In a bit of an unprecedented blowout, Ubisoft have announced two new browser based titles, and expand on a third, all three of which are being developed by Blue Byte, a studio based in Dusseldorf and famous for The Settlers franchise, not lease The Settlers Online, a very successful, browser based release from last year.
The three games in question are Silent Hunter Online, Heroes Online (based on the Might and magic license) and Anno Online. Three flagship PC titles in Ubisoft’s stable, and all three of which are aiming to release within the next year.
We’ve had eyes on with all three games (Silent Hunter Online, Anno Online, Heroes Online), and while they’re all browser based, it doesn’t seem to be holding them back all that much. All three are running in Flash 11, meaning you don’t have to download any superfluous plugins before you can start playing.
It’s a triumph of coding, and when you’ve got Silent Hunter rendering a fully 3D environment above the water surface, or the entirety of a massive city hustling and bustling in Anno Online, it becomes even more so.
It also seems like an attempt from Ubisoft to do two things, the first of which is to expand a growing casual audience with games that are completely respectful to the player rather than nagging and bullying players into roping in their friends. As Tom Bolton, Lead Designer on Anno Online, puts it: “We’re very keen to avoid begging strategies, where players are forced to play with one another and are annoyed by it.” Similarly, all three presentations emphasised that they were not ‘pay to win’, a phrase that’s become increasingly toxic as Free to Play has become bigger.
That Ubisoft chose to dedicate a not insignificant portion of its Gamescom presentation to the three games is telling, showing how much the developer wants to expand their remit, and the second thing that these games are showing is an increased attempt to make right by PC players, after the continuing snafu over DRM that plagues their AAA releases.
I just hope this is a new, friendly face for the French publisher. I like it much more than the vindictive DRM trusting face.