Assassin's Creed II ships 9 million, Ubisoft posts $54 million annual loss

$1 billion in sales can't keep French publisher out of red ink; stealth actioner hits new milestone as Just Dance approaches 3 million.

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The flurry of recent year-end financial reports has divided game publishers into two groups: those who made money despite a challenging economic environment, and those who didn't. Konami, Sega Sammy, Capcom, and Nintendo managed to post net profits for their recently finished fiscal years. Sony, Electronic Arts, Namco Bandai, Disney, and THQ did not.

Ubisoft's financial performance was hamstrung by a slumping casual business, like that guy on the right was hamstrung with a sword.
Ubisoft's financial performance was hamstrung by a slumping casual business, like that guy on the right was hamstrung with a sword.

Throw Ubisoft in with the latter group, as the French publisher today posted its results for the year ended March 31, 2010, and the company posted a net loss of €43.7 million ($54 million) on revenues of €871 million ($1.1 billion) that were down 18 percent year-over-year. The loss is an unfortunate turnaround for the company, as Ubisoft posted a net profit of €68.8 million ($85.1 million) during the preceding year.

Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot blamed the results on a lagging industry that shrank 10 percent year-over-year during a global economic downturn. While Ubisoft's sales were down even more than that, Guillemot said the numbers had stabilized in the second half of the last year and forecast a return to profitability in the current year. The launch of new technologies like Project Natal and Sony's Move controller should "re-energize the casual games segment," Guillemot said, and the company is reorganizing its studio system "to release new iterations of our major franchises on a more regular basis and guarantee high quality levels."

The publisher also provided some shipment updates on its recent titles. Last year's holiday blockbuster Assassin's Creed II has now sold in nearly 9 million copies to retailers, while the casual-focused Wii game Just Dance is approaching 3 million copies sold in to retailers. And while the publisher didn't give specific numbers for other titles, it did say that Red Steel 2 on the Wii met its most recent sales forecasts, and Avatar (especially the Wii edition) surpassed them.

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