Ubisoft Suspends ‘1666’ Development; New Next-Gen IP & AAA Title in the Works

By | 3 years ago 

It took 3 days to put out the Great Fire of London in 1666, as the conflagration swept across the city’s center ravishing an estimated 70,000 of its 80,000 homes.

Ironically, it appears to have been a firestorm that extinguished Ubisoft‘s titular 1666.

Rumored to be set amidst the epic aforementioned blaze, Ubisoft assumed control of the mysterious project from THQ Montreal this January — following its purchase of the studio during THQ Inc.’s bankruptcy sale.  As it happens, however, 1666 is the intellectual property of former Assassin’s Creed creative director Patrice Désilets, who left Ubisoft for THQ Montreal in 2010 but found himself reunited with his old employer as part of the recent brokering.

Needless to say, the transition wasn’t smooth. Désilets was contentiously fired from Ubisoft last week — he subsequently derided the decision as “baseless and without merit” — and speaking in an earnings call earlier today, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot revealed that production of 1666 has been suspended indefinitely (GamesIndutry International sat in on the call):

“After more than two months of discussion with [Désilets], we couldn’t align our vision both on project development and team management, so consequently our collaboration has ended. We have suspended development on 1666 for an undisclosed time.”

But why indefinite suspension as opposed to, you know, permanent cancellation? According to Superannuation, Désilets’s contract with Ubisoft states that he would retain the IP rights to 1666 if the game were ever cancelled outright. Shrewdly — though cleverly — perpetual limbo grants Ubisoft perpetual possession, even after Désilets has been given his walking papers. A similar clause was written into Guillermo Del Toro’s contract with THQ for inSANE; however THQ did opt to cancel the horror title in 2012, thus ceding ownership back to Del Toro. (Along with hope of finding future buyers; [insert THQ joke here].)

With Désilets vowing last week to fight his termination from Ubisoft “vigorously” (read: legally), it’s likely the creator won’t be giving up too quickly on 1666, either. In the meantime, though, Ubisoft revealed later in the call that two unannounced game projects are in development. One is a brand new IP; the other is part of an existing AAA franchise; both are slated to release within Ubisoft’s current fiscal year (April 1, 2013 until March 31, 2014) — joining Splinter Cell: Black List, Assassin’s Creed 4: Black FlagRainbow Six: Patriots and Watch Dogs.

Ubisoft 2 New AAA Franchises in Development

Among Ubisoft’s existing franchises — those which could be classified as “AAA,” anyway (sorry, Driver) — Prince of Persia and Ghost Recon are two of the riper names without an announced sequel. Both, additionally, have been rumored as development projects over the past year; and a new Ghost Recon: Future Soldier was more or less outed last December.

According to Guillemot, the mysterious new IP, like Watch Dogs, will “capitalize” on the launch of next-generation consoles. Its identity is anyone’s guess (although the Watch Dogs reference could foreshadow an E3 unveiling), but the CEO has seen the future, and claims that Ubisoft’s next-gen offerings will “see a major leap in quality with an extraordinary level of immersion, as well as the incorporation of all of the innovations developed in recent years in online and social games, giving players the opportunity to create their own experiences and share them within their communities.”

What do you think of the future Ubisoft outlined for itself today? Should 1666 be allowed to remain with the publisher despite its travails with Patrice Désilets? Which games would you like to see Ubisoft unveil as its upcoming new projects?

Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.

Sources: GamesInustry International [via VG 24/7], Superannuation