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Ubisoft posts record sales, delays Skull & Bones

Original IP pushed to next fiscal year as publisher sees pace of digital shift picking up, eyes expansion in PC, mobile, and China

The games industry is thriving, according to Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot. Even with rival AAA publishers almost uniformly touting strong results this financial season and the publisher not yet a part of the battle royale phenomenon, Guillemot said in a post-earnings conference call that Ubisoft still posted a strong fiscal fourth quarter and full year.

For the year ended March 31, Ubisoft posted net revenues up nearly 19% to €1.73 billion ($2.04 billion), with net income up 29% to €139.5 million ($164.7 million).

Those numbers received a late boost thanks to the debut of Far Cry 5, which launched four days before the end of the fiscal year. The open-world shooter racked up $310 million in player spending during its release week, making it the second biggest launch ever for Ubisoft.

As for the rest of the company's lineup, Ubisoft said Assassin's Creed: Origins had the best-ever fourth quarter performance for an Assassin's Creed title, while its Tom Clancy titles continued to bolster their player ranks. Rainbow 6 Siege now has over 30 million registered players, while The Division has more than 20 million and Ghost Recon Wildlands has topped 10 million.

"During the fourth quarter, we reached a record of peak concurrent users thanks to record engagement levels and esports viewership for Rainbow Six Siege, the successful launch of Far Cry 5 - the second biggest launch in Ubisoft's history - and continued strong performance by Assassin's Creed Origins, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle and our back-catalog titles," Guillemot said in a prepared statement. "As a result, we have outperformed our financial targets, with record-high sales, digital and back-catalog revenues, and profitability."

The company is also optimistic about its future, but reduced its forecast for the current fiscal year as a result of a delay. Ubisoft announced that its new pirate-themed intellectual property Skull & Bones has been delayed into the fiscal year beginning April of 2019 "to offer players an even more engaging experience." Now the company will build its current fiscal year around new releases The Crew 2, The Division 2, and one unannounced franchise title. Those three games are expected to sell 19 million units combined; prior to the Skull & Bones delay, Ubisoft expected the quartet of titles to sell 23 million.

For the current fiscal year, Ubisoft is forecasting net bookings of €2.05 billion, down from its previously announced target of €2.1 billion. Additionally, the publisher noted the faster-than-expected shift of the industry toward digital business, and is now expecting digital revenues to account for 65% of its business (up from 60%), with back catalog sales making up half of net bookings, compared to 45% previously.

"In the short and medium term, Ubisoft has many growth opportunities to tap and expects further profitability increases," Guillemot said. "Our digital transformation is progressing at a faster pace than we anticipated. Our potential in the PC and mobile markets is massive, notably in China. Finally, we are continuing to develop and structure our esports offering, which represents a significant opportunity.

"Over the longer term, new forms of gaming, enabled notably by streaming, will allow our brands to reach a much wider audience. Consequently, we are investing in our online services platform - which boasted 88 million unique active players - as well as in artificial intelligence in order to better tailor the game experience to each player's profile and therefore offer them ever-richer experiences."

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