Over the last few years, you have published and developed some really good games, but in your quest for market share, you have really messed up.
There are some real gems that you have published as the iL2 Sturmovik series, Prince of Persia, and the Splinter Cell series. Some games leave much to be desired and others fall in between. Others, such as Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear, Ghost Recon, Far Cry, Rayman and Myst are fan favorites all for different reasons. Some of the listed titles are PC only while others are console only while others are found on a combination of all platforms.
Some of the titles you publish are those which you have developed yourself as with the Splinter Cell series. Others are developed by development studios that you bought as in the Rainbow Six franchise along with Ghost Recon. Yet others are developed by studios that are still independent such as 1C Maddox's iL2 series. While I can't vouch for how popular Rayman, Prince of Persia, or even Myst is, I can tell you that the "simulation" genres that you publish are a mixed bag. One series, you allowed the devs to support the game and even allowed for tons of free content for a PC game. You allowed them pretty much free reign to support their product and as such, have a rabid following in a genre where few devs venture. The iL2 series is a hit.
Of the games that are a mixed bag that I know of is the Silent Hunter series. You published Silent Hunter II and Destoryer Command and had a small hit, but only supported it for 1 patch for each that allowed for interoperability between the two and fix a few problems, but not enough. One saving grace is you gave a group of modders the source code to help fix more of the major problems which also allowed for mods to be made and prolong the life of the game. Yes, there were still some bugs in the game and no offical support from Ubi. SHII was enough to show y'all that a naval game could be a profitable enterprise and put up money for a Silent Hunter III that has become really popular and has even won at least one award from a prominent gaming magazine with it's Editor's Choice award. Still, SHIII needs work and has a fourth patch in the works, but at least the effort is being made to fix it, so far. There was even some dev feedback, even if in IRC chats.
The Silent Hunter and Il2 series appeal to a very small group of people and can only be found on one platform and yet they are very popular.
Another game of mixed results is the Rainbow Six series. The original Rainbow Six won awards and was followed up by a decent sequel that added to it. The gameplay stayed the same, while the AI was tweaked, graphics polished up (pretty nice for the time too) and other game types added along with mod support. You bought the studio as they were developing Ghost Recon and it appears that you let them do their thing as you learned about Rainbow Six by using their engine to build Rainbow Six: Black Thorn. The games were successful for both RSE and Ubi with Ghost Recon winning multiple awards. Support was decent, feedback from devs was there in the beginning while GR was taking shape and for a while after the game was released. There was enough interest in GR that not one but 2 expansion packs were developed and released along with mod support for the entire PC series. It was even released on consoles and was a hit there including free content for the XBox version and an expansion pack. RSE
was able to fix most of the bugs with one patch for each new game or mission pack. While there were some things that needed addressing and yes we knew it, the games played really well and people loved them for what they were.
It was during that time that Rainbow Six: Raven Shield was also developed by a Ubi development studio in Montreal using a different engine for the new version. Some people welcomed it, some didn't. It was finally released after telling people during the developement stage that they would keep it true to the series, yet make it more accessible for more people. They released an MP demo for it and had to patch it as it was buggy. They even released a seperate SP demo. Now why could they not release one demo featuring both MP and SP games on the same map? RSE was able to do it with their engine, heck, I played the GR
demo online for 12 hours. One big thing I noticed was the lack of direct IP support for games and no chat window for between round chats that many of us liked. We had plenty of laughs during that time but that went out the window with a timer that automatically started the next round. I heard that it could be disabled, but I never saw a way. That certainly did not remain true to it's roots. One thing that also made it into the game was a request by who I call the run and gun crowd to include a first person weapon view. OK, as long as it could be toggled off. It could be, yet when I went to try a MP server, I was forced to use it. So much for being an option. I was told by my friends to host my own game. I tried, but don't like going through a matchmaker service and it was a total fiasco. I could put up a
server, with my firewall allowing the game to access the internet and act as a server, no one could join my server so I was left in a game by myself running around without anything to shoot at (not even tangos) and to make matters worse, with no sound. The game had bugs, lots of bugs and had six patches released, good support so it seems, but each patch made something worse than the previous patch. No SDK was released so no mods (did anyone actually
get any made with anything avaiable elsewhere?). The community was amazed when the sixth patch was released as it was originally reported by Ubi that it wouldn't. Support for Ubi games starts to waver. Fans are starting to get upset at Ubi. There are still bugs in Raven Shield and Athena Sword from what I gather on forums I read.
The following year, a new XBox game, a sequel, was shown at E3, the Electronic Entertaiment Expo, in the Ubisoft booth. It was even previewed by a PC gaming magazine whose editor ****ged it. Some people liked it, while others, didn't like what they saw. One of the biggest departures was from a squad based game that allowed the player to control any member of the team they wanted, they now had control of only one "hero" character and gameplay seemed to be speeded up and much more linear. Ubi, you wanted the average gamer to be able to play. While I can't say if it was or not as I don't own any now last generation console, I go by what I have read in forums. There was a split in the console community and not just over gameplay, but there were actually 2 different versions of the same game, set years apart. One game was junk and no one liked it while the other had mixed reactions once it was released. While still a popular XBox Live title, others are going back to the first game as they liked the way it played. Now this was supposed to be a multi-platform release, but it was canceled for one of them with Ubi stating that it wasn't what the fanbase wanted. There has been support for it with some free content and a patch (though the patch messed up something and people want to have it changed back).
