ubisoft

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey gets an educational mode — complete with quizzes

Posted by | assassin's creed, Education, Gaming, History, ubisoft | No Comments

In my review of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, I was blown away by the authenticity and level of detail in the game world. The game itself — well, it was fine. But the highlight was ancient Greece in all its classical splendor, and a new educational Discovery Tour mode aims to teach the history of that society through a gaming lens.

The free update, available now to anyone who owns the game, adds dozens of historical “tours” guided by a NPC, in which you can learn about the cities of ancient Greece, the life and crafts of the people who lived there, what they believed and how they were governed, and of course the many famous battles of the era.

It’s an expanded version of a similar feature created for Assassin’s Creed: Origins, which was set in ancient Egypt. It seemed wasteful then, as in Odyssey, to create such a rich world and just have you stab your way through it. Obviously others at Ubisoft felt the same way, especially Discovery Mode director Maxime Durand, who says he envisioned a feature like this a decade ago.

teach odyssey

And how could you not with the Assassin’s Creed series? From the very first one players were immersed in a painstakingly recreated period of history that gave variously accurate but always compelling experiences of really living in that bygone era. All the work that went into making it convincing can easily — well, perhaps not easily, but directly — be applied to educating the player as well as thrilling them.

And quizzing them! The end of each guided tour will have an optional live quiz-type chat with the guide, which Ubisoft assures players will be fun and not for a grade. I’d probably skip it myself. But history teachers will probably make you do it for extra credit or something.

lostwax

There are 30 discovery sites, each with its own tour and modern-day context, so for example an artist in-game may explain how they sculpt, but then you’ll also see a museum artifact showing the process in “real life.”

Here’s hoping the history lessons are a little less lenient on the topic of slavery than some of the quests were.

“I think learning is a lot about agency… as soon as someone tells you you have to learn about something, there’s some of the fun taken away from it,” said Ubisoft’s Alicia Fortier. “So if we look at learning as play and as exploring, we need to make sure players can focus on what’s interesting to them and then they’ll naturally get more curious.”

The Discovery Tour update is free for all players today. Go, learn something.

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Mobile gaming is a $68.5 billion global business, and investors are buying in

Posted by | apple music, applovin, Blackstone, Column, communications apps, computing, Electronic Arts, epic games, France, Gaming, Germany, Glu Mobile, ketchapp, KKR, Mobile, mobile devices, mobile game, niantic, pokemon, Riot Games, RSS, Seismic, Seismic Games, social media, Spotify, supercell, Sweden, TC, Tencent, ubisoft, United Kingdom, United States, voodoo, washington DC, White House, Zynga | No Comments
Omer Kaplan
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Omer Kaplan is CMO and co-founder at ironSource.
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By the end of 2019, the global gaming market is estimated to be worth $152 billion, with 45% of that, $68.5 billion, coming directly from mobile games. With this tremendous growth (10.2% YoY to be precise) has come a flurry of investments and acquisitions, everyone wanting a cut of the pie. In fact, over the last 18 months, the global gaming industry has seen $9.6 billion in investments and if investments continue at this current pace, the amount of investment generated in 2018-19 will be higher than the eight previous years combined.

What’s interesting is why everyone is talking about games, and who in the market is responding to this — and how.

The gaming phenomenon

Today, mobile games account for 33% of all app downloads, 74% of consumer spend and 10% of all time spent in-app. It’s predicted that in 2019, 2.4 billion people will play mobile games around the world — that’s almost one-third of the global population. In fact, 50% of mobile app users play games, making this app category as popular as music apps like Spotify and Apple Music, and second only to social media and communications apps in terms of time spent.

In the U.S., time spent on mobile devices has also officially outpaced that of television — with users spending eight more minutes per day on their mobile devices. By 2021, this number is predicted to increase to more than 30 minutes. Apps are the new prime time, and games have grabbed the lion’s share.

Accessibility is the highest it’s ever been as barriers to entry are virtually non-existent. From casual games to the recent rise of the wildly popular hyper-casual genre of games that are quick to download, easy to play and lend themselves to being played in short sessions throughout the day, games are played by almost every demographic stratum of society. Today, the average age of a mobile gamer is 36.3 (compared with 27.7 in 2014), the gender split is 51% female, 49% male, and one-third of all gamers are between the ages of 36-50 — a far cry from the traditional stereotype of a “gamer.”

