After a relatively lukewarm (albeit still positive) response to Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, industry insiders were beginning to wonder whether or not Ubisoft’s choice to annualize the Assassin’s Creed franchise was starting to negatively impact player interest. The publisher even started tempering expectations for their next installment, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, which some analysts expected to be a tipping point – given that longtime fans might have reached franchise fatigue. Yet, reviews for the game were mostly positive (read our own Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag review), thanks to a likable protagonist, extremely engaging ship combat, and much-needed gameplay refinements, not to mention a clever meta-narrative about game development, causing gamers who might initially have passed-up the sequel to give it another look. Ubisoft’s decision to delay their other open-world title Watch_Dogs, probably didn’t hurt either.
Nevertheless, while the publisher is aware of franchise burnout, it doesn’t sound as though it has any intention of slowing down on Assassin’s Creed series entries. In fact, Ubisoft could deliver not just one, but two separate games in the series next year – one for the current generation (PS3 and Xbox 360) as well as the next generation (PS4 and Xbox One).
Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time that two Assassin’s Creed games were released in the same twelve months – given that the series is available on mobile devices and, just last year, the studio released an entirely separate open-world spin-off Assassin’s Creed: Liberation (soon to be available as a Sony-excluisve HD remake) for the PS Vita. As a result, some gamers might think that Ubisoft is set to deliver a full Assassin’s Creed 5, along with a smaller spin-off title. Yet, according to a source at Examiner, the two rumored 2014 titles would both be full games – presumably developed for the purposes of delivering the best Assassin’s Creed experience possible relative to the two generations of available hardware.
Here’s are specifics from the Examiner report:
- Ubisoft Sofia producer Momchil Valentinov Gindyanov says that multiple Assassin’s Creed titles are “definitely a possibility” – in a category that does not include “portable” games (Vita, mobile, etc).
- Two Assassin’s Creed titles are planned for 2014 – one next-gen (PS4 and Xbox One) exclusive, one running on last-generation hardware (PS3 and Xbox 360).
- According to their source, the series is also facing “a massive re-scope.”
It’s hard to know exactly what Ubisoft has planned – especially since they have previously acknowledged that there’s a fine line between annualized Assassin’s Creed titles and flooding the market with franchise tie-ins. Ever since Black Flag was first released, rumors have circulated that the publisher could be planning a pirate-themed spinoff (possibly following the ongoing adventures of Edward Kenway) but, at this point, there’s no concrete evidence to suggest that Assassin’s Creed 5 and a Black Flag spin-off will be those two 2014 Assassin’s Creed titles. After all, we still haven’t figured out what the studio might be teasing with all the Assassin’s Creed: Rising Phoenix easter eggs in Black Flag.
The key to unlocking Ubisoft’s plan could lie in that “massive re-scope” comment. While Black Flag is pretty similar on both the current and next-gen hardware, 2014 will bring a huge list of highly anticipated titles designed to push the boundaries of multiplayer, persistent online experiences, and other fresh ideas. As a result, the “re-scope” and subsequent separate games for PS3 and Xbox 360 vs. PS4 and Xbox One might mean that the developer intends to make some major changes to the series that cannot be accomplished on seven year-old hardware. After all, Ubisoft’s The Division is set to shake-up the next-gen marketplace with revolutionary single player and multiplayer interconnectivity – is it possible that the publisher intends to bring a similar approach to future Assassin’s Creed gamers? After all, executives at the studio have already stated that another game that’s blurring the lines between campaign and online play, Watch_Dogs, is helping to pave the way for Assassin’s Creed 5.
Still, two games on two separate generations of hardware is a complicated move for the studio, given that many of the series’ biggest fans will want to play both titles (since the larger story is extremely engrained in each entry) – and might have traded-in their PS3 or Xbox 360 in the jump to the next-gen. Considering neither the PS4 or Xbox One are backwards compatible, the publisher definitely runs the risk of segmenting their base – and limiting the amount of people playing either game. Even if, together, more people are playing the series overall, the cost of making two separate games would be hard to offset.
Or course, the report is little more than rumor at this point, a fact that the Examiner is quick to point out in their own post – so it’s very possible that some element of their breakdown has been lost in translation. Maybe the studio is developing a single Assassin’s Creed game for release in 2014 that will have significant variations depending on the hardware – with some especially ambitious features (such as an expansive multiplayer world) exclusive to the next-gen versions? Or, maybe not.
Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag is available now for PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
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