Quality vs Quantity
With the recent release of Assassins Creed Unity this year and the plans by Ubisoft to continue releasing games in the series on an annual basis, I have had several thoughts on this specific business model. Annual games are a sure fire way in the short term to push sales and increase revenue very quickly. There are models that make this business plans seem very profitable. And likely that is exactly what the aim is by Ubisoft. I mean they would be "stupid to not satisfy this need" (from the public for an annually released game) right?
There are many things wrong with this thought, first of all the concept of quantity over quality. In basic economic terms Ubisoft has fallen prey to the classic duality of supply and demand. Demand for their flagship series rose exponentially for the first few games, so therefore a higher supply was required to keep up with demand. However with higher supply (games per year) will come lower demand. One might say that the fans of the series will remain being fans, and that new buyers will come into the market so demand will not fall with the rise of supply.
However, I argue that when the first Assassins Creed game was released, the demand was so high because there was a severe LACK of supply. There was no game on the market that did what the original AC did at the time. And the new breakout mechanics were carried out so fluidly that the stock in that type of game skyrocketed. All of the sudden there were half a dozen more parkour-based action/adventure games in development as other developers saw the potential in the genre and jumped on the bandwagon.
However that was 2007 and now there are a multitude of games in this genre in so many different settings that the market can barely handle any more. I am not trying to state that there isn't a market for the games, but that over-saturation is a definite probability. Pushing more games onto the market also allows for gamers to be more discerning with their purchases as there are more choices. Extra Credits the YouTube channel on gaming made a very educational video about the concept of over-saturation and it's effects on the consumer.
Ubisoft however does have a very large presence in the market, with nearly 10,000 employees and a revenue of over 1 billion annually (2008-2009). These numbers are formidable for any business much less one that is in the fickle gaming market. Since their model has worked so well this far, how then would it not continue to work?
Saturation isn't the only concern moving forward with annual releases. With so many employees, coordination and quick resolution of problems during development falls apart and quality assurance can suffer accordingly. These problems appear to the consumer as the many glitches that have become a running source of comedy for the internet.
Poking fun at the bugs and glitches isn't my intent, it is just the most apparent example of the lack of quality control that can pervade a company so large. This being said, is it quite the wise move to continue to show your hand and allow these glitches through on an annual basis without proper testing and quality controls? Being the giant in this genre and the parkour/combat sub-genre that Ubisoft is you would think they would like to lead the market in innovation and quality instead of making fast plays for cash each year from their fans.
I have been reading a book by notable economic writer Jim Collins, called Good to Great, that addresses this type of company and their competitors. The truly great companies that overcome the market and surpass even their most successful competitors are the companies that focus on Quality rather than Quantity. This may seem like common sense, and something that is taught as a common technique in business but it seems to be all but failing in the interactive media sector.
I'm not trying to say that annually released games like WWE, Call of Duty, and now Assassins Creed aren't quality games. However they come from giants, that have the option of creating ludicrously high levels of quality and innovation. Disappointingly however these companies have chosen to deny excellence and settle for an approach that is more akin to a company that is depending on an eventual takeover by a competitor. Ubisoft was a company that once made high quality content and that is where they made their name. Now that name has been sullied with poor decisions by showing a lack of respect for the community that once made them great. It is this writers hope that one day they will make their way back into the good graces of the community and once again become the leader of the industry they once were.
(If you had a different opinion or a new video game to suggest, leave a comment below! If you want to recieve regular updates, follow me on Twitter @SimonGolden. )