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XDefiant interview: The origins of Ubisoft’s crossover shooter


Jun 8, 2023
XDefiant needs to unbind itself from Tom Clancy to succeed

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After flying low on the radar for some time, Ubisoft’s XDefiant has emerged as one of its promising new games. The company recently added the title to its 2023-24 fiscal year release schedule, meaning it is likely to release in the next few months. GamesBeat got a chance to speak with CeeCee Smith, XDefiant’s director of live operations, on how the game took shape during its development cycle.

Smith told GamesBeat that Ubisoft intended to make a shooter that could take advantage of player feedback more directly. “We knew we wanted to make a 6v6 arena shooter that depended on and evolved on player feedback. That’s something that games we’ve worked on in the past haven’t really gotten to take advantage of — because in the past it’s been that yearly iteration timeline. Now, especially with us being a free-to-play, more in that games-as-a-service environment, we have the opportunity to do that now.”

XDefiant’s primary conceit is that it’s a crossover between some of Ubisoft’s biggest franchises. Splinter Cell, Far Cry and The Division are some of franchises represented. Smith said, “Looking at all the different IPs that Ubisoft has, I think it made sense to us: ‘What if we took the Cleaners from The Division and gave them a flamethrower ultra?’ Once we looked at it in that holistic way, that’s how it came together.”

XDefiant’s future

During the closed beta, Ubisoft iterated on the game in response to player feedback, with new fixes rolling out for the issues constantly. Patrick “Aches” Price said in a post mortem post that the community was finding new and interesting ways to play, and that the popularity of certain factions was greater than what the company had expected.

“We wanted to create a game that had that old-school arcade-style feeling. And for a lot of players, XDefiant brought a lot of nostalgia, which is something you don’t typically say about a new IP,” said Price. “The reception has inspired our team to continue improving the game, which will be our focus from now to launch and beyond.”

Naturally, we asked Smith about XDefiant’s future plans. She said that, at the moment, the developer is planning to fix the game’s basics based on player feedback. “It’s about being open and looking at it from a full picture… We’ve already made really big changes to the game based on player feedback, and hopefully we continue to.”

Smith couldn’t confirm any future factions, but she did add that the company is also adding other things from Ubisoft’s franchises via in-game maps. She also said that the game is a love letter to Ubisoft’s biggest franchises, especially since it has doffed the Tom Clancy branding. “Removing the Tom Clancy name opens up a whole swathe of opportunities for us to hit up other IPs like Watch Dogs. It was a huge opportunity for us to branch out.”

XDefiant is likely to make an appearance at Ubisoft’s summer Forward event, to take place next week.

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