Mere days after the great tragedy of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Ubisoft - a French video game development and publishing company - decided to roll out one of its games, "Assassin's Creed: Unity" for free to everyone on Windows. The game was listed free for one full week (once you grabbed it, it's yours to keep). Personally, at first, I think that it's very noble of Ubisoft to do so, but as a week went by, I started having some more adverse thoughts about the matter.
The Twitter post
On April 17, Ubisoft made this Twitter post, publicly announcing the release of AC:U. The gaming community went nuts as they clamber to see one of the lowest rated game companies in recent years making history. Their game was an instant hit. Being free, it was more accessible to the community as a whole, thus boosting player counts to insane levels. This led to more players being able to experience the game, and thus give their ratings. More on this will be discussed in a bit.
But what makes this special? For that, we have to look back at 2014, when the game first debuted.
Starting off with a... well... not much of a bang
Assassin's Creed: Unity did not have a good release. IGN puts it like this:
Assassin's Creed Unity is a game of impossible peaks and disappointing valleys. [...] On a purely technical level, Unity is a marvel to walk through and admire. But at the same time, a lot of my journey through the French Revolution felt as cold and heartless as the darkest depths of the catacombs. [...] It's a bit disappointing to see how few of the long-standing problems with the series have been solved by the upgrade to the new generation of gaming hardware.
Unity was full of bugs on release. The game literally breaks a lot due to developer oversight. This in turn turned a lot of fans away from the franchise and eventually the company itself. In a last ditch act of self-redemption, they released 4 more games in the 3-year period following AC:U's release. They turned out to be just as under-performing and disappointing.
Ubisoft then made another Assassin's Creed game titled "AC: Origins," taking place in ancient Egypt. The game was an instant hit, boosting their sales and popularity up once more. Meanwhile, with their current games, Ubisoft decided to amend the glitches and bugs of their ongoing titles like "Rainbow Six: Siege" and "For Honor" by fixing them and adding more content. They were on the rise. However, past actions of the company had costed them a lot of credibility, and the Notre Dame fire gave them an opportunity.
Remember earlier when I mentioned players giving the game positive reviews? That was not an exaggeration. When Unity was released in November 2014, the amount of good and bad reviews are identical. The game was at a constant 50% score for the longest time. Eventually, as the developers fix the game, its reviews generally got better and better. Then in 2019, it spiked. The game received over-80% reviews constantly right after it becoming free. Below is a graph detailing the ratings of the game over a monthly period.
Steam Reviews tell a bigger story, sometimes, a shocking oneValve Corporation
Is this a redemption call from the company? Not necessarily.
Egoistic Altruism (who even came up with this word?)
Personally, I believe that this move of theirs is both a clever marketing strategy as well as an offer the better our world. Not one single company was ready to step up and play it big like Ubisoft did. Granted, Ubisoft was French, but that did not mean they're compelled to do so. Having base in the US, Canada, and Australia, Ubisoft didn't have to do all this, but they did, both because they wanted to better the world and earn some followers along the way.
Frankly, I like their philosophy. If one is to benefit from an act, might as well direct it so that it benefits the people also. Egoistic Altruism, shared goal, etc. whatever you call it, I think it's a great way to both feed into oneself and others.
Plus, it's not like they only gave a game away. Giving away €500,000 to restore the church was pretty big of a deal. But hey, that's the detail we tend to skip to doubt others, don't we?