Preorders were a subject of much discussion during Ubisoft's post-earnings call last week, and it could be inferred from executive comments that they haven't been up to expectations for some titles.
"We do consider that preorders are important," CEO Yves Guillemot said when asked about how reservations were shaping up for Watch Dogs 2, "but they are not completely [crucial] for the success of the game."
Ubisoft made clear that it considers preorders less reliable indicators of a game's eventual performance than they used to be. Part of that is due to customers knowing that scarcity is no longer an issue: if they decide to buy a game at launch, they can always download it instead of being forced to locate a physical copy in a local store.
However, it also varies from game to game. Other executives pointed to Far Cry 3 as an example, saying that preorders for the title weren't great because players wanted to see if it received good reviews and word of mouth before committing to it. Rainbow 6 Siege was another example given of a game that didn't do very well at launch, but turned its performance around as a result of the publisher committing to improving the game over months and adopting player feedback.
A slide presentation accompanying Ubisoft's numbers underscored that point. Titled, "A More Dependable and Profitable Industry," the slide charted the rising profitability of the four largest AAA console publishers (EA, Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, and Take-Two) since 2007. The slide indicates that trend has been boosted by rising barriers to entry in the market and the impact of digitalization on the industry.
Guillemot talked about the impact specific to his company in comments released alongside the results, saying, "The Crew, The Division, and Rainbow Six Siege each have more than 10 million registered players, demonstrating that we are effectively executing our business development plan and moving towards an ever-more recurring model. All of our actions and initiatives are aimed at achieving this objective. We are creating powerful franchises that offer long-term visibility. Our multi-studios organization enables us to have regular games releases. And the Live experiences for our consoles and PC games, including our investments in eSports, encourage long-term player engagement."