With these demographic, geographic and consumption sea-changes in the mobile ecosystem and entertainment landscape, it’s no surprise that the game space is getting increased attention and investment, not just from within the industry, but more recently from traditional financial markets and even governments. Let’s look at how the markets have responded to the rise of gaming.

Image courtesy of David Maung/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Games on games

The first substantial investments in mobile gaming came from those who already had a stake in the industry. Tencent invested $90 million in Pocket Gems and$126 million in Glu Mobile (for a 14.6% stake), gaming powerhouse Supercell invested $5 million in mobile game studio Redemption Games, Boom Fantasy raised $2M million from ESPN and the MLB and Gamelynx raised $1.2 million from several investors — one of which was Riot Games. Most recently, Ubisoft acquired a 70% stake in Green Panda Games to bolster its foot in the hyper-casual gaming market.

Additionally, bigger gaming studios began to acquire smaller ones. Zynga bought Gram Games, Ubisoft acquired Ketchapp, Niantic purchased Seismic Games and Tencent bought Supercell (as well as a 40% stake in Epic Games). And the list goes on.

Wall Street wakes up

Beyond the flurry of investments and acquisitions from within the game industry, games are also generating huge amounts of revenue. Since launch, Pokémon GO has generated $2.3 billion in revenue and Fortnite has amassed some 250 million players. This is catching the attention of more traditional financial institutions, like private equity firms and VCs, which are now looking at a variety of investment options in gaming — not just of gaming studios, but all those who have a stake in or support the industry.

In May 2018, hyper-casual mobile gaming studio Voodoo announced a $200 million investment from Goldman Sachs’ private equity investment arm. For the first time ever, a mobile gaming studio attracted the attention of a venerable old financial institution. The explosion of the hyper-casual genre and the scale its titles are capable of achieving, together with the intensely iterative, data-driven business model afforded by the low production costs of games like this, were catching the attention of investors outside of the gaming world, looking for the next big growth opportunity.

The trend continued. In July 2018, private equity firm KKR bought a $400 million minority stake in AppLovin and now, exactly one year later, Blackstone announced their plan to acquire mobile ad-network Vungle for a reported $750 million. Not only is money going into gaming studios, but investments are being made into companies whose technology supports the mobile gaming space. Traditional investors are finally taking notice of the mobile gaming ecosystem as a whole and the explosive growth it has produced in recent years. This year alone mobile games are expected to generate $55 billion in revenue, so this new wave of investment interest should really come as no surprise.

A woman holds up her cell phone as she plays the Pokemon GO game in Lafayette Park in front of the White House in Washington, DC, July 12, 2016. (Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Government intervention

Most recently, governments are realizing the potential and reach of the gaming industry and making their own investment moves. We’re seeing governments establish funds that support local gaming businesses — providing incentives for gaming studios to develop and retain their creatives, technology and employees locally — as well as programs that aim to attract foreign talent.

As uncertainty looms in England surrounding Brexit, France has jumped on the opportunity with “Join the Game.” They’re painting France as an international hub that is already home to many successful gaming studios, and they’re offering tax breaks and plenty of funding options — for everything from R&D to the production of community events. Their website even has an entire page dedicated to “getting settled in France,” in English, with a step-by-step guide on how game developers should prepare for their arrival.

The U.K. Department for International Trade used this year’s Game Developers Conference as a backdrop for the promotion of their games fund — calling the U.K. “one of the most flourishing game developing ecosystems in the world.” The U.K. Games Fund allows for both local and foreign-owned gaming companies with a presence in the U.K. to apply for tax breaks. And ever since France announced their fund, more and more people have begun encouraging the British government to expand their program, saying that the U.K. gaming ecosystem should be “retained and enhanced.” But, not only does the government take gaming seriously, the Queen does as well. In 2008, David Darling, the CEO of hyper-casual game studio Kwalee, was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to the games industry. CBE is the third-highest honor the Queen can bestow on a British citizen.

Over in Germany, and the government has allocated €50 million of its 2019 budget for the creation of a games fund. In Sweden, the Sweden Game Arena is a public-private partnership that helps students develop games using government-funded offices and equipment. It also links students and startups with established companies and investors. While these numbers dwarf the investment of more commercial or financial players, the sudden uptick in interest governments are paying to the game space indicate just how exciting and lucrative gaming has become.

