Skull and bones began life as a multiplayer-focused expansion for 2013’s excellent Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Then it expanded into a larger, MMO-like pirate game of its own. A decade later, and after the 2017 reveal and several delays, Ubisoft’s online pirate sim is still missing. And just yesterday, Skull and bones was delayed again with no new specific release date shared. So how did we get here?
Skull and bones was first revealed to the public via a big and splashy E3 2017 presentation complete with gameplay and cinematic trailers. It was clear that Ubisoft had invested a lot in the project. As of 2021, it has reportedly cost Ubisoft $120 million. Still, some staff who worked on the game said that the game barely existed when it was shown off and since then it has been reworked and changed over and over again as its developers try to figure out what this game is and how it will be played. Ubisoft is currently selling it as an online pirate game with a focus on combat and exploration, which could be a fun experience. But with each delay, it seems less likely that the final product will be worth the wait.
Skull and bones Revealed, first delay
As mentioned earlier, Skull and bones (then stylized as Skull & Bones) was first revealed via several trailers and videos during Ubisoft’s E3 2017 press conference. Many liked the pirate boat stuff from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and this looked like a game made up of just all that awesome boat stuff. When it was first announced at E3, Ubisoft gave it a 2018 release date – which only gets funnier and funnier with each delay.
In May 2018, about a year after the disclosure, Ubisoft delayed Skull and bones into the financial year 2019-2020 which ran between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020. “In line with past practice and given the acceleration of our digital transformation, growth in back catalog sales and excellent momentum on recent releases, Ubisoft has decided to give itself more time to develop Skull & Bones to offer players an even more engaging experience,” Ubisoft explained about the delay.
Skull and bones Returning to E3, Second delay
After the initial delay, Ubisoft returned to E3 2018 and showed off more of the Skull and bones, this time introducing a PVE experience called “Hunting Grounds.” This version of the game and the previous version shown at E3 2017 were also scrapped, according to our own reporting. Ubisoft then delayed the game in May 2019announced that it will no longer ship in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, pushing its release date to sometime after March 2020.
The official one Skull and boness Twitter account confirmed the delay on May 15, 2019. “We’ll be slamming down the hatches and pushing back on the game’s arrival,” Ubisoft tweeted. “This is challenging news [sic] for all of us, but it is what is needed to do Skull & Bonesis how amazing it can be!”
Skull and bones Disappears, third delay
After that delay in May, Skull and bones went a little radio silent and even skipped E3 2019. The team was apparently focusing on developing the game and Ubisoft had other big games to promote, hype and launch. But when it reappeared, it was just more bad news.
On October 24, 2019about four months after its previous delay, Skull and bones was delayed again along with some other big Ubisoft games, like Watch Dogs Legion and Rainbow Six Quarantine. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot confirmed the news in a conference call with investors, saying the pirated game wouldn’t be released until sometime after April 2021.
Skull and bones Finally getting a release date, fourth delay
May 11, 2021, Ubisoft executives were once again on a conference call and once again had to explain that yes, the delayed pirate game was once again…delayed. This time, the game slipped from sometime after April 2021 to sometime between April 2022 and May 2023. Here’s what Ubisoft CFO Frédérick Duguet had to say about the delay:
We strongly believe in the team’s creative vision and they have been given an increasingly ambitious mandate for the game. The production is led by [Ubisoft] Singapore has progressed well over the past 12 months and the promise is better than ever. The extra time will allow the team to fully deliver on their vision.
In July 2022, Ubisoft finally nailed down a specific release date for its online pirate game. It announced that Skull and Bones, after many delays, would launch on November 8, 2022 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Google Stadia, and PC. This also meant that the game skipped the last generation of consoles, which were about four years old when Skull and bones was announced in 2017, but by 2022 was almost a decade old.
Skull and bones Gets a new release date, fifth delay
It seemed like maybe, just maybe, Ubisoft’s troubled pirate sim would launch, but 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 into 2022. The delay followed a tech test in September that didn’t go well, with players reportedly claiming that development felt shallow. Here’s what the developers had to say about the delay:
Our team is hard at work polishing and balancing the experience ahead of the worldwide launch. As a result, we have made the difficult decision to move our release date to March 9, 2023. We are very keen for you all to get your hands on Skull and bones and dive headfirst into the dangerous and exciting world of building your own pirate empire. In order to give you the best possible experience, we’ve decided to take a little extra time to make sure we can deliver exactly that.
Skull and bones No longer has a specific release date, sixth delay
All of this leads up to this week. Yesterday, Ubisoft announced that it had been delayed again the worried Skull and bones and this time it didn’t give a new specific release date. Instead, the game is currently slated to launch in Ubisoft’s 2023-2024 fiscal year.
“While Skull and bones is now complete, we’re using the remaining time until our launch to leverage feedback from our ongoing technical testing and upcoming open betas to polish and balance the experience,” said a Ubisoft spokesperson. Kotaku in an email. “To fully deliver on this launch, we are leveraging the full power of co-developing studios already involved in the development process, including the Ubisoft Paris studio. Ubisoft Singapore remains the lead studio Skull and bones and the team is working hard on the game experience and the development of its robust post-launch content.”
All in all, it’s a tough road to walk and I’m not sure it’s over. It seems unfathomable that Ubisoft would delay 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 started. Since then, it has been delayed six times, appeared at various Ubisoft events and E3 showcases, and has even survived Google’s streaming serviceStadia, which it was once supposed to launch on.
Today, in early 2023, it’s hard not to feel bad for the countless developers who poured years of their lives into this game and still have nothing concrete to show for it. Hopefully it all ends with the happy ending of a good game, and not the kind of disappointment that leads to server shutdowns shortly after launch.
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