Why Do Ubisoft Games Lose So Many Players?

editorials by Sean Halliday

Ubisoft has released three multiplayer focused games in as many years. This is not news or that surprising. Nearly every big name in the industry has at least one title that focuses purely on multiplayer. If successful, a good multiplayer title can support a company for years to come. Ubisoft has run into one issue across all of their multiplayer focused games.

 

Player Power

For Honor earned praise for its take on multiplayer skill-based combat. Departing from the twitching shooting, gun totting, ways of most other games, Ubisoft Montreal went back to basics. Going toe to toe with various historical warriors had the gaming world’s curiosity.  The problem is, after the game’s release, active player numbers dropped by over half.

Ubisoft knows this feeling all too well in recent years. The Division enjoyed widespread success but lost 94% of the player base within three months. Heck, even Rainbow Six: Siege struggled to maintain player numbers, falling as low as hitting a daily player count of around 10,000. But why? Is this just a coincidence? Factors such as release dates, world events and quality of the game could all be counted. But what if it’s something to do with Ubisoft?

 

Lagging Launch

All three games have two things in common. Lack of content and unstable servers. Putting aside personal feelings on each respective game, they’ve all suffered from those two issues. Rainbow Six: Siege launched with a handful of maps and only two modes, one of which was a copy and paste job with bad AI. The Divison’s story missions were few and far between, with side content repeating itself time after time.

Smaller quality of life updates did not fill the void.

For Honor can at least boast an 8-hour campaign, but the amount of modes and maps in multiplayer is still rather thin. As video game players, content is what keeps us playing. Great games don’t rely on just simply being good, they expanded and become deeper. Ubisoft struggle with this, instead offering the promise of content down the line.

Both Rainbow Six: Siege and The Divison were drip fed content, leaving long gaps of nothing. Although both games are far from ‘bad’, the modern consumer values their time. We live in a world where new games and experiences are a click away. The competition for our attention has never been more fierce. In the case of The Division, the end game was lacking, struggling to appease longtime players. It didn’t help that the lack of content coincided with the release of Blizzard’s Overwatch.

 

Best Laid Plans

Ubisoft is not known for their fantastic online stability. Their servers tend to rank low with others, often citing frustration with lagg and being unreliable. This was and still is, especially true with Rainbow Six: Siege. Although the issue has improved significantly since the release, frustrations still remain over high pings and regular down times.

The Division suffered similar issues, with lagg spikes affecting Dark Zone players and disconnections rearing their heads every so often. Ubisoft did their best to remedy the issues, and have since calmed things down, but that rough period dented the game’s image early on.

For Honor’s Peer-to-Peer nature has all but poisoned the game’s legacy. All of the problems peer-to-peer is famed for has taken centre stage in a game all about reactions and player input. A second of lagg can result in a cheap death. Players can rage quit if defeat is near, forcing everyone else out of the match. Disconnections, like most Ubisoft multiplayer titles, have also been an issue.

 

Rescue Mission

Player number drops are natural, this cannot be denied. People naturally move from game to game, following the crowd and their friends. Ubisoft title’s steep drops don’t always spell the end. Large content drops and improvements to services have seen some of their games recover somewhat, or explode in popularity. The Division welcomed growth after its larger updates were released. Press coverage, tied with server improvements, gave the game a second lease of life, a fact celebrated by Ubisoft.

Rainbow Six: Siege is a much happier tale. After listening to its community via Reddit, the game has been vastly improved. Connectivity is improved greatly, content expanded and quality of life features added. In short, Ubisoft has done a great job of saving the game. As such, the player numbers have increased greatly.

 

 It’s A Hard Life

Perhaps the most underrepresented point in For Honor’s player drop is the nature of the game. Put simply, it’s a hard to master. On the surface, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s similar to a hack-and-slash title. Truthfully, For Honor is closer to a technical fighting game. Learning the combos, engages, set-ups and counters are key to good play. The study time required is not to everyone’s liking.Player numbers would naturally lower as people decide if the game is or isn’t for them.

The same is true of both Rainbow Six: Siege and The Division. Both titles had oddly misleading marketing campaigns, leading a fair amount of people to go into both games with the wrong expectations.

 

Too Little, Too Soon

When taking a step back and looking at all three games from afar, it’s clear to see they weren’t quite ready for release. Even though all three had numerous beta tests, they all launched in messy states. Ubisoft is seemingly their own worst enemies, forcing out games to hit release dates. They did it before and they will most likely do it again.

