Earlier this year, a line of Assassin's Creed Mega Bloks toys was announced, and now we've heard a little bit more about what this move means for the future of the series. Speaking at the GameON Finance Conference last week, Ubisoft international brand manager Yannick Spagna suggested that the company intends to introduce younger audiences to the the M-rated franchise.
"I think now the idea is to reach a maximum of people, so it's not about needing advertisement to get additional revenue," Spagna stated, going on to say, "We are looking for a new audience: kids, children, it's more like that."
However, this doesn't necessarily mean that the mainline Assassin's Creed series is set for a child-friendly makeover. Spagna is talking about the brand being made more enticing to children, specifically through ventures like the Mega Bloks toys — central to this, you would imagine, is the upcoming film adaptation set to star Michael Fassbender.
Given that Spagna works closest with the Splinter Cell series, it's easy to see where these aspirations of cross-media exposure come from. The Tom Clancy license has been very lucratively translated from novels to video games; now it seems that Ubisoft want to reverse the process, reaping the benefits of having their IP go multimedia rather than adapt someone else's property.
There's an obvious wisdom behind making sure that Assassin's Creed appeals to as broad an audience as possible, but it will need to be done with some finesse. The recently released Unity has been met with a rather tepid critical response, and the very fact that it released alongside Rogue has raised some concerns that Ubisoft might be spreading the franchise a little too thin.
A lack of one particular focus has been a somewhat central problem for Assassin's Creed from the beginning; it wants to be historical fiction but it also wants to be sci-fi, it wants to have a focus on story but it also wants to have a huge variety of different gameplay components — and more recently, it wants to be a fully-priced retail release but it also wants to capitalize on microtransactions.
This duality comes up once again when you consider that Ubisoft are talking about strategies to interest children in an M-rated series that is fundamentally built around violently murdering people. Spagna uses the LEGO games as a frame of reference, but it's difficult to imagine even a spinoff managing a similar tone convincingly.
It certainly seems to be a make-or-break time for Assassin's Creed; either we'll see the franchise tap into the mainstream more successfully than ever before, or these attempts at broadening the appeal of the series will have quite the opposite effect. As of now, it's still one of the biggest franchises in modern gaming — the question is, will that have changed by this time next year?
Assassin's Creed: Unity and Assassin's Creed: Rogue are available now.