give Ubisoft a chance to do what it does best: create rich, detailed worlds with unpredictable combat. It also reflects the company’s push to develop open-world content.
Those kinds of personalized narratives will be more important in keeping players engaged as VR and AI invade the space (Ubisoft is experimenting with the technologies). “We went from trying to have editorial control to thinking about how players want to play,” Detoc says. “You change the game based on what people are doing with it.”
Milestones: In 2018, Ubisoft will release Skull & Bones, which beefs up its multiplayer offerings through open-seas battles between friends.
Challenges: Ubisoft is under pressure to use AI to tailor experiences based on how users play.