Ubisoft has an 'improved version' of Skull and Bones that it hasn't shown anyone yet

Image for Ubisoft has an 'improved version' of Skull and Bones that it hasn't shown anyone yet
(Image credit: Ubisoft)

It has not been smooth sailing for Skull and Bones, 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 in 2022 nor a January dev stream 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 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.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.