Ubisoft is planning a live online Assassin’s Creed game service

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Assassin’s Creed, a video game franchise set in massive worlds where each can take hundreds of hours to complete, is getting even bigger. A new project, known within Ubisoft Entertainment SA under the codename Assassin’s Creed Infinity, aims to create a massive online platform that evolves over time, according to people familiar with its development.

While previous Assassin’s Creed games were each set in specific historical settings such as Ancient Greece or Ptolemaic Egypt, Infinity will contain multiple settings with room to expand to others in the months and years following its debut, said the people, who asked not to be identified while discussing a project in development. Individual games on the platform may look and feel different, but they will all be connected.

The details surrounding the project, which have not been reported before, are constantly evolving and there are still years to go before its release. Teams have also been impacted by the #MeToo allegations that have swept the company over the past year.

A Ubisoft spokeswoman declined to discuss Infinity in detail but acknowledged its existence. Ubisoft aims to “exceed the expectations of fans who are asking for a more cohesive approach” to the series, the spokeswoman said. Regarding the allegations of sexual misconduct, she said Ubisoft investigated each allegation and took appropriate action.

Since 2007, Ubisoft has released a new game in the popular action-adventure series every year or two. Collectively, Assassin’s Creed games have sold over 155 million units, easily making it the French publisher’s biggest franchise. The plan to turn Assassin’s Creed into a so-called service game follows a trend employed by other major publishers.

Inspired by hits like fortnite and Grand Theft Auto V, these lively online platforms can keep gamers engaged for years by frequently adding new content or changing the experience dramatically. The fifth Grand Theft Auto game, which has sold over 140 million copies largely thanks to its constantly updated multiplayer mode, is approaching its eighth anniversary with releases planned for a third generation of game consoles. .

Service games generate huge revenue over time by hooking gamers and pushing them to spend money on special in-game content. GTA V helped drive shares of its publisher, Take- Two Interactive Software Inc., by 42% since the beginning of last year. During the same period, Ubisoft shares were flat. Following the announcement of Assassin’s Creed Infinity, the stock surged in intraday trading on Wednesday.

The development of an Assassin’s Creed game generally involves thousands of employees spread over a dozen Ubisoft offices, led by teams in Montreal or Quebec who alternate tasks. The Montreal team led last year Assassin’s Creed Valhallawhile Quebec ran the previous game, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

For Assassin’s Creed Infinity, this tradition will also change. In April, Ubisoft unified the Montreal and Quebec teams. Now they will collaborate on Infinity, and each will have their own creative director, but Quebec will take over the franchise. There’s been a long-running rivalry between the two studios that has turned acrimonious at times, according to people familiar with the matter, so this change may cause some headaches.

The organizational change is designed to help the franchise “evolve in a more integrated and collaborative way, less studio-centric and more focused on talent and leadership, regardless of where they are within Ubisoft,” said said the spokeswoman.

But the reorganization has upset some employees at Ubisoft, which is still reeling from last year’s cultural toll on widespread sexual misconduct allegations. Dozens of current and former employees have accused Ubisoft of fostering a culture of misconduct and abuse, leading to the ousting of studio heads and the chief creative officer.

However, some officials accused of abusive behavior remain in leadership positions after the reorganization, people familiar with the matter said. This prompted a new round of complaints on Ubisoft’s internal message board from employees unhappy with the company’s response to the allegations, according to people who read the posts, which were written in French. Bloomberg has reviewed the English translations.

Last month, the French union Solidaires Informatique said that at least three Ubisoft managers in Montreal had been accused of “harassment or toxic behavior” and that employees had reported other allegations of racism and sexism to resources. human beings “without anything being done”.

Ubisoft’s spokeswoman declined to comment on individual cases. “Any employee who had allegations and who remains with Ubisoft has had their case rigorously reviewed by a third party and either exonerated or subject to appropriate disciplinary action,” she said. . “Employees who were investigated would not remain with Ubisoft if the results of the investigations warrant termination.”

Ubisoft Montreal has seen an increase in attrition over the past two months, people familiar with the moves said. Ubisoft’s spokeswoman said the company’s turnover rate in Montreal “is in line with video game industry averages.”

Various factors have contributed to the recent departures. In addition to the #MeToo scandal and reorganization, Ubisoft faces new competition from other video game companies in Montreal. And some employees, tired of working on massive productions, balked at the idea of ​​Assassin’s Creed Infinity, which is perhaps the most ambitious yet.

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