Ubisoft is hitting pause on its VR investment for the time being because Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR didn’t hit its sales target. But while CEO Yves Guillemot says he’s waiting for the virtual reality scene to “grow” before the investment resumes, what it really screams of is a lack of understanding of the game’s target market.
Back in November, I had the chance to play the game, and in my Assassin’s Creed Nexus VR review, I wrote that it left me with the belief that triple-A VR games, using well-established IPs, were going to bring virtual reality gaming to new heights. Despite this, less than five months after the game’s release, Guillemot has thrown the project, and Ubisoft’s VR investment as a whole, under the bus.
Let’s be honest, VR gaming development is not for the weak. The player base is smaller than that of PC or traditional console gaming, and the technology isn’t the most accessible. However, the plan to develop an original Assassin’s Creed game, fully canon to the series, only in VR, was brilliant, in my opinion.
Not only was the premise solid, but the teams working on the game did an incredible job evoking a real connection to fans of the franchise – myself included. During my time talking with the team for our Assassin’s Creed Nexus preview, and interview with game director David Votypka, the passion for the product was infectious, and that bleeds through into the final product.
Where Ubisoft went wrong, however, was limiting it to Meta Quest headsets. Despite the popularity and ease of access to VR that the Meta Quest offers, PCVR and PSVR2 headsets are ultimately capable of offering greater visual fidelity and – here’s the important bit – a much bigger player base.
Of course, Ubisoft might be eyeing up a Steam release as we speak to claw back its investment, but for such a big game that Ubisoft clearly considered a risk, it needed to be available across platforms for anyone to play, on release day.
Sadly, the comments made by Guillemot during a recent earnings call highlights just how little the business understands VR. While it’s totally fair to air his “disappointment” with the game and its sales figures, ultimately Ubisoft made the call to limit it to just the Meta Quest.
That’s not the part that infuriated me, though. Guillemot confirms that Ubisoft is “not increasing our investment on VR at the moment because it needs to take off.” He follows this by confirming the team have been impressed by the Apple Vision Pro headset. “We’re very impressed by what Apple came up with, and we think it’s fantastic hardware, but we continue to look at this VR business as something that we have to look at but not invest too much in, until it grows enough,” he says.
Either Guillemot was not prepared to talk about VR, resulting in this mixed messaging and lack of respect shown to the Nexus project, or he genuinely has no idea how the VR industry works, and is now more concerned with Apple’s shiny new toy. It’s worth noting that Ubisoft still has VR titles lined up, including Just Dance VR, which was initially to be a Pico headset exclusive before layoffs changed plans.
I once felt excited at the prospect that Ubisoft was going to show other triple-A developers and publishers how VR can work on a grander scale, with bigger budgets and established IPs. But now it’s clear that this looks like an attempt to make a quick buck, I’ve been left with nothing but a sour taste in my mouth.