Y’all remember the “clean cup, move down” scene in Disney’s animated classic Alice in Wonderland? That’s basically how things are going in the video game industry right now, with delays being announced today for several high-profile games. Chiefly among those affected are Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Part II and Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs Legion, though Ubisoft has also delayed a handful of other marquee titles in its upcoming lineup.
The Last of Us Part II will now hit PlayStation 4 on May 29, 2020, rather than its original release date of February 21. “It was during the last few weeks, as we were closing out sections of the game, that we realized we simply didn’t have enough time to bring the entire game up to a level of polish we would call Naughty Dog quality,” said TLoUP2 director Neil Druckmann in an announcement on the Official PlayStation Blog. “At this point we were faced with two options: compromise parts of the game or get more time. We went with the latter, and this new release date allows us to finish everything to our level of satisfaction while also reducing stress on the team.”
Meanwhile, Ubisoft decided to announce its delays in a far less consumer-facing fashion, by tucking them away in a shareholder financial target update. “The Company has revised downwards its targets for fiscal 2019-20 and now expects net bookings of approximately €1,450 million … compared with the previous targets of net bookings of around €2,185 million,” according to the release. Ubisoft attributes this soured outlook to “a sharp downward revision in the revenues expected from Ghost Recon Breakpoint® and, to a lesser extent, The Division® 2,” as well as “the decision to increase development time for Gods & Monsters™, Rainbow Six® Quarantine and Watch_Dogs® Legion, which will all now be released in fiscal 2020-21.”
For nous les américains, “€1,450 million” is the Europe-y way of writing 1.45 billion Euros, which means that Ubisoft’s original outlook for the current fiscal year was 2.185 billion Euros. That’s a difference of 735 million Euros, or $816 million, and that’s astronomically bad news for Ubisoft. “Fiscal 2020-21,” when translated out of financial speak and into a human language, means sometime between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021. Many large corporations observe a “fiscal year” that runs between these dates, rather than the traditional calendar year, for reasons that no one has ever been able to adequately explain.
In Ubisoft’s financial release, CEO Yves Guillemot had this to say about delay of Watch Dogs Legion, Gods & Monsters, and Rainbow Six Quarantine:
While each of these games already has a strong identity and high potential, we want our teams to have more development time to ensure that their respective innovations are perfectly implemented so as to deliver optimal experiences for players. This decision will have a very significant impact on our financial results for this fiscal year and goes against our recent successes in building a more stable development model. However, it is in line with our strategy to maximize the future value of our brands for the longterm benefit of our employees, players and shareholders.
For Ubisoft and Naughty Dog (and by extension, Sony) to all be willing to push their biggest releases into the next fiscal year is very unusual. Major releases often get delayed until March, but generally no further — if you push a game into the next fiscal year, its pre-orders don’t turn into cash when you told your shareholders they would, and you have to lower your fiscal outlook, as Ubisoft has. We’ll have to wait until Sony’s next quarterly financial statement to see what projected impact The Last of Us Part II‘s delay will have on its games business.