Nobody likes the term "annualization." Gamers just find far too many negative associations connected with it.
And even the most popular franchises have burned out in the past ('cough' Guitar Hero 'cough') so it should always be a concern for game producers.
But Ubisoft just unveiled Assassin's Creed III , which will launch later this year and mark the fourth straight year that an AC entry has hit store shelves for the holiday season…and they're not worried at all.
That could be due to the fact that the publisher claims it's their "largest project ever" and it's hardly rushed; in fact, it has been in development for over three years (pretty much since ACII went out the door). So when GI International spoke to Ubisoft senior vice president of sales and marketing Tom Key, he wanted to focus on the sheer size of the project. Said Key:
"It's definitely, hands-down going to be the biggest launch we've ever had. We've known that for a while – it's a massive product for us that's been in development for three years. We've been waiting for it and we're really excited finally to see the thing coming to life today and the people's reaction."
Key added that having the game take place on American soil would "hit home for a lot of people," which we would hope is true. But moving on to addressing the possible "burnout" of Assassin's Creed , Key had this to say:
"We assess the potential and the quality of a product long before we're announcing the thing. We understand what we have, and while we're not flawless in our projections – we've had plenty of games that didn't meet our expectations – we firmly believe that this is a really good bet. And our goal is to grow the brand. We are one of the elite brands in the industry, but we're not the biggest – there are a few brands that sell more than Assassin's Creed so we know that there's room for this to grow. So we're getting behind it with bigger development resources and bigger marketing and our goal is to significantly grow it from where it is right now – so not just a little, a lot."
And remember, ACIII has a new setting, a new hero, new technology, etc. And the timing couldn't be better after three straight titles with former protagonist Ezio (yes, we know the actual protagonist is Desmond but as fans of the series know, the focus is almost always on Ezio or in this case, Connor). Still, Ubisoft does remain realistic. Finished Key:
"Any publisher who says that they don't worry about burnout is probably not being honest. There's always the worry about burnout because consumer tastes change, trends come along that cause you to evolve things in certain ways, so you always have to be forward thinking about your brand and where you're going next with it.
"You certainly have to strive not to do the same thing every year. You don't have to completely reinvent the brand every year to be successful on annualizing, but you do need to bring something new. And so, with Assassin's 3 that's not an issue at all – the thing is completely new."
This guy talks sense, doesn't he?