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Why Ubisoft won't make another Prince of Persia game

In some ways, today's Ubisoft isn't all that different from the Ubisoft of the 2000s. The company is still counting on its various Tom Clancy properties to keep shooter fans satiated. Platformers like Rayman still have a home in the Ubisoft family. And you'll still find familiar names like Assassin's Creed and Far Cry in the mix.

But one game series you won't find in Ubisoft's stable today — one that the company promoted heavily in the first decade of this century — is Prince of Persia.

Unless you count a remake for iOS that released in 2013, there hasn't been a Prince of Persia game since 2010's Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands. And there hasn't been a peep about the series getting another game since that last one came out. Why is that? Why is Ubisoft seemingly leaving the Prince of Persia franchise behind? Why are we getting games like Hungry Shark World but we can't get a new Prince of Persia title?

We think we know why Ubisoft's been letting the franchise collect dust. And below, we'll make our case for why there hasn't been a new Prince of Perisa game, and why there likely won't be one ever again.

Low sales

There's one rule that usually holds true not just in video games, but in just about any type of business: if a particular product doesn't sell well, you may never see it again. It's why you'll never see an Ouya 2, but more relevantly, why you'll probably never see another Prince of Persia game get made.

The last game mainline console game in the series, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, was nothing short of disappointing in the sales department.

Now, there could be a perfectly good explanation for why Forgotten Sands didn't sell like crazy. It had the unfortunate pleasure of releasing on the same day as the original Red Dead Redemption, which The Guardian reports sold 1.51 million copies in the US in May 2010. But really, even if Red Dead hadn't come along and eaten Prince of Persia's lunch, Forgotten Sands just wasn't that compelling a game. To this day, its Metacritic score sits in the mid 70s, which is decidedly mediocre. And that unremarkable reception likely has everything to do with why Forgotten Sands couldn't crack 200,000 sales in its first month.

Video game companies like winning. They like selling big numbers and they like owning the news cycle. Forgotten Sands couldn't do any of that, save for the few articles that talked about what a letdown it was. And that's not exactly motivation for any company to give the series another try.

The movie hurt the brand

Ask yourself this question: what was the last franchise that successfully made the transition from video games to movies? It's fine if you're struggling to come up with a response. Because the fact is, it's almost universally accepted that video game movies are bad. Film adaptations of video games are sort of like a puzzle that no one's discovered the solution to. That certainly hasn't stopped studios from trying. But their efforts haven't inspired much confidence.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time had the star power necessary to be a good film. But as with almost all video game movies before it, it stunk.

The website Rotten Tomatoes offers a collection of quotes from prominent movie critics, and nearly all of them had bad things to say about Sands of Time. J.R. Jones of the Chicago Reader, for instance, called it "disposable family entertainment." A.O. Scott from At the Movies said, "This is a movie that knows exactly how dumb it is." And Steven Rea of the Philadelphia Inquirer dropped perhaps the harshest criticism of all, stating that "they have plans for a sequel. A franchise, even. But there's no reason on Earth, or anywhere, for Prince of Persia 2."

One could definitely argue that the film's poor showing ultimately hurt the Prince of Persia brand, perhaps to the point of being irreparable. And that could be why you haven't seen a new movie or game, and why you may not ever.

Franchise fatigue

Can you ever have so much of something that, eventually, you get sick of it? Absolutely. It's why you may love pizza, but wouldn't want to eat pizza every day for the rest of your life. It's why you might tune out of football for a while if the same team started winning the Super Bowl every single year. And it's why being inundated by a certain brand can actually make you tired of seeing it.

We saw a lot of the Prince of Persia franchise in the 2000s. And there's a good chance that all that exposure to the brand ultimately hurt it in the end.

There was, of course, the film mentioned earlier. And there were video games that spanned a few console generations and platforms. At one point, the Prince of Persia series released a game — The Forgotten Sands — that shared the same title across four different platforms but was actually four different games. Video game website IGN actually had to write four different reviews for each of those games, which meant Prince of Persia kept popping up on the site over, and over, and over.

Even the most diehard Prince of Persia fans were probably begging the series to take a break. And when you lose the diehards, who's left?

