One of Ubisoft’s big surprises from E3 2017 was the announcement of an ambitious-looking naval warfare game called Skull & Bones. We played it at E3 and came away generally impressed. Skull & Bones is clearly inspired in part by Assassin’s Creed, and its main developer, Ubisoft Singapore, created the much-liked naval battles in Assassin’s Creed III and Black Flag.
So why did Ubisoft decide to make Skull & Bones a brand-new IP instead of connecting it to the juggernaut Assassin’s Creed series? GameSpot visited Ubisoft Singapore’s office today and that question was among those put to Ubisoft Singapore managing director Olivier de Rotalier and Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot in a roundtable interview.
“After Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, [we wanted] to stay in the pirate fantasy and to make it bigger and stronger,” de Rotalier said.
The team at Ubisoft Singapore created a prototype featuring 1v1 naval warfare battles, and it was a lot of fun, though it was also “probably quite far from what Assassin’s Creed want to do at the time,” de Rotalier said.
So the decision was made to make Skull & Bones (or whatever it might have been called at the time), a brand-new IP, completely separate from Assassin’s Creed.
de Rotalier added that Ubisoft’s position is that the “pirate fantasy” is a hugely compelling idea, and when you add multiplayer to the mix, it can be even more exciting.
For his part, Guillemot said making Skull & Bones a new IP instead of an Assassin’s Creed spinoff gives the team more freedom to do what it wants with the game.
“We didn’t want the limits–creating a new IP gives you the chance to do whatever you want. It’s a way to get more freedom,” he said.
Also in the interview, de Rotalier said Ubisoft has high hopes for Skull & Bones. The publisher hopes to support the game and the brand overall for the next 10-15 years, the executive said. “We believe in Skull & Bones,” he told the group of reporters.
Pressed for more details, de Rotalier told GameSpot, “We are building a game that we want to support in the long term, that relies on strong mechanics; RPG, online. We want to build a strong service to be able to support a long-term experience. We are convinced that the core gameplay that we are building is big enough to experience on the long term and keep people engaged. We have a plan to make it last.”
de Rotalier added that Ubisoft Singapore learned a lot from Ghost Recon: Phantoms, the free-to-play PC shooter that was shuttered at the end of 2016. Specifically, de Rotalier said the team learned about how to best attract and retain players (even though it apparently didn’t work out all that well for Phantoms).
Finally, Guillemot said Skull & Bones has seen a “huge” unprecedented fan response following its unveiling at E3. No other new IP in Ubisoft’s history has tallied as many registered players following its reveal, Guillemot said. This is likely a reference to the Skull & Bones beta that you can register for right now through the game’s website.
GameSpot is meeting with Ubisoft and its developers and management this week in Singapore and Shanghai. Keep checking back for the latest.
Ubisoft paid for GameSpot’s travel and accomodation to Singapore and Shanghai