Do you remember the Ubisoft game Skull & Bones that was announced at E3 2017? It’s been in development for eight years and is currently entering alpha production.
That is according to different Skull bones Developers at Ubisoft who recently spoke to Kotaku.
What began in 2013 as an offshoot of Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag was not released as a post-launch update, but became a title of its own and was developed at Ubisoft Singapore. The game was announced at E3 2017 as a cooperative multiplayer title with PvP and many environmental factors such as wind and ocean currents.
It all sounded pretty funny and many were looking forward to the fall 2018 release, but in May 2018 Ubisoft announced that the game had been postponed to 2019. Despite the second delay, everything seemed to be going well as the public was given another watch during E3 2018. In May 2019, the game suffered another delay that led it into the company’s 2020/2021 fiscal year.
Then came the news of a restart of the game, and finally, for the last time we heard, it is now expected to be released sometime after April 2022.
So what is the reason for all the delays? According to over 20 current and former Ubisoft developers as well as those who know their way around the game, it has suffered from difficult development, mismanagement, yearly reboots and there never seems to have been a “clear creative vision behind it”. The Kotaku article states that even the core design hasn’t been pinned down in ages and that the game has now exceeded its original budget and cost Ubisoft around $ 120 million, which employees from other Ubisoft studios are now continuing to bring in.
Over the years, development has stalled or changed more than once due to feedback from Ubisoft companies, new managers, personnel changes, and other development issues. As it stands now, the game is on its third creative director, and hopefully things will be more positive moving forward from now on.
“Nobody wants to admit they screwed up,” said one developer. “It’s too big to fail, just like the banks in the US”
“If Skull & Bones were with a competitor, it would have been killed 10 times,” said another former developer.
A recent developer even compared the SKull & Bones saga to Biowares Anthem, a game with a rocky start that was due for a restart that was eventually canceled.
Even so, with all the problems it has faced, Ubisoft stands behind the multiplayer game and seems determined to release it as a live service game at some point, which is the direction Ubisoft is taking with its releases. Add to this the fact that the Singapore government is asking a company like Ubisoft to bring a new title to market due to the number of subsidies. Basically, Ubisoft has no choice but to ship the game.
The Kotaku piece goes into much more detail about how difficult the game is to develop, and you really should read it.