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Ubisoft, the third-largest video game publisher in the U.S. market, said today that it scored a big hit with the third installment of its Assassin’s Creed series, shipping more than 6.5 million copies of the latest game. That means the French company’s big bet on launching new versions of Assassin’s Creed games every year has paid off.

The success of the Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood game reinforces the notion that blockbusters are ruling in games, just as they do in Hollywood.

The company made the announcement as part of its third fiscal quarter earnings, which exceeded the company’s expectations. The results show just how much a popular game such as Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood can move the needle for companies such as Ubisoft, which have come to depend on blockbuster holiday releases.

Ubisoft is launching a new Assassin’s Creed title every November, directly challenging Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty games. Full told, the Assassin’s Creed series has now sold more than 25 million copies, generating roughly $1.5 billion in retail revenues.


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At retail prices, Ubisoft’s latest Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood game generated an estimated $390 million in revenues. For the full quarter ended Dec. 31, Ubisoft had expected sales of 520 million euros ($701 million). Instead, the company generated sales of 600 million euros, or $809 million, up 21.2 percent from a year ago.

The latest Assassin’s Creed game was set in Rome during the Renaissance era. Gamers could wander through the vast city and complete missions related to the main story, where a clan of assassins squares off against another secret group. This year, the title included an innovative multiplayer system where gamers wandered through crowds, spotted targets, and killed them before slipping away back into the crowds.

But Ubisoft has also taken some risks on new titles, such as the Michael Jackson: The Experience dance game. With Assassin’s Creed, Ubisoft has more than 500 employees working on staggered schedules.

The increase was also due to rapid sales of Ubisoft’s dance games, even as some people thought music games were dead. Indeed, while Activision Blizzard laid off 500 employees last week and announced it would no longer make Guitar Hero games, Ubisoft said it shipped a combined 10.5 million dance games. That includes sales of Just Dance, Just Dance 2, Just Dance Kids, Michael Jackson: The Experience, and Dance on Broadway.

Ubisoft also said that it sold more than 2 million Kinect games across the Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and Fighters Uncaged titles. That gives it roughly 18 percent of the U.S. Kinect market share and 21 percent share in in Europe. Microsoft’s Kinect motion-sensing system debuted in November and shipped 8 million units in its first season.

Ubisoft said its overall market share grew from 7.8 percent in Europe to 9.2 percent and from 5.4 percent to 7.3 percent in the U.S. market during 2010. For the full fiscal year, Ubisoft projects revenues of $1.38 billion and fourth quarter sales of $214 million. In the current fourth fiscal quarter, the company is planning to ship Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood for the PC, Beyond Good and Evil HD on Xbox Live, and six titles for the Nintendo 3DS. The revenues for the fourth fiscal quarter will likely be lower than a year ago because of a light release schedule.

Yves Guillemot, chief executive of Ubisoft, said the company plans to refocus on key franchises in the high-definition segment, meaning that it won’t put as much emphasis on the Nintendo Wii. But it will also invest heavily in digital games, casual titles, the 3DS handheld coming from Nintendo in March, and Sony’s NGP coming this fall.

Guillemot also said that Ubisoft expects to launch another Assassin’s Creed title in the year that ends March 31, 2012. Meanwhile, Ubisoft has added more than 100 employees to a new game studio in Toronto, Canada, headed by Jade Raymond, who headed the creation of the original Assassin’s Creed game.

Guillemot said that the dance genre of games — which has become a much better experience with motion-sensing platforms — will likely be sustainable for the next four or five years.


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