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Ubisoft (EPA:UBI) seems to have hit a bit of a snag with the most recent releases, after a period of growth. Today's press release, shared just ahead of the full quarterly financial report, contains a lengthy statement from CEO and Co-Founder Yves Guillemot, who acknowledges the disappointing launch of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Breakpoint.
Contextually and in order to avoid the same outcome for the next Ubisoft titles, Gods & Monsters, Rainbow Six Quarantine and Watch_Dogs Legion have all been delayed and are now expected be released at some point during the fiscal year 2020-2021 (which begins in the month of April).
Over the past few years, we have delivered many high-quality titles, built a portfolio of diversified franchises and successfully conducted the digital transformation of our business. We have significantly grown our operations for PC, and in Asia and esports, and have further developed our Uplay platform. And we can now draw on a very robust back-catalog, which ended up again above our expectations in the second quarter, including the particularly outstanding momentum of Rainbow Six Siege and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.
However, we have not capitalized on the potential of our latest two AAA releases. For Ghost Recon Breakpoint, while the game’s quality appeared on track – based on E3, Gamescom, previews and our latest internal playtests –, critical reception and sales during the game’s first weeks were very disappointing. As we have done with past titles, we will continue to support the game and listen to the community in order to deliver the necessary improvements.
At this stage, we have identified three main reasons behind this underperformance:
• First, it is harder to generate interest for a sequel to a Live multiplayer game, when prior
iterations benefited from years of optimization. Consequently, we need to make sure there
is more time between each iteration of Live games.
• Second, our strategy of introducing gameplay innovations in our games has had a very
positive impact on our brands. However, to win over players, these innovations need to be
perfectly implemented in order to offer an optimal experience. This has not yet been
sufficiently the case with Ghost Recon Breakpoint. While the change of formula has been
very well received by some players, with an average daily playtime per player of over three
hours, it also has been strongly rejected by a significant portion of the community.
• Finally, Ghost Recon Breakpoint did not come in with enough differentiation factors, which
prevented the game’s intrinsic qualities from standing out.
We are tackling these issues head-on and already are implementing significant changes to our production processes. We are confident in our capacity to adapt and evolve, as we have done successfully many times in the past.
In this overall context, we have decided to postpone the releases of Gods & Monsters, Rainbow Six Quarantine and Watch_Dogs Legion until 2020-21. While each of these games already has a strong identity and high potential, we want our teams to have more development time to ensure that their respective innovations are perfectly implemented so as to deliver optimal experiences for players. This decision will have a very significant impact on our financial results for this fiscal year and goes against our recent successes in building a more stable development model.
However, it is in line with our strategy to maximize the future value of our brands for the longterm benefit of our employees, players and shareholders. We expect it to have a positive impact on our financial performance as from 2020-21.
Going forward, we are ideally positioned to benefit from the industry’s strong expansion and constant evolution. We are investing to develop our franchises and PRI, to fully tap the potential of the mobile market, to accelerate our growth in Asia and esports, and to reap the benefits of our brands ownership in the context of the rise of streaming and the multiplication of platforms.
These opportunities are powerful drivers for our future topline and profitability growth.
The press release also includes the updated financial targets for both 19-20 and 20-21. Ubisoft projections for the current fiscal year have been cut from € 2,185 million of net bookings and €480 million of non-IFRS operating income to €1,450 million of net bookings and €20-50 million of non-IFRS operating income. That's due, as said before, to decreased revenue from Ghost Recon Breakpoint but also from The Division 2, though to a lesser extent.
On the upside, Ubisoft financial targets for fiscal year 20-21 have been revised upward to €2,600 million of net bookings and €600 million of non-IFRS operating income, thanks to the scheduled release of five AAA games (including the next Assassin's Creed, in all likelihood).