No video game franchise ever truly ends as long as it’s profitable: Nintendo won’t stop making Mario games until everybody stops buying them, Microsoft’s Halo trilogy is now the Halo “saga,” and let’s face it, Konami’s Metal Gear Solid series will never end, no matter how old Snake (or Hideo Kojima) gets. Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed isn’t any different, but despite being an annualized franchise, the game’s producers say they have a definite ending planned out for the series’ ongoing story.
“We have an idea of where the end is, what the end is,” AC4 director Ashraf Ismail told Eurogamer. “But of course Yves [Guillemot, Ubisoft CEO] announced we are a yearly title, we ship one game a year. So depending on the setting, depending on what fans want, we’ve given ourselves room to fit more in this arc. But there is an end.”
Ismail says there is a team at Ubisoft that’s dedicated solely to figuring out Assassin’s Creed’s storyline, so while the series may go on indefinitely, Ubisoft is dedicated to making sure every episode of the AC saga (which doesn’t include just the games, but the tie-in web series’, comics, and novels,) fits into a clearly defined story arc.
(AC3 SPOILERS) Assassin’s Creed IV’s main protagonist is Edward Kenway, the swashbuckling grandfather of AC3’s personality-deprived hero, Connor. Since Desmond met his untimely end at the end of AC3, players will get to play as a new character during AC4’s modern day chapters. The new hero is an Abstrego employee who is reliving Desmond’s ancestral memories through archived shards of Desmond’s DNA. The modern day storyline will pick up where AC3’s divisive ending left off, as both the Assassins and Abstrego deal with the aftermath of Juno’s release. Ismail says one of the advantages of the game’s yearly development cycle is that they can now foreshadow story events for later games well in advance; for instance, Edward Kenway was originally mentioned several times throughout AC3. (/END SPOILERS)
Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemont says that his company will continue to produce yearly Assassin’s Creed sequels until the series “needs a break,” which he defines as the point when the series can’t “improve enough or bring something that fans haven’t seen before.” It’s a noble sentiment, but let’s face it — Ubisoft won’t stop making AC games until people stop buying them. Assassin’s Creed is now Ubisoft’s best-selling franchise, and I’m pretty sure their shareholders don’t want to see that flow of cash stop anytime soon.
So basically, don’t expect to see the definite conclusion to the AC story line until most customers stop caring and Ubisoft stops making mountains of cash off the game.
It’s easy to criticize companies like Ubisoft (or any of the major video game publishers, honestly,) for relying so much on sequels to established franchises, but to be fair, they wouldn’t make so many sequels (and prequels, inter-quels, and side stories and spin-offs,) if gamers didn’t buy them. I personally don’t mind annualized sequels as long as they manage to keep the quality up — after all, why would you complain about getting more of something you love? As long as the gameplay remains satisfying, I’ll keep playing, no matter how dragged-out and convoluted the narrative gets. Assassin’s Creed 3 wasn’t the best game in the series, but I’m still optimistic (perhaps naively so,) that Ubisoft will be able to get the series back on track eventually.
Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag will be released for the PS3, PC, Xbox 360, and Wii U this October, and on the PS4 and Xbox One sometime after those consoles’ launches.