Good morning gamers. The financial results are in for several major game publishers, Ubisoft and SEGA share their strategic plans, Xbox is celebrating their 20th anniversary a little early and a small change in Esports may be huge for gaming. Let’s get right into it!
Ubisoft - Moving Forward
Last week brought us a ton of Ubisoft news. They released their 2020-2021 earnings report, announced the rebranding of their in-house games and gave us a small update on their upcoming titles. Here’s what you missed..
Ubisoft Originals is the new branding behind all future internally developed games at Ubisoft. The new name was first spotted on the artwork for their upcoming free-to-play The Division Spinoff called The Division Heartland.
Moving forward Ubisoft is planning to rely less on their traditional 3-4 yearly released AAA games in favour of expanding their product portfolio to include more premium free-to-play games. This doesn’t mean Ubisoft is going to release less premium games, they’re just looking to invest resources in additional F2P experiences to strengthen their other IPs and develop new ones.
Ubisoft's 20/21 Fiscal Year ending March 31st showed a strong performance by the publisher. Their sales grew by 46% to reach USD $2.7 billion with digital copies accounting for 72% of that. They also reached 141 million unique players across PC and consoles (The Division making up 40 million of that), had a record performance for the Assassin's Creed franchise with 50% increase in yearly revenue driven by Valhalla, and Rainbow Six was a top-10 most played game in 2020 with double-digit player acquisition growth and record esports viewership. They didn’t provide figures but Brawlhala, Immortals Fenyx Rising, For Honor, The Crew and Watch Dogs all experienced “robust growth”.
Where are all the new games? Far Cry 6, Rainbow Six Quarantine, Riders Republic and The Division Heartland will be released before March 31, 2022. Skull & Bones is being delayed until 2022/2023. Ubisoft also has Avatar, Beyond Good & Evil 2 and a Star Wars game currently in development. The next Ubisoft Forward event is scheduled during this summer's E3 Expo.
SEGA - Super Game in the making?
Last week, SEGA released their financial results for the Fiscal Year ending March 31, 2021. The presentation also outlined their forecast for future years and included insights into their upcoming projects and strategies.
Priority Strategies for the next 3 years involve making existing IPs into global brands. SEGA wants to take their strong and established IPs and build them to be recognized on a global scale. The IPs mentioned include Sonic The Hedgehog, Phantasy Star Online 2, Persona 5 and Total War. The focus on profitability will be done through the domestic mobile market and amusement machines. SEGA also plans to develop a new FPS title at their European studio.
Priority Strategies for the next 5 years include the creation of a “Super Game” and the expansion of past IP libraries through reuse and support subscription. The explanation of the “Super Game” was not made clear but it is a big part of their Medium-Term Plan and it’s a project SEGA is heavily invested in. As for past IPs, SEGA is undergoing a review of their entire product lineup to see which deserve a revival.
EA - Counting on Apex Legends
EA’s financial results for the last Fiscal Year are in and they were average. Net revenues were up 2%, full game sales fell by 15% and net income decreased too. One of the more noticeable trends in EA’s earnings is the rise of digital sales and the better-than-anticipated net bookings. Both of these increases can be partly attributed to last year's rise in popularity of Respawn Entertainment’s Apex Legends.
According to industry analyst Benji Sales, Apex Legends has generated over $1 billion in lifetime net bookings, season 8 averaged more than 12 million weekly players, and the game surpassed the 100 million lifetime players milestone. EA’s CFO Blake Jorgensen noted that Apex Legends delivered “the best day, the best 24-hour period, the best week, the best month and best in-game event” as of Q1 2021. Moving forward, the game just entered its 9th season called “Legacy” which introduced a new 3v3 “Arenas” mode, a brand-new winged hero known as Valkyrie and various other game changes.
The Apex Legends competitive season is also coming to a close with the Global Series Championships taking place between May 22 and June 3. The tournament will start off with group stage matches for each individual region, and then the finalists will compete for their portion of the $1 million grand prize split amongst the regions.
XBOX - 20th Anniversary Celebration
The original Xbox was first released in North America on November 15, 2001. However, Xbox and Halo are kicking off the 20th anniversary celebrations early. Xbox is using the celebration as a marketing campaign by encouraging gamers to post on social media with the hashtag #Xbox20 and their favourite gaming experiences.
Xbox FanFest will be an event where gamers need to register for a chance to win some awesome prizes from Xbox. The FanFest is to help drive more Xbox gamers to the Microsoft Rewards programs which allows them to redeem rewards based on completing achievements across a variety of games and making purchases in the Microsoft Store.
Xbox Classics will be in the spotlight leading up to the official anniversary date. Xbox gamers who were unable to play the classic games as they were originally released can now play them across the different Xbox Consoles and PC at a reduced price. Feel free to take a look at the catalogue here.
Halo is also celebrating its 20th anniversary as Halo: Combat Evolved launched with the original Xbox. The Halo franchise is considered a hallmark of the Xbox experience and it will also be celebrated leading up to the launch of Halo Infinite in the Fall. Gamers can even purchase exclusive Halo merchandise from Microsoft here.
The world’s biggest esports tournament is officially back. The International 10 is making its Dota 2 return after taking a year-long hiatus due to the global pandemic. This year's iteration of the event will be taking place in Stockholm, Sweden between August 5-15. Competing teams will fight to take home their portion of the USD $40m prize pool, with group stage matches starting on the 5th, the main event commencing on the 10th and the grand finals taking place on August 15th. There won’t be any battle pass this year since the prize money remains intact from last year, but Valve did say they’re adding two additional competitions to the pro circuit; one prior to TI10 and the other afterwards. Both the 2018 and the 2019 version of The International were won by European based organization OG.
Luminosity Gaming’s parent company Enthusiast Gaming have announced that they will be launching a social network geared towards gamers, codenamed Project GG. According to CEO Adrian Montgomery, the subscription-based platform will suit the needs of gamers by providing ways for them to “register their unique gaming profiles, compare stats, develop meaningful connections and share content and ideas”. This personalized experience will come equipped with a trust rating system to better combat cheating and toxic behaviours common within the gaming industry. To help kickstart their plans, Enthusiast Gaming is acquiring Tabwire, the company behind stat tracking platform Tabstats for USD $11 million.
Activision Blizzard has decided to relax their sponsorship restrictions for the Call of Duty League and the Overwatch league by allowing liquor and betting sponsors. Both leagues and the individual teams will now be able to explore new opportunities with a variety of sponsors that were previously against Activision Blizzard’s league terms. The London Royal Ravens of the Call of Duty League are the first franchise team to adopt these changes by announcing notorious esports and betting platform MIDNITE as an official team sponsor. This partnership will supposedly include a jersey sponsorship and content creation initiatives.
The next Donkey Kong game is supposedly being developed by the team that created Super Mario Odyssey.
Blizzard will be showcasing 2 hours worth of Overwatch 2 gameplay on May 20th.
The Coalition (Gears of War), are switching to Unreal Engine 5 for multiple new projects. No new announcements are expected for some time.
CAPCOM confirmed that Resident Evil Village has shipped 3 million units at launch. The entire RE franchise has now surpassed 100 million units sold.
Call of Duty is teasing a Die Hard crossover as part of their 80s Action Heroes promotion beginning May 20th. The John McClane teaser can be found here.
Starfield might be showcased at E3 2021 and it will be a PC and Xbox exclusive set to release in Fall 2021.
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