French publisher Ubisoft has admitted that it intends to focus on its own brands going forward, as another of its licensed titles based on a Hollywood movie underperforms at retail.
James Cameron's Avatar: The Game is on track to sell around 2.5 million units across six formats, although Ubisoft had initially expected to sell between 3.5 and 5 million copies. The movie has been breaking box-office records, with $1.6 billion in ticket sales since release in December.
"Our plan is to take more care of our high end franchises, we will leave less place for licensed games," said CEO Yves Guillemot in a recent call to investors. "So the goal is to reuse the investment and licenses and put more emphasis on the making of our brands bigger and make sure they can come more often with high quality. So it doesn't mean we will stop but we're going to spend less in licenses in the future."
The game hasn't been a loss-maker, stressed the company, but Ubisoft has gone so far as to initiate discounting with GAME in the UK to ensure product goes through the tills, with one third of stock sold at a discount according to internal estimates.
Ubisoft has previously released a number of licensed titles each year across multiple formats, usually based on mediocre movies such as Beowolf and Open Season. Avatar seemed to be a big license in the vein of it's last movie hit – Peter Jackson's King Kong. Upcoming tie-ins include Scott Pilgrim Vs the World and a game based on Steven Spielberg's Tin Tin movie.
Last week the publisher lowered financial forecasts, mainly on very poor DS sales in Europe, and said it intended to focus on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 product. Upcoming Wii exclusive Red Steel 2 also had its expectations slashed, with estimates of one million sales halved to 500,000.
The company's big push for the next financial year includes new Ghost Recon, Driver and Assassin's Creed games, alongside the much delayed Splinter Cell: Conviction – all of which are to have significant multiplayer options.
The company also revealed that ambitious title I Am Alive has been further delayed and will now be built using the same engine as Splinter Cell: Conviction.
"We have been totally re-engineering the product," offered Guillemot. "So it's still on the way, it's going to use the Splinter Cell engine and we have amortised all the costs that were incurred with the previous developer.
"So everything we do now is fresh on that product and we think it can become a very good quality product but it's not going to come this financial year."