Ubisoft Unveils Subscription Service UPlay+, Reveals Details of 'Watch Dogs: Legion'
French video game publisher Ubisoft announced its new subscription service, dubbed Uplay+, on Monday at its pre-E3 press conference amid the usual raft of game trailers and reveals.
The service — which will launch Sept. 3 on Windows PC and will be made available on other platforms, including Google Stadia, in 2020 — will provide members with access to more than 100 titles at launch. Included will be all the publisher's latest releases — The Division 2, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Rainbow Six: Siege and Far Cry 5 — in addition to classic titles from Ubisoft franchises like Rayman, Splinter Cell and Heroes of Might and Magic.
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"More players are in the digital ecosystem than ever before, and a digital subscription is one of the easiest ways for players to access content," said Brenda Panagrossi, Ubisoft's vp platform and product management, in a statement. "With Uplay+, players will have unlimited access to our large catalog of games for the first time."
Uplay+ will cost $14.99/month and give subscribers access to premium editions of all games, with all additional content and DLCs included, and be automatically signed up for beta and early access releases.
One of the first beta releases that will be made available to Uplay+ members is Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, which will launch on Sept. 5. Ubisoft announced the release date with the help of actor Jon Bernthal — who plays Lt. Col. Cole D. Walker in the game — and his good dog. (Players can also guarantee access to the beta by preordering the game.) The game itself will drop Oct. 4, with Uplay+ members getting three days of early access.
JON BERNTHAL IS ON STAGE WITH BEST DOG pic.twitter.com/th2xJqicVJ— #E3MODE (@LordBalvin) June 10, 2019
Other games announced during the preview were a new Just Dance game, Just Dance 2020, slated for a November release on Switch, Xbox One, PS4, Stadia and … Wii; a new, future-set Rainbow Six co-op campaign dubbed Quarantine and involving alien parasites, coming out in early 2020 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC; Tom Clancy's Elite Squad, a mobile game featuring characters from Ubisoft's extended Clancy universe; and Gods and Monsters, an adventure game from the team behind Assassin's Creed: Odyssey.
But the centerpiece of Ubisoft's showcase was Watch Dogs: Legion, the third entry in the action-adventure franchise where hacking plays a big role in gameplay. Legion is set in a future London where the objective is to build a popular resistance to fight back against an emerging authoritarian regime. The major innovation in the open world of Legion is the player's ability to control any person they meet and recruit them onto their team of operatives.
The technology that makes such a world possible was a major focus of Ubisoft's press preview on Sunday, which at times seemed almost like an investor conference with its concentration on the games industry as a whole and the ways in which Ubisoft is adapting and innovating within a new landscape where big ideas are as likely to come from indie developers as AAA studios.
Christelle Melchor, a market analyst from Ubisoft's Consumer and Market Knowledge team, spoke about how the company's game makers are designing games to target player engagement. Dominic Butler, the projects director for editorial technology, spoke about AI and its potential to shift game design in as fundamental a way as the advent of 3D graphics. Stephanie Perotti, Ubisoft's vp online services, spoke about the potential of cloud computing to improve both the gaming experience and the game development process across the publisher's globe-spanning studios.
The intersection point of all the speakers' presentations was the open world of Legion, which draws on a massive database called Census to simulate the entire population of a scaled-down London, where each person has a family, friends, enemies, occupations, hangouts, appointments — basically, places to go and people to see. The game even draws on real demographic data to populate different areas of the city with an accurate mix of residents.
Martin Walsh, the game's lead programmer, calls the process of giving each person in the game a complete backstory "curated procedural generation." Using the example of a bartender, Walsh explained how a player might go about recruiting him by beating up a gangster trying to shake him down, or saving his mom from a mugger. The player can then complete the bartender's origin mission and add him — and his unique set of skills — to their roster of authoritarian resisters.
It's an incredibly ambitious open world that reflects Ubisoft's goal, stated and restated on Sunday, of using technology and leveraging its massive workforce of over 16,000 to deepen player experience. Said Butler: "Ubisoft is committed to offering players the next generation of open worlds with unparalleled levels of interactivity."
Legion will be released March 6.
Players can pre-register for Uplay+ now at uplay.com.
by Pamela McClintock
by Richard Newby