Ubisoft is only threatening itself with Assassin’s Creed this year

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Ubisoft is pulling something bold this holiday season. Instead of releasing the same title for both generations of consoles, they’ve instead opted to make two separate titles, both of which act as core releases. It sounds like a risky idea; one that could leave fans of the franchise confused and frustrated at the idea of deciding which one to pick up.

Assassin’s Creed: Rogue was formally revealed two days ago, and already it sounds more interesting than Unity. Rogue is being sold as a dark, brooding tale about an Assassin that turns his back on the Assassin Order after questioning their motives. Instead of just touching on the grey mortality surrounding both Assassins and Templars, Rogue is making that its main focus. It’s the most interesting premise Ubisoft has ever teased for an Assassin’s Creed title, supported by gameplay similar to last year’s stellar Black Flag entry.

That’s what Rogue is at face value, but its a far more important chapter for fans of the franchise. Assassin’s Creed III and Black Flag introduced us to the Kenway saga, getting us invested in a tale of Assassins in the early America. Rogue be the final chapter in this tale, wrapping up the story we’ve already invested two game’s worth of time (and money) into. It also sets up some of the events that kick off Assassin’s Creed Unity, making Rogue a far more essential piece of Assassin’s Creed lore right now.

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That makes it vastly different to any other separate Assassin’s Creed title that Ubisoft has released alongside a core chapter. This isn’t the first time Ubisoft have tried two simultaneous releases at the end of the year. Liberations, which was exclusively available on the PS Vita until earlier this year, released alongside Assassin’s Creed III. The difference then was the fact that Liberations was a tight, self-contained tale that made little to no impact on the overall story Ubisoft was crafting at the time. Rogue instead wraps up a trilogy of titles on one generation of consoles, while setting up the events that will take the series forward on new hardware. That’s a lot of narrative weight to load on a title that will only be available on two platforms.

As a result, Unity could suffer. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Unity is going to be a fantastic new start for the Assassin’s Creed franchise. It’s a clean canvas for Ubisoft to start painting on. They already began phasing out the present day aspect of the franchise with Black Flag, something fans of the franchise could not be more happy about. The majority of Assassin’s Creed players want rich, engrossing time periods that add to the fictional lore of the Assassin and Templar conflict. Unity has the opportunity to make it the centre of attention again and get the next “French” time period off to a solid start.

Despite that, you can’t call Unity the only important Assassin’s Creed release this year. In some ways, it’s actually the least important of the two, considering it’s approaching a new time period, a new protagonist and a new ear for the franchise. This makes the decision at the end of the year a little easier for those who have a choice. If you still have your old console, it makes more sense to pick up Rogue. Finish off the Kenway Saga, become acquainted with the events that lead up to Unity and then jump in at a later stage. This is even easier for those with plans to sell off their old consoles in the near future. In a nutshell, Rogue not only sounds like the better title, but also makes more sense to buy for those having to decided between it and Unity.

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So already Unity is facing sales competition from another entry into the same franchise. Normally choosing one generation or the other is a risk for a developer, since they effectively shut out a portion of their potential market. Dividing your market will definitely bring in more total sales, but it could come at the cost Unity sales. Not exactly the start Ubisoft will want for their new era of the franchise, I suspect.

Of course, that’s only if you have the choice in the first place. For those who have already sold off old consoles to help their next-gen fund, they’ll never be able to experience Rogue. The same goes for PC players, who have absolutely no way to experience the conclusion to a trilogy they’ve invested in. This group of fans could potentially miss out one of the most interesting Assassin’s Creed tales to date. They’re going to get to experience Unity from the get go, but without the narrative closure that has been missing from the past two titles. I wouldn’t be surprised if this gets more than a few fans really angry.

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Despite that though, the real problem Ubisoft is facing here comes down to raw sales. It would have probably been better if Rogue didn’t carry as much importance as it currently does. In that situation, Unity would’ve been considered by fans as the core release for this year, driving those with the choice between the two towards the next-gen offering.

Instead, Rogue is attracting more of the attention from those on the fence, which means it could steal some sales away from Unity, at least in the short term. It would be rare to find someone willing to spend well over a grand for two Assassin’s Creed titles at the end of the year, meaning most will either go with Rogue or Unity. In a way, the fact that Unity is starting things from a narrative scratch helps Rogue’s case even more. It’ll still be there for when people eventually drop their old PS3 or Xbox 360, so there’s no rush to leave Rogue behind and jump aboard immediately.

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It just seems like Ubisoft is unnecessarily fighting themselves with this decision. That’s the risk they’re running with releasing two major titles in the same year, for completely different consoles. I don’t think it has the potential to kill Assassin’s Creed, which is one of the most lucrative franchises in existence right now. I do however think Rogue is going to have a big impact on how well Unity performs financially, which could lead some to surprising decisions from Ubisoft down the line.

Last Updated: August 7, 2014

Alessandro Barbosa

You can all call me Sandy until I figure out how to edit this thing, which is probably never. Sandy not good enough? Call me xXx_J0k3R_360degreeN0Sc0pe_xXx. Also, Geoff's a bastard.

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