The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

The Ubisoft Rebrand

Ubisoft has changed its logo, but will it change its stripes?

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In May of this year, Ubisoft unveiled a new logo, replacing their old logo — above left — with an updated, minimalist redesign. However, the news has, in general, remained under the radar. And perhaps this is with good reason — it may be a superficial tweak after all — but one with potentially seismic implications.

Ubisoft’s blue swirl arrived in 2003, featuring most notably in its infancy on Beyond Good and Evil, and ushered in a new age of success for Ubisoft. Over the next decade, Ubisoft would go on to establish some of their games amongst the top global franchises, including the Assassin’s Creed Series, the Far Cry series, and the various Tom Clancy games, among many others.

Fast-forward to May 2017, however, and we find Ubisoft in somewhat of a rut. The last three Assassin’s Creed games — Rogue, Unity and Syndicate — performed poorly, selling well below older titles such as Assassin’s Creed III and Assassin’s Creed II, despite an increased pool of consumers.

Concerns about poor sales weren’t assuaged by critical acclaim — all three games were largely panned, holding review averages of 74, 70, and 76, respectively, on Metacritic — a decidedly mediocre set of scores in today’s climate. For Honor, one of Ubisoft’s other more recent titles also performed poorly in both reviews and sales relative to expectations.

 

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Although Ubisoft’s unilateral sales and stock prices remain high, it is fair to say that the France-based company is running low on consumer goodwill.

They faced heavy criticism for apparently mismarketing Watch Dogs, another game which reviewed very poorly after a lot of preceding hype, as well as their hyperbolic marketing, ridiculous pre-order bonuses, and employment of microtransactions, which seem transparent attempts to make some extra profit off already premium priced games.

For Honor was the most shameless example of this: Reddit user bystander007 calculated that all its DLC would cost $730 (£541.50) to purchase, or else take two and a half years of constant playing to fully unlock.

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Perhaps most frustrating, though — especially for those who genuinely enjoyed the early Assassin’s Creed games — is Ubisoft’s tendency to churn out games rapidly and with little respect for the product itself. When Assassin’s Creed: Origins releases, we will have seen ten games from the series in as many years.

Far Cry 5 will mark the seventh major instalment of the series, while Tom Clancy games are almost as abundant as they are forgotten. These are just the major releases: spin-offs, downloadable content, and in-game microtransactions are also plentiful.

This attitude was best exemplified by Ubisoft’s half-baked way of announcing Origins, Far Cry 5, The Crew 2 and South Park: The Fractured but Whole: The four were announced simultaneously in a trite statement that read: “In 2017-18 we will see the exciting returns of Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, The Crew and South Park”.

Ubisoft, though, are starting to feel the consequences of a business model which prioritises aggressive marketing and corporate greed over game design. This came to a head with Watch Dogs 2; the slightly anticipated sequel of the much-maligned Watch Dogs. The sequel reviewed reasonably well but sold fewer copies than the original, which, in a ‘grow or die’ market is catastrophic. The irony of this is that Watch Dogs 2 is actually a decent game and a huge improvement on the first, but that’s karma.

watch dogs

Watch Dogs 2 did not reach the lofty heights Ubisoft predicted. Photo: BagoGames @ Flickr

Unfortunately, Ubisoft seem to have cashed in the trust consumers once had in them, and now face the task of rebuilding it. The rebrand, then, may not be as superficial as it appears, but a statement of renewed intent and a willingness to improve.

Some early signs of progress are already being made: Assassin’s Creed: Origins has been given two years in development, whilst For Honor’s online mode has been upgraded from peer-to-peer networking to having dedicated servers.

Old habits die hard, though, and Ubisoft attracted ridicule by announcing an $800 (£589.52) ‘gold edition’ of Origins made up of mainly tat and pointless collectables in line with Ubisoft’s tradition of calling something a ‘collectible’ in the hope that it creates the illusion of future value.

Nonetheless, Ubisoft’s rebrand is one that should inspire hope rather than disdain. Although it came out with the usual corporate spiel — “The swirl and the letter O are both deliberately created to be reminiscent of hand-drawn shapes and represent our human qualities of enthusiasm, curiosity and the grain de folie that Ubisoft is known for” — it marks, at the very least, an acknowledgement that something has to change, even if that something is a simple step of detaching future titles from the errors of the past.

One might reasonably hope, then, that this detachment begets the eradication of the decisions that have landed Ubisoft at this crossroads in the first place.

Perhaps most significant is that the latest rebrand coincided with the announcement of Beyond Good and Evil II, just as the previous one coincided with the first game. Ubisoft, then, will be hoping the new logo brings a new renaissance just as it did fourteen years ago. Whilst this depends heavily on the eventual quality of Origins, Far Cry 5 and Beyond Good and Evil II, the rebrand is cause for cautious optimism. Or, at the very least, a sign that Ubisoft have finally got the message.