Support is coming from all levels

The evolution of investment in the gaming space is indicative of the stratospheric growth, massive revenue, strong user engagement and extensive demographic and geographic reach of mobile gaming. With the global games industry projected to be worth a quarter of a trillion dollars by 2023, it comes as no surprise that the diverse players globally have finally realized its true potential and have embraced the gaming ecosystem as a whole.

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What do subscription services and streaming mean for the future of gaming?

Posted by | Apple, e3 2019, events, Gadgets, Gaming, Google, Hulu, Media, Microsoft, Netflix, Nintendo, Sony, Spotify, stadia, Streaming Media, ubisoft, Uplay, xbox | No Comments

The future of gaming is streaming. If that wasn’t painfully obvious to you a week ago, it certainly ought to be now. Google got ahead of E3 late last week by finally shedding light on Stadia, a streaming service that promises a hardware agnostic gaming future.

It’s still very early days, of course. We got a demo of the platform right around the time of its original announcement. But it was a controlled one — about all we can hope for at the moment. There are still plenty of moving parts to contend with here, including, perhaps most consequentially, broadband caps.

But this much is certainly clear: Google’s not the only company committed to the idea of remote game streaming. Microsoft didn’t devote a lot of time to Project xCloud on stage the other day — on fact, the pass with which the company blew threw that announcement was almost news in and of itself.

It did, however, promise an October arrival for the service — beating out Stadia by a full month. The other big piece of the announcement was the ability for Xbox One owners to use their console as a streaming source for their own remote game play. Though how that works and what, precisely, the advantage remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that Microsoft is hanging its hat on the Xbox as a point of distinction from Google’s offering.

It’s clear too, of course, that Microsoft is still invested in console hardware as a key driver of its gaming future. Just after rushing through all of that Project xCloud noise, it took the wraps off of Project Scarlett, its next-gen console. We know it will feature 8K content, some crazy fast frame rates and a new Halo title. Oh, and there’s an optical drive, too, because Microsoft’s not quite ready to give up on physical media just yet.

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Here are the trailers from Ubisoft’s E3 press conference

Posted by | e3 2019, Gaming, ubisoft | No Comments

For a press conference that spent most of the first half on a single title (Watch Dogs: Legion), Ubisoft’s E3 press conference was surprisingly packed on the news front. We got a new subscription service, a TV show and even an upcoming film. As always though, games were the real focus here — and there were plenty.

Here’s the best of what we saw at today’s big event.

Watch Dogs: Legion – Easily the biggest and arguably the most exciting reveal from the event, the open world, character swapping game got a lengthy walkthrough at the show. The title is set for arrival in March 2020.

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey – The popular title gets a new trailer for its new story mode.

Brawlhalla – The free-to-play fighting game gets two familiar faces from Adventure Time.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint – The latest tactical shooter to bear Tom Clancy’s name is due out October 4.

Rainbow Six Quarantine – This three-player FPS is due out in 2020.

Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad – Tom Clancy goes mobile in five player battles.

Roller Champions: This free-to-play game takes on the colorful world of roller derby.

Gods & Monsters: The creators of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey take on the world of Greek myth with this February 2020 title.

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Ubisoft is launching a $15 a month subscription service in September

Posted by | e3 2019, Gaming, ubisoft | No Comments

If you can’t beat ’em, launch your own service. Today at its E3 press event, Ubisoft announced that it will be joining the growing list of companies launching their own streaming service. UPlay+ will be up and running on September 3, priced at a lofty $14.99 a month. Ubisoft is also opening access to preorders this week — and those who get in early will be get the month of September for free.

That price includes access to a library of more than 100 of the publisher’s titles, with more on the way. That includes classics like Prince of Persia, Splinter Cell and Beyond Good & Evil. The list also includes upcoming titles like Watch Dogs: Legion and Ghost Recon Breakpoint, the latter of which will open in beta on September 5, with early access on October 1.

“More players are in the digital ecosystem than ever before, and a digital subscription is one of the easiest ways for players to access content,” Ubisoft VP Brenda Panagross said in a release tied to the news. “With UPlay+, players will have unlimited access to our large catalog of games for the first time.”

Of course, Ubisoft has some stiff competition on its hands, with streaming services from big names like Microsoft, Apple and Sony. The company does have an interesting ally in the battle however, with Google Stadia availability coming next year.

