Assassin‘s Creed Unity was available as a free download for one week in April 2019 on PC, as part of Ubisoft‘s generous response to the devastating Notre-Dame Cathedral fire in Paris. From April 17-25, gamers could add AC Unity to their libraries for free and Ubisoft pledged €500,000 to the rebuilding efforts. This promotion allowed both players and the company to show their appreciation for an iconic monument through the power of gaming.
The Shocking Fire that Damaged Notre-Dame
On April 15, 2019, news headlines around the world reported that a massive blaze had broken out at the historic Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. This 850-year-old Gothic cathedral is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Paris and belongs on any first-time tourist‘s must-see list.
As firefighters worked to contain the fire, first responders and citizens watched in disbelief as Notre-Dame‘s iconic spire collapsed and parts of the roof caved in. The damage was catastrophic and heartbreaking for Parisians and people everywhere who cherished Notre-Dame for its beauty and history.
According to reports from news outlets like CNN and BBC, over 400 firefighters battled the blaze for 15 grueling hours before finally extinguishing it. Two policemen and one firefighter were injured, but thankfully there were no fatalities.
In the end, the fire completely destroyed the cathedral‘s roof and spire, but the main structure, including the two bell towers, was saved. The full extent of the damage is still being assessed, but art experts believe many precious artifacts and paintings inside were able to be rescued as well.
Still, for a building that withstood everything from the French Revolution to World War II, the fire was a national tragedy. As Parisians mourned the state of their beloved Notre-Dame, an outpouring of goodwill and donations came in from around the world to help with restoration efforts.
Ubisoft‘s Moving Response: A Free Game
One grand gesture of support in response to the fire came from French video game company Ubisoft. Starting just two days after the blaze on April 17, Ubisoft made their 2014 game Assassin‘s Creed Unity free to download on PC via their Uplay service.
This promotion lasted for one full week, ending on April 25. During this time window, anyone with a Uplay account could permanently add AC Unity to their game library at no cost.
Ubisoft also pledged €500,000 (around $564,000 USD) directly towards the rebuilding of Notre-Dame. They hoped the attention from the free game would encourage more donations from Assassin‘s Creed fans and gamers in general.
Why Assassin‘s Creed Unity?
Of all Ubisoft‘s titles, why did they choose to give away Assassin‘s Creed Unity? As an immersive open world game set in Paris during the French Revolution, AC Unity contains an incredibly detailed recreation of Notre-Dame Cathedral and was praised for its accuracy.
By playing Unity, gamers can climb up Notre-Dame‘s walls, explore its interior, and experience the cathedral as a living part of 18th century Paris. This digital preservation of Notre-Dame before the fire was a touching way for Ubisoft to honor the cathedral‘s significance.
According to gaming news site IGN, AC Unity production took over two years and required 5,000 animations just for main character Arno‘s movements. Thousands of reference photos were used to perfectly construct Notre-Dame and other Parisian landmarks. This level of detail brought history to life for players.
So while Unity received mixed reviews from critics on its original release, its Paris city design was always considered top notch. As a love letter to French architecture and history, Unity was the perfect Ubisoft title to give away following the Notre-Dame fire.
Player Response to Ubisoft‘s Generosity
Many gamers were moved by Ubisoft‘s gift and praised them for their sensitivity during a time of tragedy. Social media was full of thanks and appreciation towards the company. Players happily explored their free version of Notre-Dame, seeing its beauty from a new perspective.
According to Ubisoft, Assassin‘s Creed Unity downloads increased over 500% during the giveaway week compared to the week prior. Many players donated directly to Notre-Dame rebuilding efforts after enjoying Unity.
Though Ubisoft didn‘t disclose official numbers, various media outlets estimate their promotion resulted in $1.5 million+ in additional donations based on the player response. The goodwill and camaraderie shown by Ubisoft and its fans was uplifting to see.
The Ongoing Rebuilding Process
In the months and years after the fire, work continues to restore Notre-Dame to its former glory. In June 2019, the French Parliament passed a bill that provided a legal framework and funding for the required restoration efforts.
President Emmanuel Macron set an ambitious 5-year goal for the reconstruction to be completed. However, progress has faced multiple delays due to decontamination efforts, additional damage during cleanup, and of course the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Notre-Dame‘s official website, the fragile cathedral is still closed to the public for safety reasons as of February 2023. The rebuilding roadmap lays out a complex process, but those involved remain hopeful Notre-Dame will reopen its doors by 2024, just in time for the Summer Olympics in Paris.
Gamers who experienced Assassin‘s Creed Unity during Ubisoft‘s 2019 giveaway got a glimpse of Notre-Dame‘s grandeur. While the cathedral‘s future is still uncertain, this iconic monument will live on digitally whether its restoration takes 5 more years or 50. Ubisoft‘s generous promotion honored the past and gave hope for the future.
Assassin‘s Creed Unity was free to download on PC via Uplay from April 17-25, 2019 in response to the Notre-Dame Cathedral fire.
Ubisoft chose Unity because its highly accurate recreation of Notre-Dame allowed players to explore the cathedral virtually.
Donations to Notre-Dame restoration efforts spiked during the promotion, with an estimated $1.5 million+ in contributions tied to Ubisoft‘s giveaway.
Work to rebuild Notre-Dame is still ongoing years after the fire severely damaged the 850-year-old cathedral.
Ubisoft‘s actions represented gaming at its best – inspiring empathy, preserving history, and bringing joy even during difficult times.