[Update] Exclusive: Ubisoft cancels Ghost Recon Commander, layoffs hit Loot Drop

Update: Ubisoft has confirmed the Ghost Recon Commander’s cancelation. “Ghost Recon Commander will unfortunately be discontinued because the game play mechanics did not resonate with the core gamer audience.  For our Ghost Recon fans, we will continue to operate Ghost Recon Commander from now until the end of the calendar year with monetization removed.  This decision does not reflect a change of strategy for any of Ubisoft’s other social games currently in development or operation.”

Original article is below.

We’ve learned Ubisoft canceled its Ghost Recon’s social game franchise Ghost Recon Commander, forcing developer Loot Drop to let go of the game’s development team. Loot Drop co-founder Brenda Romero (formerly Brenda Brathwaite) confirmed this with us moments ago.

This is a major shift from what we were told at Ubisoft’s Digital Day in August, when VP of Digital Publishing Chris Early told us the game was actually going to be ported to iPad and that the publisher was happy with the updates Loot Drop had implemented into the game since it launched.

At the moment, the game still loads on Facebook and its official app page doesn’t have any notice about the game’s impending shutdown.

We’ve reached out to Ubisoft and will update the story when we receive a response.

Ghost Recon Commander was Loot Drop’s first game and was certainly its highest-profile title. The game was designed to be played alongside Ubisoft’s AAA Ghost Recon: Future Soldier to create cross-platform promotions, with both versions unlocking exclusive content like weapons, characters and skins. At the Digital Day event, we were also told there were plans to incorporate Ghost Recon Commander with future Ghost Recon titles from Ubisoft.

Although Ghost Recon Commander didn’t really catch on with social players initially, the game’s traffic has actually been at its highest levels recently: Our AppData traffic-tracking service shows Ghost Recon Commander currently has 180,000 monthly active users and 20,000 daily active users. Prior to mid-October, the game’s best traffic was 100,000 MAU and 10,553 DAU.

Ubisoft’s other social games don’t seem to have been affected by this development. AppData shows the company’s top four social titles are still The Smurfs & Co. (with 650,000 MAU and 70,000 DAU), CSI: Crime City (540,000 MAU/50,000 DAU), House M.D.: Critical Cases (510,000 MAU/60,000 DAU) and CSI: Miami Heat Wave (460,000 MAU/50,000 DAU). Still, Ubisoft’s numbers are significantly lower than their September 2011 peaks of 1.8 million DAU and 13.8 million MAU; currently the company has 274,806 DAU and 2.78 million MAU.

The fate of Ghost Recon Commander may mark the company’s intent to sunset other underperforming social titles, much like Zynga said it would last week after it shut down several studios and laid off approximately 5 percent of its work force. Ubisoft hasn’t announced any plans like this yet, but it might be trying to pre-emptively trim some fat from its social games catalog after Zynga’s underwhelming earnings report and the news that browser game developer Bigpoint had also been forced to let approximately 40 of its employees go from its San Francisco office.

Romero tells us that while the Ghost Recon Commander team was forced to be let go, the developer still has two other projects in development and is continuing to operate Pettington Park on Google+. This has been a rough couple of weeks for the developer, as it was recently forced to cancel the role-playing game it was trying to launch via Kickstarter.