Ubisoft's financials for the full 2023 fiscal year are out, and it's a land of contrasts. For the most part, the French publisher saw declines in several key areas, even as its top franchises continue to show growth in their user bases.
Its net bookings hit €1.739 million (or $1.890 million), a yearly decline of 18 percent. Digital revenues were also down by 10 percent (for €1.485 million), and its previously celebrated back catalog by 30 percent (€1.004 million). Likewise, it operated at a loss of €500.2 million, down 28 percent versus the last year's €407.6 million.
Both digital and back catalog were sizable contributors to this year's net bookings by a respective 85 and 58 percent. The latter was previously celebrated during Ubisoft's second quarter for the year, but it appears those earlier titles could only do so much for the company's bottom line.
CEO Yves Guillemot admitted the numbers were in line with readjusted projections for the fiscal year. Though he acknowledged that Ubisoft had a "challenging year," he called it "pivotal" ahead of a cost reduction plan, "strategic focus on our biggest opportunities...and additional development time for our strong pipeline of content."
That cost reduction plan, according to CFO, Frédérick Duguet, will equate to 200 million euros ($217.3 million) over the next two years. Layoffs will be part of that reduction, as he said that Ubisoft's worldwide staff now comes to "below 20,000" employees.
Part of that "strategic focus" will be on Assassin's Creed. Guillemot revealed that the number of employees for the action-stealth franchise is planned to grow by 40 percent in the next few years, presumably ahead of Assassin's Creed Infinity and future projects currently codenamed Red and Hexe.
As far as its 2023-2024 lineup is concerned, he mentioned that development was "progressing well." Big releases for the period include Assassin's Creed Mirage, Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora, and eventually Skull & Bones. He added that these titles, and an unannounced "large game," would appear at June's Ubisoft Forward event.
Ubisoft continues to grow players even as its profits stumble
Player investment was the sole area where Ubisoft saw growth. The number of recurring players across all its games went up by 23 percent for a total of €1.002 million, and several key properties saw a rise in engagement.
The Assassin's Creed series saw a record high for active users: Assassin's Creed Valhalla enjoyed a 44 percent increase in players compared to previous releases, Assassin's Creed Origins and Assassin's Creed Odyssey. Net bookings for Valhalla in relation to those two titles were up by 82 and 61 percent, respectively.
Meanwhile, Rainbow Six Siege's play time grew by 30 percent in Ubisoft's fourth quarter versus the previous year. The Division 2 had "strong" engagement, with net bookings up by 36 percent over the 12-month period.
One of the more recent Ubisoft titles is xDefiant, a free-to-play multiplayer shooter that's hit over 1 million players since its closed beta in April. Talking about the larger free-to-play market, Guillemot said the beta's success offered "the first visible signs that we are on the right path to bring our brands to significantly larger audiences."
"While it is still early...we are making visible iterative progress on which we can build the next steps toward ultimately delivering a breakthrough in this major market.”