There is a game that now has a fouth sequel coming out. The latest game in the Rainbow Six franchise also has the "more accessible to the average gamer" mentality behind it even though it has returned to the development house (most of it, but other parts are being produced elsewhere) where is started. The game has gone from using a team to manage hostage rescues to a one character grab the bad guy game it seems. I haven't followed Lockdown's development closely, but have seen negative comments about it in the offical forums.
Does anyone notice where I am going? If not, I will explain later.
Now we get to Ghost Recon 3. It to is a multi-platform sequel. Again it was shown at E3 and this year, it wasn't even a playable demo, just a CGI render for a platform that doesn't even exist in a playable state. Why not show something for a platform that is readily available right now, like a PC? To top it off, there are three different companies now working on this one game. One, a relatively unknown company using an engine of their own. Now gamers have been told that it will return to it's classic gameplay even though it will still feature a 4 man team. The version shown has many attributes as Ghost Recon 2 so far, as it will feature more action (run and gun) than the PC game so we are told, but without seeing any PC information, no one knows for sure and has thus raised eyebrows yet again as
similarities between the two start to become apparent. Thus complaints abound yet again. Are gamers to expect a repeat of what befell them with Ghost Recon 2? Many PC gamers feel that way and want to see specific information on it, yet, none is forthcoming and may step away from the franchise completely.
What do Rainbow Six, Rogue Spear, iL2 Sturmovik. Forgotten Battles, Pacific Fighters, Silent Hunter III, Ghost Recon, Desert Siege, and Island Thunder all have in common? They are all award winners (or part of an award winning franchise) that appealed to a small number of gamers and were really good games. The fact is, more people are looking for games that doesn't feature dumbed down gameplay. They don't want run and gun games and that includes
console gamers, not just PC gamers.
Raven Shield, Athena Sword, Ghost Recon 2, share the distintion of appealing to the masses, but not being an award winner. Some people liked them, but many more didn't. People have either moved on to a different publishers games or gone back to the older, award winning games. What does that say to a company that had 20% of it's stock bought buy a rival publisher in December of 2004?
Fargo at GameSpy asks this:
I am inclined to say yes right now. With the dumbing down of some games, people are complaining.Should gamers like us be worried? I would: EA cranks out terrific titles, but
creative industries thrive on competition. We would see less innovation and risk-taking in the games space if all the competition was swallowed up.
In the Game maker Ubisoft fights back article on BBC News Online, you state:
along with:"We know those guys are around," he said, referring to the EA interest.
How, when you cancel games outright like Harpoon 4, Ghost Recon 2 for PC and there was one more that you canceled that was a console game a couple of years ago, can you please stockholders when you do so? There has been uproar every time you did so from gamers, what about your backers?"We prefer by far to remain independent as we will be able to double our value in the next two years as we will double our effort," said Mr Guillemot. "The profits of the company will grow fast because the products are selling well and
generating lots of revenue."
Now I know that you have many different games filling many different genres, but those who buy games from you may quit altogether for multiple genres for multiple platforms and have their friends to stop too if you can't produce a quality product. Would you rather people saying positive things about your company or something negative. Your own forums are filled with people complaining and whining about how you treat them, a costomer, some of them long time costomers, or have completely messed up a game. Is that how you really want to do business? Do you want to be compared to EA much less be completely bought up by them?
Take a look in your forums, The Ghost Recon 3 forums have a few posters in it that contribute one way or another, but the number is an eighth of what it was when GR was in it's heydey. The SHIII forums are rocking as GR's were even last year. The Raven Shield forums for all intents and purposes are dead. Even the Splinter Cell forums are on the quiet side though there are some pretty active posters.
Was it your intent on running a top development house into the ground, one that worked hard to build a solid reputation as someone who cared about the games they produced just for you to make a few bucks?
Why not leave RSE to it's own accord and develop games for the average gamer with a different studio? You have done so with other studios and have reaped the benefits from it. Increase the size of their staff so they can keep development of their franchises in house.
Now I don't know much about GRIN, nor do many others it seems, but it would really be smart if you take the muzzles off of them so they can at least show some of what they are doing and answer a few questions. Many feel as they are getting the same old, same old and that alone could hurt your's and their bottom line along with your stockholders if it doesn't meet expectations and you have to cancel a 4th game. It would most likely open the door to an EA buyout.
Ubi, it is time to wake up and smell the coffee. People want quality games and games that aren't clones of the hundreds of other games out there.
I am gonna wait to see what GR3 brings us, but right now, from my vantage point, it does not look good. Prove me and the rest of us wrong.