  • Anonymous

    I respect and recognize the attempt to produce a detailed analysis trying to correlate past results and the new branding. It’s a nice effort but I really don’t think that’s what it is… Being a Ubisoft employee (*full disclosure*), I have no information about why the new logo got released this year but I really do not think it’s correlated to some bad results / identity crisis the company is undergoing… Actually, the company has never been in a better shape. I also believe there’s several misinterpretation and incorrect information in this article.

    From the inside I can assure you Ubisoft as a company is really customer centric. Yes it does mistakes, but it also learns from it and listen to its players. This is not something new which dates from 2017 with the new logo. The company has started its transformation for the last 3 years.

    2014, release of Watch Dogs. Yes the marketing and huge amount of different editions went too far… You haven’t seen such a phenom since. The example of For Honor is a bit of a shortcut (where is the link?): “For Honor was the most shameless example of this: Reddit user bystander007 calculated that all its DLC would cost $730 (£541.50) to purchase”. If the amount above includes all cosmetic items that you really don’t need to buy to enjoy the game (those are not DLC per say). This statement surely is misleading for the reader.

    2014, Assassin’s Creed Unity. Yes the launch was a fiasco because of bugs. The company is now putting tremendous effort to polish its games and make sure this does not happen again. Ubisoft has deliberately decided to not release one in 2016 to focus on Assassin’s Creed Origins and make sure it brings something new to the franchise. The article completely overshadows the success of Black Flag released in 2013 by comparing Syndicate and later installments to the older AC3 (2012) and AC2…

    As far as BGE2 is concerned. I believe the timing chosen is really much more to counter to creeping control strategy put in place by Vivendi to take control of Ubisoft rather than to be in sync with a new logo / identity. Such an announcement gives some perspective of growth for investors.

    The article also completely forget to mention the success of online games such as Rainbow Six Siege, The Crew or The Division which illustrate a radical change in the business model.

    In short, nice attempt but off the point in my opinion.

    • Jez25

      Hi. Thanks for taking the time to read and reply to my article.

      I understand that Ubisoft may, on the inside, be a company that values its customers, that releases regular games to give people more stuff to play, and whose marketing is overzealous rather than cynically motivated by profit. However, you should understand that intention does not always translate on the level of the consumer, and, ‘from the outside’, I can assure you Ubisoft is currently not positively perceived.

      I believe the For Honor example is perfectly valid. For Honor was released shortly before the new logo, and typified Ubisoft’s more recent releases: lots of hype but ultimately lacking polish and personality, and crammed full of microtransactions. I agree the content is optional, but it is still there, and would cost the specified amount to buy. (https://www.reddit.com/r/forhonor/comments/5zuqis/logical_look_at_steel). You should also read Chris Glover’s article on microtransactions (on this website) to see why they are so despicable in a full priced game.

      Unity was indeed a fiasco, but I also highlighted the fact that Origins has been given a longer development cycle, as you rightly say, and praised Ubisoft for that, as I praised it for upgrading the For Honor servers. You are right, I didn’t highlight Black Flag, because I wanted to compare Rogue, Unity and Syndicate to the games at the series’ height. Black Flag, however, is represented on the graphs. In any case, it is also an old game (4 years) and I am talking primarily about more recent Ubisoft games.

      Your interpretation of the reason for the rebrand is really interesting, and something we should discuss further, if possible. You can find me at games@mancunion.com if this something you’re interested in doing.

      However, I am actually writing from a *cautiously* positive perspective, as I said in the article, and think the recent signs (longer development cycles, retrospective fixes to games) along with the rebrand auger well for the future. I have enjoyed many Ubisoft games and I cannot wait to play Origins, Far Cry 5 and BGE2, all of which I will be reviewing. In this sense, we probably do not differ as greatly in opinion as you think.

      Anyway, I hope this clarifies some of the issues you have with this article and please do get in touch.

    • tj maness

      I have been gaming since oh lets say 1988, my first Ubisoft games were The Division and For Honor. Both games I feel exploited their respective bases, for a couple of different reasons. Ill keep this short, Division promised these epic “expansions” but delivered stale one note game modes. Survival was the exception but nothing was done with it. For Honor its safe to say needed another year of work, connection problems, horrific balance issues, microtransactions, pretty big stuff. The consoles version isnt worth playing due to the 30fps limit and the associated issues stemming from it.

      My entire circle of friends which has dwindled over time as we get older and raise our families, but its a commonly held belief that Ubi has amazing ideas and takes somes pretty couragous risks *for honor* but the execution just gets completely fucking mangled and yalls reputation has taken a serious hit because of it. I know when Division 2 gets released it will sell a gajillion copies and I guess thats all that matters, but me and mine are going to stay a far distance and see how it all pans out, cuz frankly we all feel burned.