It has not been smooth sailing for Skull and Bones (opens in new tab), Ubisoft's oft-delayed and much-derided game of high seas piracy that, for those keeping score, still doesn't have a release date. It's fair to say that what little we've seen of the game so far hasn't made a great impression, but chief financial officer Frederick Duguet thinks that will change once we all get a look at an "improved version" of the game that, for now, remains behind closed doors.
Skull and Bones came up during the Q&A portion of Ubisoft's quarterly financial call, when an investment analyst asked about projected sales required in order for the game to turn a profit after such a prolonged period of development. What made the question stand out was a comment at the end, which isn't the sort of thing often heard during resolutely polite financial calls: "I'm asking because I've seen the reviews and they don't look particularly strong."
It's not clear what "reviews" the caller was referring to, because Skull and Bones obviously hasn't been reviewed yet. Some playtesters have reportedly not been impressed with what they've seen of the game, and while we're not among them (which is to say, we haven't had the opportunity to get our hands on it yet), neither the initial gameplay reveal (opens in new tab) in 2022 nor a January dev stream (opens in new tab) showing off new "narrative gameplay" knocked my socks off.
Regardless of the specifics, though, there's no arguing that the overall response to the game so far has not been wildly positive. But Duguet thinks that minds will change once we see the as-yet unrevealed improvements developers have made to the game.
"We said in January, we've been very happy with the playtest that we've seen in early January, so we have a very strong improved version to show to players that they haven't seen yet," Duguet said during the call. "So this is really what we are going to leverage in the next month to drive more momentum on the game."
To be blunt, I think there's a lot of optimism there. Skull and Bones really doesn't look like a very interesting game to me: There are lots of menus, timers, and button-clicks, but I don't see any way to just go out and get rowdy with the boys, which is what the swashbuckling life is all about. Can that very fundamental aspect of gameplay be tweaked or tuned in a way that suddenly makes me stop thinking about Sea of Thieves—especially in such a short period of time?
I have my doubts, but hopefully we'll get a better idea about it soon. Ubisoft declined to comment further on what exactly it will "leverage in the next month," as Duguet put it, but with luck it means those public playtests (opens in new tab) we've been waiting for will finally start to happen—or at the very least, that playtesters will be able to start properly sharing their experiences with the game.
Unfortunately, today's call did not give us any kind of launch date news: The most recent delay, announced in January, pushed the game into Ubisoft's 2023-24 fiscal year, which means it will be out sometime after April 1.