If you're a gamer(TM), then you've likely played a Ubisoft game. Even if you don't remember the name of it, since they're increasingly all blending into the same outpost-filled open-world system of haphazardly strewn-together missions and cookie-cutter characters, you've probably ventured through an Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, or Ghost Recon title. But in case the games themselves didn't adequately illustrate the truth of the matter at hand, do you want more evidence as to just how little the company behind those products thinks of its customers? Based on its recent non-fungible token (NFT) comments: It thinks very, very little of its players.
In an interview with Finder, Nicolas Pouard, a Ubisoft Strategic Innovations Lab vice president, had this to say about his company's NFT endeavor and gamers' responses to it: "So, it's really, for them. It's really beneficial. But they don't get it for now."
He also talks about how time is needed to effectively mold gamers' mindsets. It sounds eerily similar to someone talking about using Pavlovian training methods on a dog. But this sort of "gamers are idiots that need to be led to more monetizable pastures" talk isn't new for Ubisoft. The company's actions and products have been illustrating that ethos for over a decade.
A trip down memory lane
Lest ye think this sudden belittling tone from Ubisoft is a shocking pivot for the company, let's go back in time to 2011 when it hopped on the online pass bandwagon in order to curb resales of used copies of games (not a uniquely evil innovation since EA was also big on it, but still, gross). Or, the company's repeated abandonment of Steam, one of the most consumer-friendly PC gaming stores, in pursuit of bolstering Uplay/Ubisoft Connect or, in recent years, its partnership with Epic Games (again, not unique to Ubisoft).
But beyond those two old-school examples of Ubisoft not prioritizing consumer happiness and wellbeing, there are many more examples that are uniquely bound to the company's legacy. Take, for example, its repeated instances of flagrantly false advertising with its E3 showcases. Be it Rainbow Six Siege, The Division, or Watch_Dogs, not a single release in any of those series, to this day, looks as good as the advertised "gameplay" provided by Ubisoft over the course of the 2010s. Seriously, remember when Watch_Dogs was advertised as an Xbox 360 game with presentations that had better graphics than anything that's yet to release on the Xbox Series X? That's the company we're dealing with here.
We're also dealing with the company that loves to trend hop as soon as it sees the opportunity to potentially make a quick buck. Hyper Scape, anyone?
And it gets better. Recall when Ubisoft reinvented the Assassin's Creed franchise to no longer resemble AC, and instead tacked on the name to a bog-standard western RPG formula — with the added barrier of mandatory XP grinding to reach story missions. The company was considerate enough to add XP booster microtransactions to its games in case you wanted to speed things up, but they weren't mandatory. Oh, no, never mandatory. So long as you had dozens of hours to waste grinding on tedious side quests, you'd never need to spend on a microtransaction even once.
Bringing it all home
Whether it's another company's money-grubbing innovation that Ubisoft wants to chase, or its own homebrew solutions such as aggressively misleading advertising to swindle buyers and "optional" microtransactions woven into games that punish you for playing them, this is a company that has, ever since the early 2010s, placed an emphasis on disrespecting its customers and gamers in general.
So when Ubisoft announces its NFT plans and then tells you, the consumer, that you don't "get it" yet and that you need to have a mindset adjustment to tolerate its latest defilement of the gaming landscape, don't be surprised. The vast majority of bad trends in gaming have had the support of Ubisoft. This is just one of those rare instances where Ubisoft says what it's actually thinking out loud, rather than simply illustrating it through actions.
As to why you should care about this latest move, the NFT craze takes things a step further than the usual case of Ubisoft finding fresh ways to disrespect the people who keep it solvent. NFTs and their associated blockchains often have a negative impact on the environment, have dubious (at best) ownership power, and are one more way to inject post-purchase monetization schemes into AAA releases that already cost a lot upfront, especially if Ubisoft manages to compel you to buy one of its games' more expensive "gold" or "ultimate" editions simply so you have access to the full experience.
The company claims that its NFT operation, dubbed Ubisoft Quartz, is energy efficient. But it's yet to thoroughly establish something equally important: That Ubisoft Quartz is consumer friendly and not just another cheap, dime-a-dozen ploy to rake in cash. Based on the publisher's previous moves, don't hold your breath on pro-customer motives being proven true anytime soon.