Just hours after acknowledging the disappointing launch of Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot held a conference call with investors to reassure them that the company would remain financially stable until it can properly launch its upcoming games. Since Watch Dogs Legion, Rainbow Six Quarantine, and Gods & Monsters have been delayed by potentially a full year, it was prudent to get the message out that Ubisoft is in good standing. Curiously, that financial security won't be coming from "pay-to-win" mechanics.
When question if Ubisoft was concerned that customers were "beginning to rebel against more aggressive monetization in games," Guillemot responded by saying that Ubisoft's profits from "live-service" games are not coming from aggressive microtransactions, but an overall rise in player engagement with each title. "When we are able to create events that bring people to stay longer in our games, they are spending money in our games from time-to-time," as he put it.
Then came the bombshell. "In the case of Ghost Recon, our philosophy is for the player to play the full game, 100%, without having to spend money. We have no pay-to-win elements in our games, and what we can say there is that [this is] the philosophy we have for all our games." It wasn't reported if Guillemot's nose grew 40 inches after the statement or not.
A refresher for anyone unaware, Ghost Recon Breakpoint launched with a store page dedicated to "time savers." These items would allow players to bypass literally every form of progression by outright buying whatever they wanted. Guns, blueprints, vehicles, skins, skill points: everything and anything you could think of was listed and available for purchase with real money. That couldn't be more "pay-to-win" if you called it as such.
While Ubisoft walked back on the decision and admitted it was a mistake, the in-game store still allows players to buy better weapons and armor for use in each of the game's modes. This includes the PvP multiplayer, where better armor will give players a competitive advantage. When pressed about their inclusion in Breakpoint, Guillemot noted that Ubisoft had seen a positive reception to a similar store in Ghost Recon Wildlands and implemented it in the sequel accordingly.
"On live games like Ghost Recon Wildlands, we already had a store and people were buying items on the store," Guillemot explained. "What we did was give more options at the beginning of Breakpoint. We understand it has been seen as too big a store and that it was really not appreciated at all, but it came from the fact that players were spending time in the store and buying things in Wildlands."
This situation mirrors that of the Assassin's Creed series. 2017's Assassin's Creed Origins contained an in-game shop that allowed the purchase of items to enhance the experience. While somewhat restained, it was 2018's Odyssey where the system got out of hand. Now, permanent XP boosters were being sold in what many felt was a push to get additional spending from players. The standard rate of earning experience from missions was so low that Odyssey felt like a grind to many. With $10 extra, though, that grind could be lessened.
Breakpoint continues that trend. Ubisoft may not view it as "pay-to-win," but that's clearly what these mechanics are. How else would you explain a purchase option that lessens a grind?