A Middle Ages assassin is helping game maker Ubisoft stand up to bigger competitors.
The France-based company said Thursday it was revising its targets for this fiscal year upward and was able to delay release of several high-profile games due to to unexpectedly strong sales of its blockbuster "Assassin's Creed."
The game for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 is expected to sell more than five million copies worldwide by the end of the fiscal year, up from the company's initial estimate of three million, company CEO Yves Guillemot said. It cost $15 million to $20 million to develop, and was in the works for four years.
"It's doing extremely well, and what we see is it is actually the fastest selling new (intellectual property) in the industry in the U.S.," Guillemot told The Associated Press. "It shows that consumers are avid for novelty, and when you do something new, they respond."
A sequel to the open-world stealth action game is already in development by the same Montreal office that created the first.
Guillemot said the success of "Assassin's" allowed Ubisoft to delay until after the holidays the release of "Haze," a first-person shooter for Xbox and PS3 in which players can turn enemies on one another. Delayed into the next fiscal year were "Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway," "Far Cry 2" and "Tom Clancy's End War," which allows players issue voice commands to their military squads.
Guillemot said Ubisoft's emphasis on developing its own brands — not sport-and movie-licensed products that require royalty payments — would help it compete against the industry's biggest companies, Electronic Arts and the soon-to-merge Vivendi and Activision.
"We'll have to move faster to stay among the big guys in this industry," he said of the expected merger.
About one-fifth of Ubisoft's growth stemmed from what the industry calls "casual games," including those targeting young girls. The Nintendo DS titles "Imagine: Fashion Designer" and "Imagine: Babyz" both sold more than 1 million copies worldwide.
"It's a good growing segment of the market, thanks to products like 'Guitar Hero,' 'Rock Band' that are giving more people the possibility to play," Guillemot said. "We are moving in that direction to work on accessibility, and make sure more and more people can play the games."
Guillemot also addressed criticism that "Assassin's," while visually impressive, became repetitive in gameplay as players roamed through Damascus, Jerusalem and other cities in the year 1191.
"On any new game, when you do a new engine and you create a new environment, everything is not perfect," he said. "The people are enjoying it because they love the fact that they can actually decide what to do and when they want to do it.
"We can continue to improve the world, but what we think is that ... you're in a totally different world. You can get a feeling of what it is to live in that kind of place."