Following last week's news that Uplay is becoming Ubisoft Connect, a system allowing for cross-platform play and saves, it's now been announced that the premium subscription service, UPlay+, is being re-branded as Ubisoft+. U confused yet?
UPlay+ is a subscription costing £13 a month ($15 in the US), which grants access to all of Ubisoft's PC games in their various deluxe editions. The incredibly different Ubisoft+ will do and cost the same, except it will also be available on Google Stadia and Amazon Luna (which has an interesting channel-based approach). The change happens November 10.
Ubisoft is obviously one of the great publishers, and makes lots of fine videogames. That said, this subscription never seemed like good value to me: it's asking for more money than GamePass or Netflix or Spotify or Amazon Prime for access to a relatively small library of games. The cross-media examples might seem like comparing apples to oranges but, in a world where every entertainment giant wants your bank details for a monthly visit, the value proposition here is as weak as a baby's fart.
The problem with UPlay+, however, which will be exacerbated by Ubisoft+, is that it incentivises the publisher to make its games 'better' on the subscription service. Just look at this paragraph from the official announcement:
"Ubisoft+ on Amazon Luna and Stadia will feature a growing library of premium editions of Ubisoft games, including Watch Dogs: Legion, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and Immortals Fenyx Rising. Additionally, subscribers can pick up where they left off in some games, like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, across their devices whenever and wherever they are with cross-platform progression."
So expect more emphasis on premium editions of the publisher's big games and, if that last sentence is to be believed, fairly fundamental features (which you'd think would be included with the basic Ubisoft Connect) being locked into the subscription.
The problem is not that Ubisoft+ will suck, but that it will make all of Ubiisoft's games a tiny bit worse for players who don't sign up. By now we're all used to seeing every new Ubisoft game coming in a dozen different editions. The publisher argument always goes that the bonus stuff is cosmetic, it doesn't make a difference to the game's substance, but it does make a difference to how a consumer perceives their purchase. I remember buying a copy of Assassin's Creed Odyssey as a gift, and being conscious I was 'only' buying the standard edition for £50 (rather than the deluxe or gold steelbook for £20/£30 more). That little phrase 'standard edition' somehow always makes me feel like a second-class player.
That's the thing about a re-brand: it encourages people to look at a product afresh. UPlay+ is becoming Ubisoft+, and so I looked again. New name. Same old rubbish.