If they were to take some more time fine tuning their games, giving them genuine Beta’s rather than a demo by another name, maybe things could improve. At the moment, their multiplayer focused efforts have all met struggles which have cost them in some shape or form. Be it declining player numbers or negative feelings from their customer, it could all have been avoided. Rainbow Six: Siege is heading in the right direction, The Divison is seemingly winding down, but For Honor still remains a curious mystery.  Will Ubisoft learn from their mistakes? As consumers, and video game fans, we can only hope.

 

About the Author

Sean Halliday

Bargain bin version of Henry Rollins. Ex-Byker Grove cast member, former member of Ant & Dec

Article Discussion

    • Thank you very much! It’s been awesome seeing Siege grow. THere’s a bunch of articles on here by myself. I was worried the game would crash and burn due to the early issues, byt Ubi’s done a top job of fixing and rebuilding. Hoping Years 2 is more progress

  • @Sean Halliday

    This is not a bad article and honestly you are exploring an angle that may be something compelling. However you are making a statement about Ubisoft multiplayer without giving it the proper comparison. This article doesn’t really say anything without comparing Ubisoft to their peers in the industry. It likely wouldn’t do you any good to compare most Ubisoft multiplayer with Battlefield and COD given their popularity and devout users.

    Just saying Ubisoft multiplayer games lose players without comparing it to other games of a similar class doesn’t give your point of view much credibility. You are simply proclaiming Ubisoft stinks at player retention without establishing what the industry standard player retention is.

    I am not suggesting this article doesn’t have a good premise I just don’t think you did enough due diligence to make claims about Ubisoft that aren’t backed up with hard figures.

    • Hey Darth, thanks for reading!

      Let’s clear this up –

      ‘You are simply proclaiming Ubisoft stinks’ That’s simply false. I’m not proclaiming that in fact in the case of Siege I say the complete opposite.

      ‘It likely wouldn’t do you any good to compare most Ubisoft multiplayer with Battlefield and COD’ I’m not sure why you chose these two games. I sourced links on these two games to sure that dropping players is natural and affects big titles, but Ubisoft tends to fall sharper than most regardless of having season passes and long term goals i.e The division.

      ‘devout users.’ – Every game has devout users, if we want to play this up we could quite easily stick to staples of the industry, which would then be labeled as unfair examples.

      ‘Just saying Ubisoft multiplayer games lose players without comparing it to other games of a similar class doesn’t give your point of view much credibility.’ This kinda frustrates me when you say this. I understand your point, but you seem to be overlooking the topic. Unlike most multiplayer games, Ubisoft launches theirs with multiple ‘betas’ in which nothing is ever changed when it comes to the final release. The topic was looking at how Ubisoft don’t seem to quite understand the problems with their launch approach. I’ll highlight Siege again, lack of content, poor servers, technical issues. It too had a number of betas. The Division, again had a number of betas, launched with tech issues and server problems. For Honor, betas and still has all the issues people pointed out during said betas.

      This isn’t, and never claims, to be about Ubisoft losing players while every other game maintains. This is about how the rough and rushed nature of Ubisoft games always comes to bite them on the arse in some form. The Division on PC is a whole different kettle of broke fish, but that’s another story all together. For Honor is a good game plagued with peer-to-peer issues that could have, should have, been sorted before release. Siege is the perfect example of a Ubisoft launch, only this time they reacted to user feedback. If i was to sit here and compare Ubisoft to every other major player in the industry, you’d get a boring checklist and a whole lot of questions over annual games (sports games mostly). I understand your points, but i can whole heartily say that this was only ever about repeating trends from Ubisoft that all fall back onto one key element – They release games when they are not ready.

  • Your article is quite right. Ubisoft is just a parent company that markets and distributes games of a certain calibre created by small game devs. I learned this most recently from Star Trek Bridge Crew, a wildly successful vr game from launch… Red storm really put together a great vr social game with bridge crew. It has tremendous potential. But as usual Ubisoft is not giving the money or go ahead to add more content and the player base is already dropping less than 3 months since launch… Its remarkable to watch how almoat deliberate this seems to be! I witnessed this kind of thing in television production once… A shady production company would film a cheap demo to pitch to bigger companies for a pilot. Once the pilot was approved and they got funding theyd film the show as cheaply as possible keeping most of the pilot money and when the show tanked theyd move on to make another crappy pilot and pocket the investment cash… It seems ubisoft creates the best shell of a game and sells it for initial payout then lets the game crash as they have no real care for the product. Its sad.

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