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March 4, 2024

Ubisoft Overhauls Subscription Service, Draws Criticism Over Ownership Comments

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Jan 16, 2024

Ubisoft announced a major overhaul of its subscription gaming service this week, consolidating its offerings into a new multi-tiered product called Ubisoft+ while also drawing criticism over comments related to game ownership.

Ubisoft+ Replaces Previous Services

The new Ubisoft+ service combines the company’s previous Ubisoft+ PC and Ubisoft+ Multi Access console subscriptions into a single cross-platform product. Subscribers will gain access to 100+ Ubisoft games, including new releases, for $17.99 per month.

Ubisoft is also launching a separate entry-level subscription called Ubisoft+ Classics focused solely on the publisher’s back catalog and priced at $10.99 per month. Over 50 classic games will be available via this tier initially.

According to Ubisoft’s announcement, combining services into the Ubisoft+ premium tier aims to provide flexibility and choice to players:

“Ubisoft+ offers players more choice and flexibility than ever before – whether they want early access to new releases like Assassin’s Creed Mirage, the ability to discover and enjoy games from Ubisoft’s renowned back catalog, or both.”

Transitioning existing Ubisoft+ subscribers will be automatic and seamless, while console subscribers on the previous Multi Access plan will need to manually sign up for one of the new offerings.

Ubisoft emphasized that new games will continue launching on Ubisoft+ the same day they release for purchase across platforms. This applies to upcoming major titles like Assassin’s Creed Mirage and the company’s smaller projects.

In addition to full games, subscribers will get other benefits like monthly rewards, discounts, and early trials for some releases.

Ownership Comments Spark Controversy

While the Ubisoft+ announcement itself was fairly straightforward, comments from a Ubisoft executive regarding game ownership sparked criticism and debate.

Ubisoft’s Vice President of Strategic Innovations, Philippe Boulanger, made the following notable remarks:

“More and more players are expecting unrestricted access to our games whenever and wherever they want. They understand the convenience and value in subscription services and are embracing them at an incredible rate,” said Philippe Boulanger, vice president of strategic innovations at Ubisoft.

“Additionally, players increasingly expect that even their purchased games remain dynamic and regularly updated experiences that stay both relevant and enticing over time,” Boulanger continued. “At Ubisoft, we know that subscription models represent just one way for players to access our games. We want to continue providing choice in how players obtain our games, whether that’s through one-time purchases or subscriptions.”

While discussing subscriptions, Boulanger commented that gamers need to get comfortable not actually owning the games they pay for:

“The shift is more towards subscription models, where maybe you don’t even have to own [games],” Boulanger says. “You might have to get comfortable not owning some of those games and just having access to those games whenever you want, whenever you decide to stop your subscription you don’t have access to those games anymore.”

These statements about game ownership – suggesting that consumers should perhaps expect not to truly own products they pay for – quickly became a lightning rod for criticism.

Multiple gaming and technology sites keyed in on the topic of ownership after seeing Boulanger’s quotes. Headlines included:

  • “Ubisoft Wants You To Get Used To Not Owning Games” – GameTyrant
  • “Ubisoft Subscription Boss Says Gamers Are Still Used To Owning Games” – VGC
  • “Ubisoft Exec – Gamers Need To Get Comfortable With Not Owning Your Games” – TheGamer

Reactions focused heavily on what was seen as an anti-consumer approach of pushing subscription services rather than game purchases and ownership:

“This thinking goes against what a reasonable consumer should expect as part of a healthy industry,” wrote GameTyrant. “When paying money for something, ownership of that product is implied.”

“Telling consumers they need to get comfortable with not owning products they pay for epitomizes why people are still hesitant about all-digital gaming libraries and DRM-laden services in general,” said user comments on SlashGear. “We want assurances of long-term access and real ownership rights.”

The controversy reflects ongoing debates regarding digital product ownership, preservation of access, and consumer rights related to online services. Ubisoft drawing a line suggesting customers rethink expectations of ownership sparked frustration for those seeking to maintain gaming purchases indefinitely.

