Don’t you hate it when your toaster gets an error, and pop-up ads start appearing? Same thing seems to have been happening with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey this week, which Ubisoft is blaming on a “technical error,” and they don’t even have the terrible pun as an excuse.
As spotted by The Verge, one Redditor playing the game on Xbox reported seeing a full-screen Black Friday advert for Assassin’s Creed Mirage entirely blocking their view, when trying to open the map. You can see it happen in the video below.
The Verge contacted Ubisoft about it, and were given a statement in which the publisher blamed an “technical error” for the incidents.
“We have been made aware that some players encountered pop-up ads while playing certain Assassin’s Creed titles yesterday,” Ubisoft told the site, at the very least confirming the issue’s existence. “This was the result of a technical error that we addressed as soon as we learned of the issue.”
So, good news: It’s fixed, and you won’t likely be seeing the same error during your own Thanksgiving break.
But bad news: It’s obviously very unlikely something like this wouldn’t be a result of a deliberately crafted and intentional feature, perhaps accidentally leaked into the wild this week. And let’s not put aside that this was an advert specific to a current Black Friday deal—this wasn’t some old asset.
While in-game advertising is something games publishers have been poking at on-and-off for years, they’ve always proved to be (unsurprisingly) spectacularly unpopular. The reaction on Reddit demonstrates the absolute fury with which people react to the concept, and understandably so. But, goddammit, the situation does seem exactly right for the CFOs to be demanding another go.
The world of movie and television streaming launched with much brouhaha about its ad-free model, before each and every major platform has seen the opportunity for more dollars and started offering ad-supported “cheaper” options. Think of Amazon’s Freevee, or Netflix’s ad-supported plans. Now think about all those game subscription services, and how they must be eyeing the model pretty closely.
It makes grim sense that Microsoft and Sony might offer a lower priced sub for ad-infested versions of Game Pass and PlayStation Plus, and the same, of course, for Ubisoft’s own wildly unnecessary Ubisoft+ subscription package. Considering that charges an eye-watering $15 a month for its cheaper method for playing only Ubisoft games (compared with Game Pass charging the same while letting you play everyone else’s games too), it’d make a huge amount of sense for the publisher to try to get more people on board by launching an ad-supported version.
Would you? If you could get Game Pass for half-price, but you see an ad for another game every third time you opened the map—or whatever it might be—is that something you could put up with?
We’ve asked Ubisoft for more clarity over the nature of the technical error, and whether this might be an accidental leak from a model like the above. We’ll update should they reply.
Updated: 11/24/23, 12.44p.m. ET: Ubisoft got back to us, linking to a statement they’ve made on their X account. In it, the publisher goes into more detail about the error, explaining the ad had been intended to appear in the main menu of Assassin’s Creed games, and not an in-game menu.