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.
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?
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.
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.
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.