Ubisoft CFO Alain Martinez said the company was “desperate” when Assassin’s Creed launched to middling review scores, but the game’s huge success in spite of that has led him to stunning revelation that there’s more to the formula than just review scores.
Speaking at the UBS Annual Global Media Conference, Martinez noted that Ubisoft has lagged behind competitors Electronic Arts and Activision in releasing “top five hit” games, which he said has become increasingly important as economic conditions continue to deteriorate. As a result, the numbers put up by the recently-released Prince of Persia have become very important to the publisher. While the game was only released just over a week ago, Martinez said Ubisoft believes “2.5 to three million [units sold] is clearly achievable.”
“If it goes to four or five [million], then there is an upside factor for the company,” he continued. “If it goes to 1.5 million, then there is a downside factor.”
He also pointed out that while high review scores look good in promotional materials, they don’t always translate into strong sales numbers. “To be honest, when Assassin’s Creed launched and got 82 percent, we were desperate, and we thought we were going to die,” Martinez said. But the game turned out to be a major hit across numerous platforms, with some sources reporting sales levels of over five million units. By contrast, the 2003 title Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time has a Metacritic average review score of 92 on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, and the string of high scores led Ubisoft management to believe the game would do extremely well. “But it did two million, so we were kind of disappointed,” he said.
The bottom line? “It’s not ratings that mean everything, but we think quality and innovation are the key,” he told the audience.
And that’s why he gets paid the big bucks.