Ubisoft is committed to making a new Assassin's Creed game every year and is determined not to see the series collapse from franchise fatigue. How?
"We are making sure the teams who are creating the different iterations have enough time—two years, three years, so that they can take risk and they can change the concept enough so that it can be appealing and fresh," Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot told me this week during E3.
He said Ubisoft currently has three Assassin's Creed games in development. He didn't say anything about them, but it's easy to make some safe guesses. Presumably the count of three refers to 1) this year's game, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, 2) next year's game (Assassin's Creed V? Assassin's Creed Brotherhood II?), which should be well into development now and, 3) unless he was referring to a mobile spin-off or something, 2015's Assassin's Creed.
Guillemot: "Our job is to make sure the teams have enough power, enough energy and enough time to take the necessary steps to create a high quality game."
"Really, what we see is that we can have the capacity to regularly come with innovation," Guillemot told me. "That is, for me, the formula: if you can really change the game on a regular basis and bring in innovation your fans want a product very regularly. Our job is to make sure the teams have enough power, enough energy and enough time to take the necessary steps to create a high quality game."
Historically, these games have been made by multiple teams and by rotating teams, with different groups within Ubisoft Montreal leading the development of the games' campaigns, while satellite studios make everything from multiplayer to specific side missions.
Ubisoft is releasing Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag this year which does, in fact, appear to be quite different from last year's ACIII. Last year's game was a a game mostly set on land with a focus on a new, conflicted half-British/half-Native-American assassin. This year's is set largely across the islands of the Caribbean sea with a focus on a new assassin who still often behaves more like a pirate. Last year's game had some naval combat. This year's game is essentially an open-world sailing/exploration adventure.
ACIII may have had its flaws and it's impossible to say how good ACIV will be, but it's at least clear that the latter is no rush job, is brimming with ideas and content and that, yes, somehow, Ubisoft really is able to make a gargantuan new AC every year. Pretty impressive.