This just hasn't been Ubisoft's week. The French-Canadian publisher had a rough-and-tumble start of the week with a delay to both their multiplayer next-gen games, The Crew and Watch Dogs. In addition to the delays, both Rayman and Splinter Cell: Blacklist failed to meet their respective sales based on internal estimates.
GamesIndustry.biz rolled out all the negative news for Ubisoft, as one of the major players in the AAA market got hit with a one-two jab combo followed by a right hook and an uppercut for a near knockout.
The stock for Ubisoft fell a drastic 22 percent following all kinds of horrible news for the company, putting the public offering at around $2.27. This was sparked mostly by the fact that Watch Dogs and The Crew are now fiscal 2015 members. Although, from a public company's standpoint, this makes a lot of sense given that Ubisoft's fall line-up was especially crowded for 2013 and a few of their games would have been cannibalized in sales.
It's unlikely people would have bough Assassin's Creed IV and Watch Dogs within a week of each other while games like Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Need for Speed, KillZone: Shadow Fall and Dead Rising 3 were all dropping around the same time. Delaying a few heavy hitters makes complete sense as well as gives Ubisoft something to pad their first-quarter sales period with on the sheets, which otherwise would have been completely blank for as far it was set before Watch Dogs and The Crew were delayed.
While there's some sort of explanation that can be passed off on the delays for the aforementioned next-gen games from Ubisoft, there's no excuse for the poor sales of Rayman and Splinter Cell. However, there are reasonable explanations as to why both games failed.
According to CVG, both titles underperformed on the market at their release. Rayman Legends was on the receiving end of a major delay, from which it was supposed to have released earlier this year as a timed exclusive for the Wii U. However, Ubisoft felt that Rayman Legends would make more money as a multiplatform title that released simultaneously for all systems instead of just the Wii U, to which they felt wasn't a strong enough contender to carry the title during their quarter at the beginning of the year.
Nevertheless, dodging the Wii U may have helped lead to Rayman's downfall, as many Wii U owners (and potential Wii U owners) felt the game wasn't worth it so close to the release of GTA V and that if the game wasn't exclusive to the Wii U, then why bother?
Ubisoft treating the Wii U the way they treated PC gamers is not how you grow a business. The cash-in tactic backfired... badly.
As for Splinter Cell: Blacklist... well, it was OBVIOUS why this game wasn't going to move units. A lot of the fanbase had become disillusioned to the marketing tactics and realized that the game was designed to cash-in on the Call of Duty crowd. The nonsensical time-line of the story and character fused with over-the-top action and Hollywood set pieces really put die-hard fans off of Blacklist. A shame really, because it could have been a nice niche stealth title to bolster the genre, but it looks like stealth-fans will have to wait for Metal Gear Solid 5 instead.
There's still hope for Ubisoft, but they really need to button down the hatch and not try to make every game an AAA blockbuster that needs to sell five million or more units its first month out. More hard knocks and tough falls for the AAA business, I guess.