Ubisoft looking to join digital distribution battle with third-party game sales on Uplay
In an interview with MCV, Ubisoft’s Stephanie Perotti discusses the potential to sell more than just Ubisoft games on the newly relaunched Uplay store. The new store includes social features, the ability to purchase DLC content by completing Achievements, and everything else you'd expect - and unlike most of Ubisoft's recent work, it doesn't take a month to get to the PC shelves.
But would you want to make it your shop of choice?
At the moment, there's not much to separate it from Steam - some prices are lower, but browsing around, most seem to be about the same. Uplay is integrated into the games themselves. The most notable part is that while Steam and Origin are both primarily desktop based, Ubisoft is going for a wider service - 'rewards' and 'actions' combining across games and devices.
This actually has some interesting potential, especially for third parties. Open up the the Driver San Francisco page for instance and you can see things you can do to earn Uplay points, and things to spend them on wherever you are. On the PC, you might earn 10 points for starting Assassin's Creed 2, which can then be spent to buy a new car in the Xbox 360 version of Driver: San Francisco or add them to points elsewhere for a bonus mission in Anno 2070. That's fine when it's Ubisoft's games, but imagine opening it up. Finish a demo to get enough points to unlock something in a game you're already playing? The only thing stopping that being a definition of win/win is that there's three sides involved.
That said, Ubisoft doesn't exactly have the greatest reputation on the PC right now, even after dropping its controversial (to be clear, this is the polite way of saying 'hideous, abhorrent, worthless and crap') always-on DRM, and it's not as though the other heavy hitters aren't invested in their own stores. No doubt they'd be willing to let Ubisoft sell their non-premium games, much as they do with Steam. Wrapping those games up into services that would integrate Ubisoft into the experience and make Uplay something other than another basically identical window to buy games from... that's a trickier sell.
We'll find out more about Ubisoft's plans soon enough, which will hopefully be a bit more than 'really, really hope people want to buy Watch Dogs from us', but there's no arguing they don't have an uphill struggle ahead if they want to make this work out and get their customers on board. Which, presumably, they do. The alternative would be pretty odd, all things considered.