Impacts on Ubisoft’s Approach

It remains to be seen whether the negative reactions will push Ubisoft to clarify or adjust its messaging and policies around game ownership. However, the company has been transitioning firmly into games-as-a-service for several years, with content roadmaps, seasonal updates, microtransactions, and other standard features of continually monetized titles.

Ubisoft is also investing heavily in free-to-play games that include streams of in-game spending rather than single-purchase options. Just months ago, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot reaffirmed his goal for the company’s revenues to be 80% recurring by focusing on “live” games.

As a result, while Ubisoft might tweak consumer communications, its underlying strategy seems unlikely to change course based on this latest controversy alone. Selling continual access instead of permanent ownership aligns with the GAAS foundations being laid across its slate of properties.

With Ubisoft+ subscriptions now positioned as a premier choice for players, an obvious next step is the publisher sunsetting older games or stopping new sales, thereby transitioning more fans to the recurring subscription model instead of individually owned purchases.

The Road Ahead

For now Ubisoft still emphasizes that buying games will remain an option for those who want it. The company is trying to strike a balance – but its vision leans strongly toward subscriptions.

It remains to be seen if other major publishers echo Ubisoft’s messaging at any point, openly suggesting consumers should recalibrate expectations around ownership of digital gaming products. For many companies the transition is already happening implicitly behind the scenes. But being upfront risks the kind of blowback Ubisoft just faced.

With subscriptions poised for rapid growth but many gamers still coveting permanent access to beloved titles, striking the right balance will be critical. Players almost universally agree that subscriptions can be an excellent value proposition – but primarily want them positioned as an alternative option rather than a replacement for true ownership.

Table 1: Key Differences – Previous Ubisoft Subscription Plans vs New Offerings

Ubisoft+ PC Ubisoft+ Multi Access Ubisoft+ Premium Ubisoft+ Classics
Launched 2019 2022 2024 2024
Price Per Month $14.99 $17.99 $17.99 $10.99
Platforms PC only Xbox, PlayStation PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Stadia, Amazon Luna PC only
Game Library Size 100+ games 50 – 100 games 100+ games 50+ games
New Releases Same day access Select titles only Same day access to all major new releases Back catalog only

Table 1 summarizes the transition from previous subscription plans to the newly announced Ubisoft+ Premium and Ubisoft+ Classics. All platforms are now covered in a unified $17.99 offering, while the back catalog value option targets PC specifically.

What Comes Next for Ubisoft Subscribers

In the short term, existing subscribers should see minimal disruption beyond rebranding and convergence of services on the back end. Pricing remains comparable and games available are generally increasing rather than decreasing during the transition.

But long term Ubisoft has now clearly signaled its intent to converting more users over from individual game ownership to ongoing subscription access for the bulk of its catalog. This will have ramifications in areas like:

  • Phasing Out Sales of Older Games – With a subscription option covering its legacy library, Ubisoft has less incentive to keep previously released games widely purchasable. As the back catalogumperhaps only available via subscription going forward.

  • Focus on Retention Features – Games operated as online services focus heavily on daily/weekly engagement, progression loops, social hooks and other mechanisms aimingd to retain players. Titles in Ubisoft+ will increasingly be designed around user retention over individual playthroughs.

  • Multiplayer Orientation – Games with recurring multiplayer activity better align with an access-over-ownership model, keeping fans participating in live ecosystems. Expect more multiplayer focus in Ubisoft+ releases.

  • In-Game Purchases – Monetization will continue expanding beyond the base subscription itself. New Ubisoft titles will be designed to encourage supplemental spending on items, battle passes, etc.

While convenient and often excellent value, subscription services do come with tradeoffs once they transition from being an alternative option to a publisher’s main delivery mechanism. Ubisoft’s messaging this week indicates it sees that transition as the future, hence the need for consumers to “get comfortable” with what it entails regarding ownership.

Managing that evolution from supplementary choice to core business model – without frustrating users who still want to own catalog favorites – will be instrumental to avoiding further backlashes down the line.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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