Ubisoft announced last week that their long awaited pirate simulator game Skull and Bones has been delayed… again. For the sixth time. And we no longer have a firm release date, but a release window between April 1, 2023 and 2024. What. A. Mess.
Development first began in 2013, and the game was initially envisioned as a sea fairing expansion to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. While the Assassin’s Creed title did have a fair amount of swashbuckling action, this expansion was to make taking to the high seas it’s main focus, allowing the player to plunder coastal towns, raze enemy ships, and chant merry sea shanties to their heart’s content.
It didn’t take long however for the project to grow too large to be a mere expansion, and with technology increasing at a swifter pace than expected, the game was spun off into it’s own project, acquiring the name Skull & Bones.
Over the next decade, the game would get a release date, then be delayed, then pop up again, only to sink into the murky depths once more. According to developers, the title has undergone countless changes, with it once being set in the Caribbean, then moving to the fantastical waterworld of Hyperborea, and then finally to the great Indian Ocean.
Most recently, the game was scheduled for release by the end of 2022, before it was pushed back in late September to March 9, 2023. This latest delay comes at the same time that Ubisoft has announced dire finances for the gaming company, and that three unannounced projects have also been canned along with the sixth Skull and Bones delay.
Being a pirate has long been a fantasy for many, with movies, television, literature, and even video games exploring life as a dirty ‘ole sea dog for over a century. When Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag released in 2013, it offered a completely fresh take on what it was like to helm your own ship, with a rich open world to explore both by foot and by sea, and complex naval combat that made you feel like you really were braving the treacherous Caribbean.
But times have changed. Since Black Flag‘s release, we’ve received titles such as Blackwake, Furious Seas, King of Seas, and of course Sea of Thieves. There’s now enough variety to feed the hunger of any buccaneer. Want to hunt treasure? They’ve got that. Want to explore an open world? They have that, too. Wage naval warfare against your friends and others online? That’s a given. Feeling the need to chase down fabled nautical beasts? Aye, aye.
The truth of the matter is that Ubisoft may have missed the boat on Skull and Bones. That is to say, interest for the title has waned, and players have plenty more reliable options to turn to if they want to live out their pirate fantasies. With each delay comes a dip in patience and confidence from potential customers. Even if it were to release today in a polished state, could it possibly sell enough to make up for the near decade of development time? Will delaying the project by another full year make any change to those sales projections? I’m not so sure.
We cannot overlook the desperate situation Ubisoft is in right now, either. Reportedly, Ubisoft shopped around the idea last year of merging or being acquired by other companies, only to be laughed out of the room. Their CEO also sent a letter to employees stating that 2023 is crucial to the company’s longevity, and placed the responsibility of rescuing the French studio from the… er, sinking ship… that it’s currently in firmly on their backs. That’s a lot coming from the studio that has given us Assassin’s Creed, the Tom Clancy series of games, Rayman, Prince of Persia, and many more. Gambling on a new IP that has had such a troubled development history may not be the best way to steer the ship back on course.
What do you think? Is there still enough interest in Skull and Bones to warrant continued development? At what point does a company cut their losses and throw in the towel on a project? Do you have confidence that this delayed game will eventually be worth the wait, or is it doomed from the start? We want to hear what you think, both in our comment section below and on our social media pages!
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