Ubisoft was recently participating in a gaming show in China, and the usual press reports of the event, interviews and such have been trickling out into the wild. Gamespot was present, and got a hold of Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot for a few questions. Much of the interview was about the Chinese marketplace and how Ubisoft, which has studios in both Shanghai and Singapore, plans to adapt to such a rapidly growing (and not so console friendly for the time being) gaming market. At the tail end of the interview, Guillemot said something super interesting about Microsoft and the Xbox One X that got me thinking. Despite a mixed public perception, does Microsoft’s “new” console provide leverage where it didn’t have much before?
When asked about the Xbox One X, Guillemot said the following: “We did a deal with Microsoft on Assassin's Creed: Origins, which is taking really good advantage of the power of the machine. We like very much what they are doing because instead of having a Kinect or something, this time the industry went after more power for the machine, so more immersion, better AI, and overall better games. We like that because it means the industry will grow because the better the experiences, the more people want to have it. We think it has a good potential. If Microsoft is really behind it, it can do well.”
It’s kind of a big way to say something without saying anything directly, but there’s a bit we can unpack from that. First of all, there is the fact that some kind of deal is present. And it’s not an obvious deal, something under the hood or more behind the scenes. As far as we currently know, there’s nothing like a window of console exclusivity or anything like that. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the deal isn’t beneficial to both parties.
When I wondered to myself about what this deal could be, I remembered something interesting. Back at E3, very few games on display were running on Xbox One X units unless they were over at the Microsoft portion of the show floor. Most booths used PS4s or PCs for multiplatform fare. Even Ubisoft used PS4s for games like Far Cry 5. But Assassin’s Creed Origins was running, straight up, on the Xbox One X behind closed doors. That meant that people with the power to spread information, influencers, journalists, and other miscellaneous media types, all played a huge, event AAA game on the Xbox One X in an industry that’s currently dominated by the PS4.
That’s bound to leave an impression. Speaking from personal experience, most games I just picked up the controller and played, but I noticed when it came time to play Assassin’s Creed Origins. I picked up the controller and realized it felt different, looked down, and saw I was suddenly playing the console that was just announced the day before. Something like this could very well have been the deal; Ubisoft and Microsoft agreeing together to use Assassin’s Creed Origins as a showcase of sorts.
When the word spreads further about just how powerful this console is, will people notice? They might not, if left to their own devices. After all, it’s still uncertain if the mainstream market will accept something so pricey in the capacity needed to make the Xbox One X a success. But something like a game-centric deal that acts as tangible evidence this is a platform that makes a difference? That can absolutely be a factor. We’ll see how it shakes out, but Xbox One X being used as leverage for extra demo use could be a low-key stepping stone to get more people thinking about Microsoft’s new tech.