Ubisoft Can Beat Out EA/Activision

By Colin Tan on April 26, 2011, 6:28PM EDT
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Despite their respective reputations in the gaming industry, EA and Activision have remained on top. Together, the two publishers control some of the most popular franchises in multiple genres, from Call of Duty and Mass Effect, to Command and Conquer and the reasonably popular Marvel franchise titles; many of the buzzworthy AAA titles that occur year after year are backed by these two industry titans. Staying on top means keeping a tight reign on your respective franchises, and neither EA or Activision have a sole claim to creativity in the industry. Ubisoft have let the two publishing giants know recently that they're gunning for the number one position, something achieved through power of sales alone. It's certainly a respectable boast for any developer or publisher to make, but can it ever be more than just that? Is it possible for Ubisoft to actually overtake its two major competitors and hold that coveted number one spot?

Perhaps from a mathamatical perspective I can see where there would be doubt. Activision is currently under control of one of the most successful MMO titles to ever exist, in addition to showing profits from the Starcraft and Call of Duty franchises. EA has a pretty impressive resume itself, tailing Activision on multiple fronts by taking up lead positions in the form of sports games such as Madden, RPGs like Dragon Age and alternative shooters such as the Battlefield series. At a glance, it seems like they have a pretty firm stranglehold on the industry. It's certainly not unfair to at least suggest that Ubisoft has a long way to go before they even begin to catch up. With that said, the gaming industry is one that absolutely loves new successful IPs just as much as we love seeing older games get a warm revival and Ubisoft does have a lot to offer. Just because you're not in control of the best games on the market doesn't mean that it's not possible to edge yourself in. The indy game scene has taught us all that.

It would be wrong to pretend that all of Ubisoft's 2011 lineup is something to get excited for, considering it's a list that boasts The Smurfs and the Michael Jackson experience. Those sort of titles have a for the moment appeal that may catch the eye of one or two people, but they're not exactly games we're looking to see stick around for the long haul. With that said, Assassin's Creed and Might and Magic are two series that have held their ground quite nicely over the years. With continued development and adaptation, there's no doubt that they'll continue to be huge sellers for Ubisoft. Likewise, seeing franchises like Ghost Recon, Driver and Rayman make a comeback can be seen as a sign of commitment on Ubisoft's part. Bringing back the games they were known for and pushing to keep them alive is what any big developer needs to do these days. It's important that Ubisoft learn from the criticism that surrounded Splinter Cell: Conviction and what particular direction each franchise needs to take in order to provide a more enthralling experience.

Keeping games that will draw in revenue with consistent efficiency is what will keep the development teams kicking, but the real means to become a success today lies in creating new and interesting games. In this way, more than in the existing franchises, Ubisoft has the potential to succeed in their goal; provided of course that the quality of these new titles is above and beyond our expectations. It's a tall order for sure, but it's something that the best developers and publishers have to consistently do in order to maintain our attention. Assassins Creed and Assassins Creed II are fantastic examples of a pair of games that share extremely basic design elements that are put together to create two very different experiences. As long as Ubisoft is able to take and work with this sort of positive feedback, there's little doubt that they won't be able to learn from franchise disappointments, like Splinter Cell Conviction, while at the same time providing some very engaging and memorable new IP's.

That being said, From Dust and Child of Eden look absolutely fantastic and brilliant on quite a few conceptual levels. In an industry filled with FPS titles and hybrid action-platform games, these kinds of games are a pretty welcome breath of fresh air. Assuming that Ubisoft will continue to use existing franchises to fuel this sort of creativity, I think they may really be onto something, and though it's the sort of success story that may take a few years to finally see some kind of fruition, they certainly have enough time to see it through. With EA and Activision both cultivating existing franchises, this may be the perfect time for Ubisoft to finally make a presence beyond what they're already known for.

So is it reasonable to think that this year will be the year that Ubisoft steals the limelight from Activision and EA? Probably not, but that's not a big deal. If Ubisoft is truly in for the long haul, then this is the kind of commitment we need to expect. Being the best requires dedication and commitment, year after year, to showcase the brilliant minds of your own developers and if this year is any indication of how much potential Ubisoft has at the helm, they just may get their wish. Granted, having a creative idea that falls flat due to developmental failure doesn't really help their case, but going with the assumption that most of their new IPs this year are even mildly successful, EA and Activision may just have a very real and very impressive competitor to contend with.

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