It only takes a pair of eyes to see that Skull & Bones has been in trouble. Once a spin-off of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, the pirate-themed multiplayer game sounded like a slam dunk on paper. However, after years of delays following its 2017 reveal, it’s become clear that the ship has been on turbulent seas. In a report by Kotaku today, anonymous sources weave a tale comprised of eight years of development hell covering mismanagement, toxicity, and more. Despite this, Ubisoft says Skull & Bones has entered playable Alpha, a goal line the development struggled to reach likely due to a deal the company made with the Singapore government.
Skull & Bones probably would have ended up dead in the water long before now. According to the report, the game’s starting budget was bloated to $120 million USD, with a team that expanded from 100 to more than 400 people in four years. Management leads shifted in and out, with each bringing ideas that changed the project’s direction. The game’s location was also in constant flux, moving from the Indian Ocean to a fantasy world called Hyperborea. Sources in the article say that the project should have been canceled multiple times. Others believe that competitive studios would have steered clear from the start.
The game is under development by Ubisoft Singapore. Kotaku’s report suggests that a deal between Ubisoft and the Singapore government is a possible cause behind Skull & Bones‘ protracted development. According to sources, the Singapore studio must have a certain number of employees, and it needs to release new IPs before 2024. The latter certainly tracks, as a recent Ubisoft financial report mention the game’s launch is scheduled for the company’s 2022 or 2023 fiscal year.
The decks continue to be swabbed
Whether or not the team can last under the pressure is certainly the question. The report details a workplace rife with toxicity — an issue that has plagued Ubisoft as of late. It was only last November that the managing director of Ubisoft Singapore was removed following a leadership audit.
Yet despite the long list of troubles, production limps along. In a response to Kotaku, a Ubisoft representative said Skull & Bones development is now “just passing Alpha,” which means it exists in a playable form.
“The Skull & Bones team are proud of the work they’ve accomplished on the project since their last update with production just passing Alpha, and are excited to share more details when the time is right,” replied the representative. “That being said, any unfounded speculation about the game or decisions being made only works to demoralize the team who are working very hard to develop an ambitious new franchise that lives up to the expectations of our players.”
Also, has anyone asked how the television adaptation of the game is doing?