Ghost Recon Breakpoint is a cautionary tale for game developers
Ubisoft announced this week that it is ceasing development of any new content for military action-adventure Ghost Recon Breakpoint, an expected 2019 blockbuster that flopped even as the company took extraordinary steps to salvage it.
Why it matters: Ghost Recon Breakpoint is a cautionary tale about what a game publisher thinks will happen with a game and what reality offers instead.
The most striking document that exemplifies the Breakpoint debacle is its 2019-2020 “Year 1 Road Map.”
- Of three promoted episodes of new story-based missions, the final one was scrapped and replaced.
- After the first of two promised multiplayer raids was released, the second was canceled.
Breakpoint was a debacle from the start, launching to low sales and player scorn.
- Fans of the Ghost Recon series felt Breakpoint deviated too much from its stealth roots, objected to the tracking of a character’s thirst and fatigue, and resented the focus on collecting in-game loot.
- Less than a month after launch, Ubisoft was reeling, posting a somber “moving forward” notice to players and promising improvements.
- After a year of radical overhauling, the developers had dialed back the fatigue system, offered an alternate mode to minimize the loot grind, and added an offline mode in reaction to disdain over the game’s online requirement.
- In other words: Ubisoft dropped the game’s most distinctive (and most loathed) features.
The big picture: It’s unclear if the post-release changes ever turned Breakpoint into an actual success for Ubisoft, but it did demonstrate the publisher’s flexibility.
- Its initial failure spooked Ubisoft badly enough that it also triggered a cascade of big-game delays, shoving Ubisoft’s next wave of releases back several months for retooling.
- The volatility of the game even turned Breakpoint into a public laboratory, as Ubisoft tested everything from a tree-planting initiative to its first NFTs.
The bottom line: Breakpoint didn’t get the redemptive post-release arc of a No Man’s Sky or Final Fantasy XIV, but it is a reminder that games may travel unexpected paths after they’re out …
- … even when their creators release an ambitious road map.
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