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Assassin's Creed Infinity looks to be service platform, not a game

A Battle.net for Assassin's Creed? Nothing is true, everything is permitted.

The future of Ubisoft's bestselling Assassin's Creed games took an interesting turn on Saturday. During the company's Ubisoft Forward event, it revealed that the previously-teased Assassin's Creed sequel called "Infinity" wouldn't be a standalone game but rather some kind of central hub for all of Assassin's Creed going forward.

Why does the single-player Assassin's Creed franchise need a central game launcher platform? Great question. Ubisoft's still being coy with key details, but it did refer to Infinity as a "hub" and a "platform." 

That mostly confirms that it's not a playable interactive experience, though the company did reveal that the platform would serve as the central interaction point for the series' sci-fi meta narrative that bridges the different historical periods.

In an interview with EurogamerAssassin's Creed executive producer Marc-Alexis Côté shared more relevant details. He explained that if you were to purchase one of the upcoming Assassin's Creed games announced in the same showcase (codenamed "Red" and "Hexe"), you would load into Infinity before starting your new adventure. 

Conversely, if you're already accessing Infinity (which seems slated to launch before Red  and Hexe debut) you'd see the games listed as "a new DNA memory" be able to purchase the new titles through the platform.

("A new DNA memory" refers to Assassin's Creed's aforementioned sci-fi meta narrative. In theory each historical adventure is relived through a DNA memory reconstructed through a device called The Animus.)

Côté argued that Infinity will improve the series' discoverability and accessibility. 

Assassin's Creed Infinity might let Ubisoft ship more standalone DLC

Côté's breakdown of Infinity for Eurogamer included some interesting development insights about how Ubisoft wants to manage bite-sized Assassin's Creed content. Currently, each Assassin's Creed release is followed by a number of free and premium pieces of content meant to drive more spending and expand the series' story.

Some adventures with "crossover" DLC (content packs for Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Valhalla that featured the protagonists of the other games) apparently inspired this venture. Côté described how building content for older titles involved resurrecting production pipelines and un-archiving older game development tools.

According to Côté, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot directly called him before the team archived Odyssey's dev tools to pitch the idea of DLC promoting or tied into Valhalla. That process apparently was a prologue to the creation of Infinity, which could be a hub for more updated crossover narratives.

If you step back from Côté's crossover pitches, you can see the expanded appeal for Ubisoft. What if DLC for a major Assassin's Creed game could be sold independently of the most recent title? What if a free-to-play multiplayer experience living on this hub could lure players into more premium game spending with story content? 

This vision of Infinity could definitely improve do for Ubisoft's production and business prospects. If there's one question Ubisoft has to answer to stakeholders however, it's this: will Assassin's Creed players willingly interface with such a launcher/hub product? 

Currently, playing an Assassin's Creed game means purchasing the title on a digital game store (or at retail), installing it, and clicking "play." Putting another step in that process, particularly one that's hawking more in-app spending, could be a disruptive experience.

Ubisoft's past attempts to spin-up a standalone game platform have also run afoul of a number of issues. Ubisoft Connect (formerly Ubisoft Uplay) has regularly been a source of problematic news stories ranging from issues with downloadable rights management software to the sunsetting of online services for still-played games.

There's still a lot to like about Ubisoft's pitch for the Infinity platform. As large companies struggle with the economics of shipping huge single-player games, a franchise hub that can be home to premium and free-to-play experiences could be a great step forward.

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