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Assassin’s Creed Odyssey now offers a way for you to create your own quests

Posted by | assassin's creed, assassins creed iii, e3 2019, Gaming, player, TC, ubisoft, video games, video gaming | No Comments

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was definitely my favorite game of 2018, and it’s getting even better thanks to a couple of new updates Ubisoft announced at E3 this year that help make the most out of the game’s incredibly detailed depiction of a mythically massaged Ancient Greek setting.

Starting today via an open beta, players can get in on one of these new features — Story Creator Mode, which is a web-based way for anyone to design, build and share their own in-game story-based quests. That’s right: You’re the myth-maker now, with a quest-building mechanic that lets players choose from six kinds of quest objectives, including assassination of specific targets; rescuing individuals; visiting different locales throughout the world and more. You can write your own dialog, with branches that respond to player choices, and you can add options for in-dialog lying or even let the player go ahead and attack NPCs to end conversations.

All of these missions, once built, can be shared with other Assassin’s Creed Odyssey players regardless of platform — so if you’re playing on PS4, you can share missions to players on Xbox, for example, and vice versa. This whole feature makes me super excited, because I spent literally months creating campaigns in the original Starcraft’s campaign building tool, and I will do the same thing with this. Hmu if you want my missions.

Meanwhile, players with less interest in creating something new, and more interest in visiting something that already exists to savor the details Ubisoft put in this game, can take advantage of the new Discovery Tour mode that’s coming later this fall. Basically it takes out any conflict elements and adds 300 guided tour stations, which provide details about Ancient Greek life, mythology, architecture and philosophy. The game’s dialog engine does double duty here to offer up interactive quizzes.

I like learning — who doesn’t like learning? This sounds great. But I’ll probably spend more time building campaigns than taking in the sites.

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Google gets into game streaming with Project Stream and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in Chrome

Posted by | assassin's creed, Cloud, game streaming, Gaming, Google, TC, ubisoft | No Comments

Earlier this year, we heard rumors that Google was working on a game-streaming service. It looks like those rumors were true. The company today unveiledProject Stream,” and while Google calls this a “technical test” to see how well game streaming to Chrome works, it’s clear that this is the foundational technology for a game-streaming service.

To sweeten the pot, Google is launching this test in partnership with Ubisoft and giving a limited number of players free access to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey for the duration of the test. You can sign up for the test now; starting on October 5, Google will invite a limited number of participants to play the game for free in Chrome.

As Google notes, the team wanted to work with a AAA title because that’s obviously far more of a challenge than working with a less graphics-intense game. And for any game-streaming service to be playable, the latency has to be minimal and the graphics can’t be worse than on a local machine. “When streaming TV or movies, consumers are comfortable with a few seconds of buffering at the start, but streaming high-quality games requires latency measured in milliseconds, with no graphics degradation,” the company notes in today’s announcement.

If you want to participate, though, you’ll have to be fast. Google is only taking a limited number of testers. Your internet connection has to be able to handle 25 megabits per second and you must live in the U.S. and be older than 17 to participate. You’ll also need both a Ubisoft and Google account. The service will support wired PlayStation and Xbox One and 360 controllers, though you can obviously also play with your mouse and keyboard.

While it remains to be seen if Google plans to expand this test and turn it into a full-blown paid service, it’s clear that it’s working on the technology to make this happen. And chances are Google wouldn’t pour resources into this if it didn’t have plans to commercialize its technology.

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Behold Ubisoft’s gloriously ridiculous Assassin’s Creed Amazon Echo

Posted by | Amazon, assassin's creed, echo, Gaming, ubisoft | No Comments

The Assassin’s Creed Odyssey Echo Plus is a limited edition, which will no doubt make fans want the thing that much more. It’s a standard Amazon device that Ubisoft dressed up in a Spartan helmet, to be given away in small quantities through the company’s site.

The ridiculous thing is the game maker’s way of promoting a new Alexa skill, designed to provide useful tips for the upcoming action role-playing title. The download will be available for all Echo devices (Greek battle helmet or no) starting October 2 — three days before Assassin’s Creed Odyssey officially hits consoles.

There are 1,500 responses available through the skill, which describe points of interest, offer up contextual information and just generally help you through the game. There also are some fittingly goofy ones designed to parrot common Alexa questions like,

“What’s the temperature today?”

