During Ubisoft’s quarterly investor conference call, Chief Executive Officer Yves Guillemot and Chief Financial Officer Alain Martinez talked about microtransactions and loot boxes.
Martinez mentioned during the prepared remarks that live services continue to drive “strong engagement” and digital performance. For the first nine months of the current fiscal year, Ubisoft’s monthly active users excluding mobile were up 34% year-on-year. Player recurring investment (PRI) was up 87% year-on-year to 319 million Euros. Digital sales and PRI represented respectively 56% and 27% of total revenue, up from last year’s 47% and 21%. Digital distribution for AAA titles was 55% of total units, up from 48% last year.
Later during the Q&A Guillemot explained that Assassin’s Creed Origins has significantly better PRI than in the previous installments of the franchise, but while it’s relevant, it’s not the best PRI-generator for the publisher. When the time played increased (and ACO saw twice as much playtime as its predecessor) Ubisoft naturally sees a “good growth” of PRI.
Martinez was also asked to comment on loot boxes, and he explains that the publisher defines them as “a question of quality and choice,” and that applies to all kinds of PRI. According to the executive, Ubisoft needs to deliver the right quality for people to be interested, and at the same time, customers “need to feel that they are really free not to buy it,” and that they have an actual choice.
Ubisoft believes that the way it has implemented microtransactions in Rainbow Six Siege or Assassin’s Creed has been well received. While there has been some discussion in a few countries about how loot boxes should be treated, but today said discussion is “much calmer” than it initially appeared. Ubisoft feels that it’s going in the right direction and that there isn’t a major regulatory issue that they might be facing.
Guillemot then explained that PRI is distributed across many games, including Assassin’s Creed, Ghost Recon, The Division, For Honor, The Crew, and more. All of them are generating good PRI thanks to the fact that they’re playing a lot.
During the call, Martinez also mentioned in passing that Ubisoft plans to publish “four major games” in the next fiscal year (between April 2018 and March 2019, hinting that there are two we haven’t heard about yet), and Guillemot declined to comment on whether the publisher plans to go back to annual releases for Assassin’s Creed, explaining that for Ubisoft is focusing on Origins, for which there are a “few more DLC” planned, and we’ll be “amazed” by what’s going to come for the game.
In the presentation slides, the publisher stressed on the opportunity brought by player recurring investment, with digital extra content requiring much less research & development and marketing. PC is also mentioned as an opportunity, with sales up to 18% of the total from 7% five years ago.
On top of this, the publisher also sees large opportunities for growth on mobile platforms and in China, which is also all about PC.
If you want to read more about Ubisoft’s performance in the quarter between September and December 2017, you can read our dedicated article.