A lot of the usual suspects made headlines for E3 2014; Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI ) is betting big on Destiny, Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA ) is bringing back some fan favorites, and Take-Two Interactive is wishing that it had another Grand Theft Auto up its sleeves. But one video game developer seemingly slipped under the radar this year, despite presenting a powerful collection of games: Ubisoft (NASDAQOTH: UBSFF ) . You should be paying a lot more attention to Ubisoft than you are. Here's why.
At this year's E3, Ubisoft packed a bigger punch than a lot of investors would've thought -- but ask gamers, and they weren't too surprised. After all, Ubisoft is home to some of the biggest and best franchises in gaming, including Assassin's Creed and Far Cry. Both games had best-selling releases over the past few years, the most recent of which was Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, which was a hot seller for Ubisoft in fiscal 2014, with 11 million units sold as of the company's earnings report in May. Unfortunately, that was one of only two of Ubisoft's big releases last year. That was a lower number of games than usual for Ubisoft, and the effect of this light pipeline revealed itself in the company's annual earnings: Ubisoft's sales declined by 18%, or $1 billion.
Maybe it was this light lineup from last year that convinced gamers and investors that there were bigger fish out there, but Ubisoft caught a lot of attention after its pre-E3 press conference. Not only did the company announce Assassin's Creed: Unity, which is making a big push into multiplayer and co-op modes for this iteration, but it also showed off Far Cry 4. Predecsssor Far Cry 3 was a fan favorite from a few years ago, and this newest edition looks appropriately awesome -- especially the part that I got my hands on, which let me ride an elephant into an enemy base while wielding a shotgun. Trust me, that's a quick way to get a gamer's attention.
In addition to these two releases, Ubisoft gave gamers a glimpse of two new Tom Clancy games coming out in 2015: The Division and Rainbow Six: Siege. The Division drops gamers into a post-apocalyptic New York City that they must help defend, while Siege lets them play as members of a S.W.A.T. unit or a terrorist group. Both games put an emphasis on multiplayer and tactical shooting, a combination that more and more games are turning toward, and both games look appropriately next-gen. While they won't be around until next year, building excitement for each game now by showcasing them at E3 will go a long way toward garnering excitement for when they do arrive.
What about the other guys?
Of course, you can't just analyze Ubisoft in a vacuum. It has some heavy competition in the form of Activision and EA, the two biggest developers in the U.S. by market share. Activision is bringing the heat this year with a strong lineup of some of the world's most popular games; it has a new Call of Duty and Skylanders hitting shelves this year, as well as the highly anticipated Destiny. Meanwhile EA has a deeper pipeline than ever, with fan favorites such as Mirror's Edge teaming up with old warhorses such as Madden. With competition like this, it's unlikely Ubisoft will be moving up from its position as the fourth largest developer by market share, though that doesn't mean it won't be a strong year for the company.
Ubisoft's future is bright
What does all this mean for you and me? Well, for me it means I'll be missing a lot of work in the future as I play through all of these great new Ubisoft games. But for you and investors everywhere, it means you should be ready for Ubisoft to pop. It has already released Watch Dogs this year, and it will be coming out with two new hits by the holidays, not to mention relatively popular games such as The Crew and Just Dance 2015. And the pipeline remains strong even after this year, as gamers begin to get excited for next-gen shooters The Division and Rainbow Six: Siege. Overall, this should be a pretty good year for Ubisoft.
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