Game developers need to take their time


The Appalachian Online

Mike Hebert

new “Call of Duty” game is made every year. Why?

Each year a new “Call of Duty” comes out, critics take to the internet and bash its recycled gameplay and bland stories. This has an impact on sales. As National Parts Depot data shows, the series has steadily declined in sales over the last few years.

“Call of Duty” is not the only game to receive diminishing returns as a result of being annualized. “Madden” and “Assassin’s Creed” are also criticized increasingly each year for similar reasons.

Why do these companies make these games if they are just going to be lambasted each year?

Ubisoft’s Lionel Raynaud perhaps said it the best in an interview with news outlet Edge.

Raynaud said the reason they keep making “Assassin’s Creed” games is simple: “People buy them.”

This is the problem with the game industry that exists, to a lesser extent, in the movie and book industry as well. The problem is being too successful.

Being successful at making games, like being successful at making any kind of media, is measured by large sales numbers. These numbers make it possible for developers to put more money into making games. The problem comes when this is taken to an extreme.

Because of the massive success of early “Assassin’s Creed” titles, Ubisoft was able to pump mountains of money into their sequels.

This is great news.

More money can buy a better engine, better graphics and other important features.

The problem Ubisoft ran into was the timetable for release. It was simply too fast for development teams to adequately keep up with.

This shortened development time forced teams to cut corners on production more and more with each passing year because the development effort required to make a great game has increased over time.

Higher fidelity graphics are especially notorious at being very hard to keep up with, because they requires much more work from the team each year. And if your development team has the same amount of time each year to reach those marks, one can witness the results.

The pinnacle of this problem is “Assassin’s Creed: Unity,” which was released in 2014. The game had a myriad of game-breaking bugs and issues.

It took months of work for the developers to release enough patches just to make the game playable, which only hurts the most enthusiastic players that bought the game on day one.

Seeing this trend and knowing its conclusion, Ubisoft has recently said that there will be no “Assassin’s Creed” released in 2016.

Exact answers were not provided, but most industry insiders like former IGN Entertainment editor Colin Moriarty claim that declining interest and sales in the game series are what led to the decision.

Other game publishers can learn a lot from Ubisoft.

Slowing game production can allow developers to really perfect the game that they want to make, ultimately improving trust in the brand and more importantly, making a better game for consumers.

Those publishers don’t have to take Ubisoft’s word for slowing game production either. They have examples of success using this method of game development all around them.

“Grand Theft Auto V” is one of those examples.

It had a very long development cycle at about five years, but it quickly became one of the best-selling video games of all time, making just over $800 million in the first day of launch.

Compare that to “Star Wars: Episode VII’s” opening three days where the film made $247.9 million. Publishers can see the benefit of taking their time.

Ubisoft’s decision to slow the production of “Assassin’s Creed” will undoubtedly improve game sales and trust in their company. Here’s hoping other publishers follow suit.


Hebert, a junior journalism major from Greensboro, is an A&E reporter.