Ubisoft revises earnings, reveals delays

Strong Assassin's Creed sales boosting French publisher's guidance; EndWar, Brothers in Arms, Far Cry 2 pushed to fiscal 2009; new browser-based Heroes of Might and Magic announced.

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Ubisoft gave investors some news to smile about today, while at the same time delivering a spoonful of salt to gamers. The publisher today revised its fiscal 2008 earnings projection upward and simultaneously bumped a trio of its anticipated upcoming titles to fiscal 2009.

First, the good news. For the fiscal year ending March 31, Ubisoft is now expecting sales of €840 million ($1.21 billion), up from initial projections of €825 million ($1.19 billion). For the third quarter alone, the publisher is expecting €410 million ($594.5 million) in sales, versus prior predictions of €330 million ($478.5 million). The publisher also noted that operating income has been revised up from 9 percent to 12 percent of sales.

Ubisoft attributed its upward revision primarily to events in the Middle East circa 1191. Assassin's Creed, developed at Ubisoft's Montreal studio, has been performing exceedingly well at retail for the publisher, with Ubisoft claiming that the well-received action adventure game has moved more than 2.5 million units at retail since it took to the streets on November 13. According to Ubisoft, the game's debut performance has earned it the distinction of the fastest-selling new gaming property in the US. The publisher is now expecting the game to sell at least 5 million units by the end of its fiscal year 2008, a number previously pegged at 3 million.

Aside from Assassin's Creed's success, Ubisoft attributed its windfall in operating income to less-than-expected research and development costs due to the delayed release of Tom Clancy's EndWar and Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360, as well as Far Cry 2 for the PC. All three games are now slated to arrive sometime in fiscal year 2009, which runs from April 1, 2008, to March 31, 2009. Reporting on its half-yearly financial results in October, Ubisoft delayed four other unannounced titles out of fiscal 2008, one of which is part of a franchise and three that are new properties.

Making its initial projections for fiscal year 2009, the publisher said that sales are expected to hit €975 million ($1.4 billion), riding the launch of Tom Clancy's EndWar and three other new properties, as well as new installments in seven franchises, including Brothers In Arms, Far Cry 2, and Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, and new games in its casual series of games, including Imagine, Petz, and My Coach.

There's one last bit of news out of Ubisoft's camp today. The publisher announced that a Web browser-based installment in its long-running Heroes of Might and Magic franchise would launch globally in spring 2008. A strategy game, Heroes of Might and Magic Kingdoms gives aspiring warlords the ability to control a virtual kingdom set in the Heroes universe. Details on the game are still sketchy, but Ubisoft promises players the ability to battle it out with large armies, to master trades, and to create heroes. Beta registration is currently under way through the game's Web site.

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