Article originally published on LinkedIn by Daniel Camilo - International BD for Chinese Gaming publisher APPTUTTi.
Years from now, if looking back at the eighth generation of gaming, people will probably remember it mostly as the generation of Battle Royale, games-as-a-service, and open-world saturation. Lo and behold, during this non-E3 event, Ubisoft decided to hit hard on precisely those 3 trends. Arguably, fading trends.
Ubisoft Forward was, in my opinion, a display of generic ideas and concepts that have been exploited to the point of exhaustion during the last few years. Ultimately, I believe, it also showed us two big upcoming flops: Watchdogs Legion, and Hyper Scape.
Hyper Scape - Execs at Ubisoft still think Battle Royale is a thing worth pursuing..
It’s perplexing to see a game like Hyper Scape being revealed in the middle of 2020, and by such a resourceful company like Ubisoft. What we have here is yet another Battle Royale game, that on top of that is trying SO HARD to look cool with the kind of multi-layered gameplay you would expect from character-focused shooters like Overwatch, plus riding the sci-fi bandwagon hype that so many other (lesser) companies have been trying to get on board to ride those Cyberpunk 2077 winds. I know, reading that was exhausting, but that is exactly the feeling I got from Hyper Scape’s trailer, and most of Ubisoft’s presentation really.
I just don’t see the market for Hyper Scape still being there. At least not on the scale that Ubisoft is probably expecting. The whole “this-is-not-a-just-kills-matter-shooter” wave of this generation is beyond saturated with titles like PUBG, Fortnite, Apex Legends, LawBreakers (lol, sorry not sorry), and even more recently, Bleeding Edge from Microsoft and Valorant from Riot. Which, by the way, has been very tepidly received, I would say. Even if Riot is doing everything they can to pretend as if it’s a big new cultural phenomenon. It’s not. Stop it Riot!
Lastly, this would be another game with ambitions to be a games-as-a-service. Sigh. Again, the market is saturated. Clearly the model has been working well for Ubisoft for some of its franchises, like Rainbow Siege, Ghost Recon and The Division, but the market has its limits. I predict Hyper Scape will come face to face with those “limits” very quickly after launch. Dead-on-arrival comes to mind.
Lastly what I would say about Hyper Scape is that it stinks of Brink. ‘Member that one, from Bethesda back in 2011? Take that obscure reference as you will...
Watch Dogs Legion - What is this game?
That is perhaps the question that a lot of gamers may be left with after watching the available promotional trailers. And judging from those, even Ubisoft’s marketing isn’t sure. Watch Dogs Legion is trying to mix so many concepts and ideas together, that it all becomes a big blurry generic mess lacking any focus. In the event, Ubisoft revealed an 8 minute-long trailer. After watching it, I was puzzled, and baffled. Also, I was mentally exhausted. So much happening on screen for so long, and yet, I knew little more about the game after that than I did before watching it. The tone is all over the place, from the narrator, to the action on screen, the music used, the tutorial segments (seriously?!), to the typical glossy-looking graphics that have permeated every single open-world Ubisoft game this generation and makes them all look so generic in a way...uff, I’m exhausted again.
Watch Dogs as an IP has been stuck in a conflicting identity crisis since the first game. The original one ended up selling very well, mostly because of all the “nex-gen hype” as a launch title for the Xbox One and PS4 (although also released for the previous gen of consoles) following “that” infamous 2012 E3 trailer . While lifetime sales for the title turned out to be good - more than 10M copies sold - critical reception and consumer perception were not great. The sequel tried to reinvent the series, shifting the tone completely, and now the third game is doing it again...and trying to be Saints Row?!
I’ll say it as clearly as I can: Watch Dogs Legion will flop. Sure, with the backing of Ubisoft’s PR and marketing it might still sell 2 to 3 million copies easily at least. But it will still be a flop and won’t make any lasting impact. Ubisoft’s marketing has not been able to translate what this game is and who it is targeting. Most people are either indifferent towards the game, or confused as to what it is. That is a huge problem. Maybe I’m wrong. We’ll see.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Far Cry 6 - a step back?
Not to completely ignore the rest of the announcements made at the event, I must say I don’t feel the hype for Valhalla being as strong as Ubisoft would probably hoping. After revealing 30 minutes of gameplay, one would expect to see a lot of discussion online, gifs flying around on social media and so on. I just don’t see much.
Granted, Assassin’s Creed is Assassin’s Creed, but after the two highs that Origins and Odyssey represented, I feel like the IP is turning back down into the low levels of excitement from the Unity and Syndicate days. Still, Valhalla will have the benefit of being a cross-gen game, so that might turn up the hype for it among some consumers, although that might be a double-edged sword: if the next-gen/”optimized” version of the game is not significantly better (it won’t be), that could bring in some bad PR for the game.
As for Far Cry 6, we didn’t see enough of the game. From what we’ve seen though, it really reminds me of the two first Just Cause games. And that’s not a good thing. And before we start speculating about how different this game will be from previous ones in the series, it won’t. Let’s be real. We know it won’t. Same old same open-world action stuff as before. Which is not necessarily a bad thing...but again, it feels dated and overdone.
And no, I will not write about Elite Squad, because reasons.