Spring 2020 is starting to look a lot less crowded, as many game devs are announcing delays to upcoming release dates. The Last of Us Part 2, Rainbow Six Quarantine, Watch Dogs Legion, and Gods & Monsters all delayed on the same damn day.
The Last of Us Part 2 Game Director Neil Druckmann posted this letter to fans this morning:
To our fans,
Let me cut to the chase and get the news out of the way. The Last of Us Part II has a new release date of May 29, 2020.
I know. It was just about a month ago when we had our big blowout for the game, letting media play over two hours of it along with debuting our new story trailer and revealing the release date. The positive response we saw from our community was overwhelming. You can feel the energy among the team members. After working on something for so many years, it’s invigorating to get a glimpse of validation for all the hard work.
However, it was during the last few weeks, as we were closing out sections of the game, that we realized we simply didn’t have enough time to bring the entire game up to a level of polish we would call Naughty Dog quality. At this point we were faced with two options: compromise parts of the game or get more time. We went with the latter, and this new release date allows us to finish everything to our level of satisfaction while also reducing stress on the team.
While we’re relieved that we won’t have to compromise our vision, we’re disappointed that we weren’t able to avoid this exact situation. We wish we could’ve foreseen the amount of polish we needed, but the size and scope of this game got the better of us. We hate disappointing our fans and for that we’re sorry.
We hope you understand that this additional time ensures that The Last of Us Part II lives up to our collective ambition as well as our commitment to the highest level of quality. We know the extra few months will add to what may already be an excruciating wait for all of us. We are grateful for your patience and continued support. Come next May, you will finally rejoin Ellie in The Last of Us Part II.
-Neil (PlayStation Blog)
Now this alone was disappointing to some fans, but the hits just keep coming. Ubisoft has provided an update to financial targets that includes some major delays. Watch Dogs Legion, Rainbow Six Quarantine, and Gods & Monsters are all slipping to the company's fiscal 2020-21. Ubisoft decreased their revenue projections for the current year as a result, but remain optimistic about the launches of all three delayed titles. It does sound like Ghost Recon Breakpoint's lackluster reviews and sales have been a catalyst for today's announcement.
Ubisoft Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Yves Guillemot included this statement in the financial update:
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.
Ubisoft's stock (UBSFY) is currently down over 13% on the news, as this is a huge cut to expectations. The company slashed revenue estimates by 33% to 1.45 billion euros, and earnings expectations for the year have been taken down nearly 90% to a range of 20-50 million euros in operating income. Ubisoft runs the risk of losing money in fiscal 19-20, but one has to assume they are being conservative with today's massive adjustment to financial full-year guidance.
All of these delays on the back of Doom Eternal being delayed. You know what? It is fine. We already have too many games coming out, and my backlog isn't getting any smaller. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was delayed and it turned out to be Shacknews Game of the Year 2017. I hope all of these games turn out better as a result of these delays, even though I was really looking forward to being a hacker granny in Watch Dogs Legion.