It's too similar to Assassin's Creed

The Assassin's Creed franchise has come roaring back in recent years after a down period. Assassin's Creed: Origins, released in 2017, was reviewed favorably across the board. And 2018's Assassin's Creed: Odyssey helped solidify the comeback, and also gave players a look at what the series could become in the future.

Assassin's Creed is leaning less into the stealth genre it started out in and is almost becoming an open-world action-RPG series instead. The more recent games have retained the parkour elements of past titles, and have put more of an emphasis on combat. Not only that, Origins and Odyssey both proved that an Assassin's Creed game can take place just about anywhere.

That doesn't leave a lot of room for Prince of Persia.

Imagine what a modern-day Prince game would look like in the era of open-world games, and you'd likely have something that looks like Assassin's Creed. In fact, Eurogamer points out that you can look to past Prince of Persia titles and find bits and pieces of the Assassin's Creed franchise. AC seems like an evolution of the Prince series, and since it already exists, what exactly would be the point of crowding the market with another Prince of Persia game?

There really isn't one. Which is why you probably won't see Ubisoft resurrect it.

Assassin's Creed is also more popular

We already spoke about how the Assassin's Creed series slots into the role that would probably be held by a modern Prince of Persia game. They'd be incredibly similar, and no company wants two similar games on the market at the same time. But that doesn't mean Ubisoft might not look at a new Prince of Persia title if Assassin's Creed stopped getting everyone excited. Perhaps they'd see it as an opportunity to offer something fresh, and give the Assassin's Creed franchise a break.

Unfortunately for Prince of PersiaAssassin's Creed is more popular than ever before.

One only has to look at September 2018's NPD sales numbers to see how ravenously fans purchased Assassin's Creed: Odyssey. The September figures actually stopped tracking on Oct. 6, 2018, and Odyssey launched the day before that. But even with a single day of sales being tracked, Odyssey still managed to capture the third spot, beating out a substantial number of games that had been selling for a much longer period of time.

Ubisoft later stated that Assassin's Creed: Odyssey enjoyed "the franchise's best launch-week performance of this console generation." Which means that it's a pretty hot property, and it likely won't be fading into the background anytime soon.

Sorry, Prince of Persia.

Ubisoft might not have the bandwidth

Ubisoft, like a lot of companies in the video game space, is putting more and more of an emphasis on games-as-a-service. What does that mean, exactly? Well, think about the long-running World of Warcraft. With that game, Blizzard hasn't necessarily been introducing sequels like World of Warcraft 2 and World of Warcraft 3. Instead, that same game has lived on since the early 2000s, and Blizzard has supplemented it with smaller content updates and larger expansions.

The games-as-a-service model is the direction a lot of game franchises are headed in. Keeping a game going requires a significant amount of resources. And Ubisoft has quite a few titles that fall into the games-as-a-service category.

Sure, Ubisoft is still rolling with single-player franchises like Assassin's Creed and Far Cry. But the company also has to support ongoing service games like The DivisionFor HonorGhost Recon: WildlandsRainbow Six: Siege, and the upcoming Skull & Bones. Where does another single-player title fit into the picture when the company has so much else going on? Especially one like Prince of Persia, which would be far from a guaranteed success?

Odds are, Ubisoft might not have the time or the manpower to make another Prince of Persia game, even if it wanted to.

Ubisoft might not even have the rights to the game

The biggest hurdle facing a brand new Prince of Persia game may not even be Ubisoft's desire to make it. Prince of Persia isn't a property created by Ubisoft, after all. Rather, it exists thanks to the mind of Jordan Mechner, whose roots with the franchise go all the way back to the original PC game released in 1989.

There's a serious question as to whether or not Ubisoft has the rights to make a new Prince of Persia title. Because, upon inspecting trademarks for the property itself, it appears that Jordan Mechner still owns them all, and that any new game would have to receive his stamp of approval.

That doesn't necessarily mean that Mechner hasn't been open to re-exploring the Prince of Persia series. When model Chrissy Tiegen tweeted about how she missed the series in early 2018, Mechner responded to her by saying, "We're doing our best to make it happen!" So it seems he's still very involved with the franchise and would like to see it come back. But there's no guarantee that Ubisoft would be the company he works with, or that he'd be able to strike a deal with any other studio.

Maybe Prince of Persia is a series whose time has come and gone. And maybe we just have to live with that.