On July 7th, a report by Bloomberg sent shockwaves through the game world: Ubisoft has plans to create a massive online version of the historical open-world Assassin’s Creed series as a live service. Known only by its code name, Assassin’s Creed Infinity will reportedly contain multiple historic settings and expand along with ongoing updates. At this stage, facts about Infinity are thin on the ground, but that hasn’t stopped almost infinite speculation about its potential!
A post on the Ubisoft website confirms the Bloomberg report. Previously, titles in the series would be helmed alternatively between Ubisoft Montreal and Quebec, but Infinity will see these two teams work together in a “cross-studio structure.” Marc-Alexis Côté is slated to executive produce the new title, with Julien Laferrière stepping in as Senior Producer. While the post — written by Ubisoft Quebec managing director Nathalie Bouchard and Ubisoft Montreal managing director Christophe Derennes — remains tight-lipped about where and when Infinity might be set, it does include this statement:
“Assassin’s Creed has always been developed by multicultural teams with various backgrounds and perspectives that have influenced the depiction of its characters, locations, and cultures. While we know there’s always room for improvement, we believe this new structure allows us to ensure that diversity and representation within our teams continues to grow.”
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The post also made a further comment about the future direction of the series, stating that the team “profoundly believe this is an opportunity for one of Ubisoft’s most beloved franchises to evolve in a more integrated and collaborative manner that’s less centered on studios and more focused on talent and leadership, no matter where they are within Ubisoft.” As well-intentioned as this may sound, Ubisoft has reportedly made minimal internal changes following extensive allegations of abuse within the company.
Though this may seem like uncharted territory for the franchise, the games have been slowly moving towards the live service model. The last entry, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, will have up to two years of downloadable content. Ubisoft has said that this move towards a live service means that it is “also evolving along with the video game industry.” If fans will laud this evolution or would prefer the series stay frozen in time, it remains to be seen.
With the prospect of Infinity on the distant horizon and limited information available, speculation was inevitable — and not all of it is positive. Some commentators fear that the move to a live-service model will be a death knell for the franchise. An article by Screen Rant points out that recent criticisms of the Assassin’s Creed games have been leveled at the ever-expanding open-world maps which seem to favor quantity over quality. An online version of AC could exacerbate this problem.
Furthermore, there are concerns about whether this could end up being a cash grab for Ubisoft. At this point, we don’t know if the service will be free to play with microtransactions, or whether extra costs will be piled on top of an admission fee or subscription.
The Future of the Past
On a more positive note, Cian Maher comments in TheGamer that rather than Infinity inevitably becoming too little butter spread over too much bread, it could actually be a case of smaller, more tightly crafted game worlds. A live-service model potentially gives Ubisoft free reign to experiment with regions and time periods that they’ve never touched before — an exciting prospect for any series fans. In a survey all the way back in 2011, Ubisoft employees expressed an interest in working on games set in Medieval China and Feudal Japan. No doubt the studio has plenty more ideas that it could explore through an online platform.
For history and heritage buffs who play the Assassin’s Creed games, there is the potential for the educational Discovery Tours to be expanded and the peril of the live service platform, making those resources all the less accessible. Assassin’s Creed Infinity is appropriately named because it has near limitless potential to exceed expectations and also, dash them.
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Article author: Florence Smith Nicholls can be found on Twitter via @florencesn