Skull & Bones is set to be an Assassin’s Creed IV-inspired open-world adventure game…if the game is able to escape its four-year development cycle.
Ubisoft isn’t alone in having several anticipated games delayed this year. COVID-19 caused tons of road bumps in game development, with some, such as Cyberpunk 2077, being far more infamous than others. However, there’s been an open-world title in the works for the last four years that Ubisoft still has plans to publish, despite numerous delays. The game in question is Skull & Bones, a pirate-themed open-world adventure game that was first announced all the way back in 2017.
Skull & Bones is being developed by Ubisoft Singapore, a studio that mainly provided assistance on the Assassin’s Creed series. This includes Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, which also served as a huge inspiration for Skull & Bones. While the game started as a solo development effort from Ubisoft Singapore, there have since been additional Ubisoft studios assigned to assist in the game’s creation.
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It’s been just about four years since that initial announcement. Skull & Bones was first announced to release in late 2018 before getting pushed back to a 2019 release date, which became an early 2020 release date. The game was delayed two more times before it landed on its current release window of sometime between April 2022 and March 2023, which is certainly a huge range of dates.
With the sheer amount of time Skull & Bones has taken to make, one might think that Ubisoft would have begun to lose faith in the project. The exact opposite is actually the case, with Ubisoft financial officer Frédérick Duguet making it clear during an earnings call that Ubisoft has full faith in Skull & Bones, understanding that the extra development time may be necessary for Ubisoft Singapore to make the game as good as possible. Ubisoft may still have faith in the project, but it’s questionable whether fans who were anticipating the game still do.
There was certainly hype surrounding Skull & Bones after its announcement at 2017’s E3, with the game even being nominated for the Game Critics’ Awards’ « Best Original Game. » There’s even, supposedly, a television show in the works centered around Skull & Bones that was announced in 2019. There was plenty of excitement for the game, though time and constant delays may have dulled public perception of the upcoming title.
Delays aren’t usually a direct indication of a game’s quality. Persona 5 saw significant delays before it eventually released to critical claim, revitalizing the Persona franchise as a whole. However, when a game has been delayed for almost four years at this point, it’s reasonable to cast some doubt on whether or not Skull & Bones is actually ever going to be released.
The dev team behind the game has shown plenty of passion behind the project. The game’s third delay was more than likely influenced by what the game’s creative director, Elisabeth Pellen, referred to as a growing sense of ambition behind the game from Ubisoft Singapore. The fact that Ubisoft hasn’t completely canned the project may also be a good sign of Skull & Bones‘ quality.
That being said, Ubisoft games have a bit of an unfortunate habit of getting stuck in development hell. Beyond Good and Evil 2, the long-anticipated sequel to 2003’s Beyond Good and Evil, was rumored to exist as early as 2007, but the last gamers heard about the game’s development was in 2020, when lead developer and series creator Michel Ancel left Ubisoft amid claims that his management style was abusive towards employees. Skull & Bones faced a similar controversy last year.
There’s also Far Cry 6, a more recent example of a Ubisoft game that’s found itself without a solid release date. Far Cry 6 is less of a dire situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic delaying plenty of games and that it began development fairly recently. Regardless, Ubisoft’s history with delays and games being stuck in development hell may cast some doubt on how strong their faith in Skull & Bones really is.
For now, Skull & Bones is set to release in March 2023 at the latest, unless more delays are announced leading up to that date. Ubisoft certainly has faith in the project, though their own record of bad luck when it comes to delays is worth being concerned about. Whether or not Skull & Bones‘ quality will make up for its numerous delays has yet to been seen.
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