Marketing murder: The secrets of selling Assassin's Creed 3

Geoffroy Sardin on starting early, cinema, Vita sales and going beyond the release day numbers

Assassin's Creed III sold 3.5 million in its first week, double what its predecessor Assassin's Creed: Revelations managed this time last year. Here, Ubisoft's chief sales and marketing officer Geoffroy Sardin explains to GamesIndustry International how Ubisoft made that happen.

“It's not about doubling the investment, it's a question of communicating in advance with a lot of assets,” explains Sardin, who has been with the company since 1998.

“We wanted to address and involve the consumer in advance, especially digitally. And through the marketing website to have direct contact in advance with the dev team, through our forums and community tools. To ask the community what they want and what they don't want. What they understood and what they didn't.”

Of course the people spending time on the Ubisoft forums are probably already a pretty sure bet when it comes to Assassin's sales, but the aim for this year really was introducing new people.

“Our goal was to involve new consumers and I think the proof is here now with the first figures we communicate, we doubled the numbers on the week one compared to last year."

He says the new setting and hero helped towards that goal, giving people who perhaps weren't familiar with Ezio an entry point into the franchise. Also key was finding ways to reach people using new media, both social and mainstream.

“Especially in the UK," says Sardin. "We decided with the team to use new media with the cinema. We supported in the summertime a huge campaign of advertising in the cinema, using a new type of communication based on the Rise campaign, a short movie using new emotions in our communication for the brand. It was brand new and well executed."

"It's not about doubling the investment, it's a question of communicating in advance with a lot of assets"

“After that we used all our social websites and Facebook front page, and we recruited more than 2 million more on our Facebook fan page this year and those 2 million people more are new fans. So in a nutshell new media, quality, and social websites.”

He adds that if you turn on the TV in the UK this week you can expect to see a lot of Assassin's Creed III advertising there too.

“It's not a question of changing and shifting our way to communicate, it's to combine all the media to reach our target.”

And in this time of massive triple-A titles all competing for the Christmas sales, getting your game in people's minds early can make a huge difference.

“The marketing strategy was focused on consumer point of view in advance. It's not about spending money after launch, it's before launch,” says Sardin, pointing out that they first revealed the game in March, a full nine months before release.


Of course Ubisoft isn't just selling one Assassin's Creed game on release day, it is selling two, with Assassin's Creed: Liberation on PlayStation Vita released simultaneously.

“It's the first time we've proposed another experience on another format, but there are some links between both of the games. The consumers are aware that Aveline, the main character on the Vita format, could have a future in our history for the Assassin's Creed brand, and the second thing is we wanted to bring a new experience using the features of the Vita.”

“For now we are super happy with the first results we have got on the Vita, it is the biggest launch for week one for 2012, and it's the first Vita product for this end of the year.”

"It's not only about games, we are talking about a global brand"

He adds that the tactic “could give some ideas for another franchise, for sure.“

As for the future beyond release, Sardin hopes that the size and prestige of the franchise, complete with books, merchandise, an upcoming film starring Michael Fassbender and DLC will keep Assassin's Creed 3 selling long past day-one.

“We announced a season pass [for DLC] and it was the first time we've done that for the Assassin's Creed brand. It could grant a better life cycle for sure."

“Another thing that is very important for the lifecycle is the transmedia offer. All the figurines, the books, the publishing, and we have a movie in the next coming year. So it's not only about games, we are talking about a global brand, and this is the life cycle management we want to set up now.”

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Latest comments (7)

Vasil Vasilev9 years ago
Ubisoft is really going to milk the Assassin's Creed franchise dry, aren't they?
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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D9 years ago
I can't imagine this game would have been made if it wasn't for the tax breaks - the budget must be absolutely enormous. Which raises the question of what will happen if those tax breaks are pulled. Someone else made the point on here months ago - what was meant to be a hand up for the industry in Quebec has turned into a pemanent crutch.
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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D9 years ago
Oh, and in response to Vasil. Yes, it certainly appears that way!
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Show all comments (7)
David Serrano Freelancer 9 years ago
"Our goal was to involve new consumers and I think the proof is here now with the first figures we communicate, we doubled the numbers on the week one compared to last year."

But Ubisoft didn't involve "new consumers" because the size of the AAA audience has at best, been static for years. They didn't bring new people into the market, they only reached a larger percentage of the static audience. The problem is that static audience only represents a small percentage of the potential audience for the games. So while selling more copies is great for Ubisoft's bottom line, the reality is reaching 10 percent or less of your potential audience is hardly a reason to hang up a mission accomplished banner and boast about the brilliance of your marketing strategy.
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Hugo Trepanier Senior Game Designer, Ludia9 years ago
@Fran, I know you have a somewhat bitter history with Quebec's tax breaks and I can sympathize with your reaction. I just wanted to add that although these games are primarily developed at Ubisoft's Montreal studio, they also get a lot of help from other studios including Singapore, Annecy, Budapest and Massive. I'm not entirely convinced these games would not exist without the tax breaks, though admittedly more of the game(s) would likely be created by these or other developers. All things considered, the cost of life here is generally low compared to other high-ranking cities of the developed world so it's still a good investment to hire staff in QC.
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Meelad Sadat [a]list daily editorial director, Ayzenberg Group9 years ago
it's not "milking it" when you're investing healthily in an IP and outputting quality products. it's also inaccurate to say the size of the AAA audience hasn't grown "for years" when you see how revenues for AAA titles has actually grown over the past few years.

take it from me, these are conclusions derived from a lot of spin in the press lately - consoles are dead, franchises are killing games, most gamers are huddled around their tablets/phones. there's room for those opinions and more about our ever-changing industry, but let's not get doctrinaire
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Chuan L Game Designer / Indie Developer 9 years ago
How about they actually make some decent gameplay?
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