UPDATE 3.30pm UK: Ubisoft has further clarified its commitment to big budget games in a new statement shared with Eurogamer. In it, the publisher says it is not reducing its typical AAA output:
"Our intention is to deliver a diverse line-up of games that players will love - across all platforms," a Ubisoft spokesperson said. "We are excited to be investing more in free-to-play experiences, however we want to clarify that this does not mean reducing our AAA offering. Our aim is to continue to deliver premium experiences to players such as Far Cry 6, Rainbow Six Quarantine, Riders Republic and Skull and Bones to name a few while also expanding our free-to-play portfolio and strengthening our brands to reach even more players."
ORIGINAL STORY 12.30pm UK: Ubisoft has said it will release big budget free-to-play versions of some of its major franchises - as well as continue its traditional full-price AAA releases of things like Assassin's Creed and Far Cry.
Speaking with investors, Ubisoft financial boss Frederick Duguet said the company's focus on releasing three to four big budget games per year was no longer "a proper indication of our value creation dynamics". Or, in normal speak, Ubisoft wanted its profits to grow by making even more money from other things.
On Twitter, Ubisoft's Sean Lama clarified this did not mean free-to-play games would replace AAA games. Instead, it meant Ubisoft now saw free-to-play as "an additional way to experience some of these IPs", with Call of Duty as "a good example of the model".
Call of Duty, of course, continues to release major boxed entries of the series on its typical timescale, but has also found huge financial success in free-to-play battle royale Warzone. Each is profitable in its own right, and there's no end in sight for either.
As for Ubisoft, we've already seen the first big announce in this vein. Last week, Ubisoft revealed it was making Tom Clancy's The Division: Heartland, a standalone free-to-play version of its popular online co-op shooter. Heartland is set to launch sometime late 2021 or early 2022, and will also be accompanied by a The Division game for mobile (also presumably free-to-play).
Ubisoft is no stranger to free-to-play games, of course, though its previous big attempt Hyper Scape appears to have disappeared without a trace. Pinning free-to-play growth on tried and tested franchises like The Division feels like a smarter call.
"We've taken the time to learn from what we did last year with Hyper Scape," Duguet concluded. "We're also learning with the launch we'll be making on Roller Champions, we've been learning a lot with Brawlhalla that is rapidly growing, and we think it is now the time to come with high-quality free-to-play games across all our biggest franchises, across all platforms."