“It’s colder than the heart of Hades after a bad breakup.”

and

“What’s on my shopping list?”

“Blood-stain remover. That is all.”

and also

“Tell me a joke.”

“An Athenian declared war. HAH! Get it?”

They say comedy’s all in the timing, and that one’s about 2,500 years late.

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Ubisoft now auto-bans Rainbow Six Siege players who use toxic language

Posted by | Gaming, TC, ubisoft | No Comments

Ubisoft has implemented a new system in Rainbow Six Siege that bans players for using toxic language in the text chat, according to PC Gamer.

Yesterday, a number of players started whining about being temporarily banned from the game after using a racist or homophobic slur in the text chat. The first offense results in a 27 minute ban. Second and third offenses will cost players 2 hours of game time, and any following toxic language will result in an official investigation and potentially a permanent ban from the game.

Like most games, Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six Siege has a Code of Conduct that forbids “any language or content deemed illegal, dangerous, threatening, abusive, obscene, vulgar, defamatory, hateful, racist, sexist, ethically offensive or constituting harassment.” However, most games do close to nothing to enforce these rules, which has led to an overwhelmingly toxic gaming community overall.

This new banning system doesn’t come out of the blue. Ubisoft has been talking about removing toxic language from the platform for a while. In fact, the dev team wrote in April that it has plans to add new features to limit the use of offensive language on the game.

From the April post:

Our team is working on the creation of an automated system that will censor text chat in game based on a chat filter list. This will replace words that have been identified as offensive and provide players with a notification that their language was found to be unacceptable. We will also be tracking the number of times players trigger this filter and will take action as necessary for players that are intentionally having a negative impact on other player’s gaming experience.

The current iteration of the banning system doesn’t censor the offensive words in text chat but rather goes straight to the 27-minute ban.

The gaming world has grown into an increasingly toxic environment, as there has been little to no policing of users’ behavior and communication. But eSports and Twitch are putting gamers in the spotlight, and brand endorsements are a huge piece of the upward trajectory of esports. But no brand is going to get behind a gamer that uses homophobic or racial slurs.

Ubisoft says on Twitter that the ban system is still being updated and the team is taking feedback from the community to continue refining it, as well as punishing players who are cheating.

No system is perfect, but it is working as intended in a majority of the cases we’ve been seeing.
This is not our final update for dealing with toxicity — we will continue to observe and make changes and expansions as needed.

— Rainbow Six Siege (@Rainbow6Game) July 16, 2018

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Here’s what Ubisoft announced at E3 2018

Posted by | e3 2018, Gaming, TC, ubisoft | No Comments

E3 news is officially coming fast and furious, a day ahead of the show’s official launch.

Following a fairly disappointing showing from Square Enix, Ubisoft brought out the big guns, including Assassin’s Creed and Tom Clancy titles and a cameo by a beaming Shigeru Miyamoto.

Here are the biggest announcement’s from today’s event.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Set in ancient Greece, the latest addition to the hugely popular title got a gorgeous new trailer, complete with Socrates — because what action-adventure title would be complete with out one of history’s great philosophers? The title is due out October 5 — refreshingly fast for a show full of “pre-alpha” demos.

Beyond Good and Evil 2

The followup to the 2003 critical darling kicked off the show with an extended trailer and a touch of gameplay. The prequel is built around open-world action Star Wars-style space adventures. Currently in pre-alpha, the game is soliciting contributions from fans through Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s hitRECord startup.

Trials Rising

The BMX sequel got some high-intensity gameplay footage at today’s event. Currently available in beta, the title will arrive on PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch next February.

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2

Quite possibly the only game trailer with an Abraham Lincoln in the middle, the new Tom Clancy title is set in the nation’s capital following a zombie-style plague. The title will launch in March 2019.

Skull & Bones

Pirate games? This E3’s got ’em. Based on the naval battles from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, the new title features large-scale tactical open-seas action.

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle — Donkey Kong Adventure

Another familiar face joins the Ubisoft/Nintendo crossover. The downloadable add-on arrives June 26 for the Nintendo, with Donkey Kong in tow.

Starlink: Battle for Atlas

Speaking of Nintendo, legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto was on-hand at the event to help introduce Fox McCloud and other Star Fox characters as exclusive add-on content for the action-adventure space title. Starlink is due out October 18.

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