What the heck is going on with Skull and Bones? That’s a question that comes up every time Ubisoft updates their release calendar and, inevitably, delays their mysterious pirate game yet again. Of course, Ubisoft always assures us that development is proceeding well, but according to a new insider report from Kotaku, that’s very much not the case. Skull and Bones has been in development for over eight years at this point and it sounds like Ubisoft’s ship is more directionless than ever.
As you may have suspected, Skull and Bones reportedly began life as an Assassin’s Creed VI: Black Flag spinoff back in 2013 under the name Black Flag Infinite. The idea was to reuse tech Ubisoft Singapore already developed for Black Flag to create a quick-turnaround schedule-filler game. Unfortunately, the advent of new consoles and tech and expanding ambitions scuttled those original plans.
Over the past eight years Skull and Bones is said to have been rebooted numerous times – it began as a pirate MMO similar to Rare’s Sea of Thieves, then became a more focused session-based multiplayer game, then a survival-crafting adventure, and now it’s… well, apparently, nobody working on the game really knows what the game is now. One developer Kotaku spoke to described Skull and Bones as Ubisoft’s version of Anthem, in that small slices of the game may look good, but the underlying mechanics and content aren’t there. Not exactly the comparison you’re looking for when developing a new IP.
Skull and Bones has reportedly already cost Ubisoft $120 million, and that price tag is only going to increase, as there were over 400 people working on the game as of 2019. At this point, the sunk cost fallacy seems to be keeping the project alive, although, interestingly, a deal with the Singapore government may also be providing life support. Ubisoft Singapore reportedly receives generous subsidies, but they’re dependent on the studio producing an original made-in-Singapore IP. For their part, Ubisoft says the Skull and Bones team remains proud of their work, without really addressing or denying any specific part of Kotaku’s report…
The Skull and Bones team are proud of the work they’ve accomplished on the project since their last update with production just passing Alpha, and are excited to share more details when the time is right. That being said, any unfounded speculation about the game or decisions being made only works to demoralize the team who are working very hard to develop an ambitious new franchise that lives up to the expectations of our players.
Of course, take any report like this with a certain amount of salt, but the details sound all-too-plausible. It’s clear Skull and Bones has suffered from a lack of direction for some time – whether the project can get back on course is the question.
Skull and Bones has been announced for PC, Xbox One, and PS4. The game is currently slated to release during Ubisoft’s 2023 fiscal year, which ends on March 31, 2023.