In a clear example of enshitification, some Assassin’s Creed Oddyssey players saw in-game pop-up ads when they went to navigate to the map screen.
Quick to respond to the building controversy, as obviously anyone would react badly to seeing ads in a full-price, traditional AAA game, Ubisoft blamed the pop-up ads on a techical error.
From a report in The Verge:
Reddit users say they spotted the pop-up on Xbox and PlayStation versions of the game, with an ad appearing just when you navigate to the map screen. “This is disgusting to experience while playing,” remarked one Reddit user, summarizing the general feeling against such pop-ups in the middle of gameplay.
“We have been made aware that some players encountered pop-up ads while playing certain Assassin’s Creed titles yesterday,” says Ubisoft spokesperson Fabien Darrigues, in a statement to The Verge. “This was the result of a technical error that we addressed as soon as we learned of the issue.”
What is enshitificatiom, you might ask? This trending term was coined a little while ago by legendary scifi writer Cory Doctorow, who explained how, in his views, platforms inevitably become worse as time goes on.
“Here is how platforms die: first, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die. I call this enshittification, and it is a seemingly inevitable consequence arising from the combination of the ease of changing how a platform allocates value, combined with the nature of a “two sided market,” where a platform sits between buyers and sellers, hold each hostage to the other, raking off an ever-larger share of the value that passes between them,” he wrote in Wired earlier this year.
When he wrote this, the author was talking about TikTok. Still, you can easily apply his theory to Ubisoft’s games, especially to their UPlay platform. Anyone familiar with the company’s history will have issues believing that those were technical errors and not just another test to see just how far they can push players to extract more revenue.