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Ubisoft’s Skull And Bones Delays: The Complete Decades-Long Saga

Ubisoft's Skull And Bones Delays: The Complete Decades-Long Saga
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One image shows pirates gazing at a giant floating timeline above the water.

picture: Ubisoft / Kotaku

skull and bones started out as a multiplayer-focused expansion for 2013’s Excellent Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Then it turned into a bigger, own MMO-like pirate game. A decade later and following its reveal in 2017 and several delays, Ubisoft’s online pirate sim is still missing. And just yesterday skull and bones has been delayed again with no new specific release date shared. So how did we get here?

skull and bones was first introduced to the public via a big and splashy E3 2017 presentation complete with gameplay and cinematic trailers. It was clear that Ubisoft had invested heavily in the project. As of 2021, it has reportedly cost Ubisoft $120 million. However, some staff who worked on the game said that the game barely existed when it was shown and since then it has been revised and changed over and over again as its developers try to figure out what this game is and how it will play . Ubisoft is currently selling it as an online pirate game with a focus on combat and exploration could be a fun experience. But with every delay, it seems less likely that the end product will be worth waiting for.

skull and bones Revealed, first delay

Ubisoft

As previously mentioned, skull and bones (then stylized as Skull & Bones) was first revealed via multiple trailers and videos during Ubisoft’s E3 press conference 2017. A lot of people liked the pirate boat stuff from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and that looked like a game made up of just all that great boat stuff. When it was first announced at E3, Ubisoft gave a 2018 release date – which only gets funnier and funnier with every delay.

In May 2018, about a year after its unveiling, Ubisoft delayed skull and bones into the 2019-2020 financial year which ran between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020. “Consistent with previous practices, and given the acceleration of our digital transformation, the growth in back catalog sales and the excellent momentum of recent releases, Ubisoft has decided to give itself more time to develop skull bones to offer players an even more immersive experience,” Ubisoft explained the delay.

skull and bones Return to E3, Second Delay

After that initial delay, Ubisoft returned to E3 2018 and showed more of it skull and bones, this time with a PvE experience called Hunting Grounds. This version of the game and the previous version shown at E3 2017 were eventually scrapped as well, according to our own reporting. Ubisoft then postponed the game in May 2019announcing that it will no longer ship in FY 2019-2020 and pushing the release date to sometime after March 2020.

Ubisoft

The official skull and bonesTwitter account of confirmed the delay on May 15, 2019. “We will shut the hatches and push back the arrival of the game,” Ubisoft tweeted. “This is challenging news [sic] for all of us, but it’s what needs to be done skull boneswith as great as it can be!”

skull and bones Missing, third delay

After this May delay, skull and bones went a bit radio silence and even skipped E3 2019. The team was obviously determined to focus on developing the game, and Ubisoft had other big games to promote, hype, and launch. However, when it reappeared, it was just more bad news.

On October 24, 2019about four months after his previous delay, skull and bones was postponed again alongside some other big Ubisoft games such as Watchdogs Legion and Rainbow Six quarantine. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot confirmed the news on a conference call with investors, saying the pirate game wouldn’t release until sometime after April 2021.

skull and bones Finally a release date, fourth delay

On May 11, 2021, Ubisoft executives again joined a conference call and again had to explain that yes, the postponed pirate game was again…delayed. This time the game slipped from sometime after April 2021 to sometime between April 2022 and May 2023. Here’s what Ubisoft’s CFO Frédérick Duguet said about the delay:

We strongly believe in the team’s creative vision and they have been given an increasingly ambitious mandate for the game. Production directed by [Ubisoft] Singapore has performed well over the past 12 months and the promise is better than ever. The additional time will allow the team to fully implement their vision.

In July 2022, Ubisoft has finally set a specific release date for its online pirate game. It has been announced that after numerous delays, Skull and Bones will launch on November 8th, 2022 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Google Stadia and PC. That also meant the game skipped the last generation of consoles, which was around four years old at the time skull and bones was announced in 2017 but was almost a decade old in 2022.

skull and bones Gets a new release date, fifth delay

It seemed like maybe, just maybe, Ubisoft’s troubled pirate sim would launch, but then on September 28, 2022, Ubisoft confirmed our own reporting and announced that the game was indeed delayed again. The publisher’s new release date of March 9, 2023 pushed the game out of 2022. The delay followed a technical test in September that didn’t go well, with players reportedly claiming progress was superficial. Here’s what the developers had to say about the delay:

Our team is working hard to optimize and balance the experience prior to global launch. Because of this, we made the difficult decision to push our release date back to March 9th, 2023. We’re so excited for you all to get your hands on it skull and bones and dive headfirst into the dangerous and exciting world of building your own pirate empire. In order to offer you the best possible experience, we decided to take a little extra time to ensure that we can deliver exactly that.

skull and bones No longer has a specific release date, sixth delay

All of which lead to this week. Yesterday Ubisoft announced that it had been delayed again the troubled skull and bones and this time there was no new specific release date. Instead, the game is currently slated for release in Ubisoft’s fiscal year 2023-2024.

“During skull and bones is now complete, we are using the remaining time leading up to our launch to use feedback from our ongoing technical testing and upcoming open beta to improve and balance the experience,” said a Ubisoft spokesperson kotaku in an email. “To fully fulfill this launch, we are leveraging the full power of the co-development studios already involved in the development process, including Ubisoft Paris Studio. Ubisoft Singapore remains the leading studio skull and bones and the team is working flat out on the game experience and developing robust post-launch content.”

All in all it’s a tough road and I’m not sure if it’s over. It seems inscrutable that Ubisoft would delay this skull and bones again, but at this point nothing seems impossible.


if skull and bones released this year, it will be a decade since development on the game began. It has since been postponed six times, appeared at several different Ubisoft events and E3 showcases and has done so even survived Google’s streaming serviceStadia, which it was supposed to launch on.

Today, in early 2023, it’s hard not to feel sorry for the countless developers who have poured years of their lives into this game and still have nothing tangible to show. Hopefully this all ends with a happy ending to a good game and not the kind of disappointment that leads to servers being shut down shortly after launch.

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