Ubisoft touts Assassin's Creed: Origins and 'the PC opportunity' in third quarter financials

2017 was a good year for Ubisoft, which reported a "strong rise in sales" in its third quarter report for 2017-18. Assassin's Creed: Origins is a hit, the Rainbow Six Siege Pro League is continuing to expand, and even The Division is bouncing back, although I'm not sure what "player engagement," which apparently doubled following the release of the 1.8 update, really means. In all, it added up to quarterly sales of €725 million ($891 million), easily surpassing the company's targets. 

"Our very strong third-quarter performance highlights two areas in which we have made major strides. First, our games' live operations are making steady progress. This has fueled momentum for digital and back catalog, which both hit record highs this quarter," Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said. 

"Second, the increasingly recurring profile of our business has had a very positive impact on our new releases. By taking additional time to develop our games, we have been able to deliver three top-quality titles since August, including the grand return of Assassin's Creed." 

The success of AC: Origins following Ubi's decision to give the series a year off in 2016 is obviously good news for gamers who'd rather wait for a good one than get a half-assed effort on time. But what's really noteworthy, as Guillemot indicated, is the sharp increase in "player recurring investment," including sales of "digital items, DLC, season passes, subscriptions, and advertising," which leapt more than 87 percent to €318.5 million over the preceding nine months, representing 26.7 percent of total sales, compared to 20.9 percent last year. Ubisoft emphasized the value of post-launch content in an accompanying slideshow, describing it as "a major booster to profitability" that requires "much lower levels of R&D and marketing." 

That's generally similar to Activision's year end report, delivered last week, in which it noted that in-game purchases accounted for a huge portion of its total sales for the year, and that live games—"in-game services, features and content"—actually encourage player engagement, rather than pushing them away.   

Also interesting is that Ubisoft specifically cites "the PC opportunity" as a particular opportunity for future growth. Esports and streaming are obviously big drivers of engagement, but it also turns out that making "dedicated high-quality PC versions" of games leads to positive user reviews on platforms like Steam, and vastly improved overall sales: The PC accounts for 18 percent of Ubisoft sales in the 2017 fiscal, compared to just seven percent five years ago.