Assassin's Creed: Rogue wasn't even on our radars until this morning and now I'm 100% convinced it exists.
Assassin's Creed: Rogue briefly appeared on a Swiss retail website yesterday for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 before being summarily removed.
There are several reasons to take the listing with a pinch of salt. Retailers - especially those with less international recognition - often post speculative listings which pan into nothing. They also often just plain make mistakes.
Nevertheless: despite the fact that the listing was the first time I've ever heard the word "rogue" connected to the Assassin's Creed franchise, I'm pretty convinced that Assassin's Creed: Rogue is a real thing you'll be able to purchase for your non-denominational end of year giftfest of choice.
We know it exists
Starting with the most obvious bit of evidence: we know there's an Assassin's Creed game for PS3 and Xbox 360 coming. Ubisoft itself has said so a couple of times, and even if it hadn't, the idea of ignoring the colossal last-gen install base during the key holiday period is madness. Ubisoft annualised this franchise for a reason.
If we imagine an alternate world where Ubisoft hadn't said anything and had gone completely bonkers, we'd still know there's a last-gen Assassin's Creed game coming, because it leaked. Ubisoft planned to save Unity's announce for E3, but ending up bumping it forward in a very classy response to the details slipping out early. Everything the leakers said about Unity turned out to be true.
You know what else was detailed in that same leak? A last-gen game, codenamed Comet. Yep.
The timing is perfect
Not long ago, Yves Guillemot told investors that news of the last-gen Assassin's Creed was coming "soon". It makes sense that we didn't see it at E3; Ubisoft is too savvy to dilute Unity's message by showing two Assassin's Creed games at once (especially as Assassin's Creed 3 and Liberation faltered a bit). But we need to see it before the end of the holiday period, and the only sensible place to make that debut is gamescom.
Gamescom is very nearly upon us, and you can bet your boots we'll get a reveal of whatever the last-gen Assassin's Creed game is. While you and I, friends, must wait for the PR cycle to dump its load in its own good time, retailers are not so unfortunate. If a new game is going to be revealed in August for a holiday release, retailers have known about it since E3 at the very earliest. They've already negotiated shelf space and supplies with publishers.
As we build up to the show, retailers will be busily filling in their databases ahead of going live when embargoes drop. It's the perfect time for a leak. Et voilà, as they say in France, where Assassin's Creed: Unity is set, making this a great joke.
The word "rogue" fits with Comet rumours
As I mentioned above, when Assassin's Creed: Unity leaked, so too did word of another Assassin's Creed game, codenamed Comet and destined for last-gen launch. Since everything we learned about Unity was accurate, we're fairly confident the leakers will be vindicated when Comet is eventually unveiled too.
According to the leak, Comet stars a templar named Shay. A templar you say, shocked! Yes, a templar. You know what I'd call a Templar who plays for the Assassin's team? I'd call that Templar a rogue agent.
Even assuming Shay isn't batting for both sides (hem hem) the description of the game as a sort of Assassin's Creed 4 sequel, with lots of sailing, certainly feels a bit roguish. Pirates are rogues, no matter how hard you may argue they're fighter prestige classes. Rogues.
Comet is a stupid name
Look, okay, I can sort of accept that celestial bodies are important to the Assassin's Creed meta story and all that but "Comet" is a stupid title, whereas "Rogue" is pretty sweet, and sums up a lot about what we like about Assassin's Creed. Stabbing. Sneaking. Evading the man, going on the lam. Yeah!
We always knew Comet was just a codename, and it's always been quite unlikely that we'd see another numbered entry, for a couple of reasons. First, once you get past about four, adding numbers to titles has the potential to limit western audience growth rather than promote it - especially in annualised franchises. That's why Call of Duty doesn't do it, for example.
Second, we not-so-secretly believe Ubisoft faffed up its numbering system altogether trying to recover from Assassin's Creed 3. Assassin's Creed 3 is, as you'll recall, not exactly a bad game, but despite its massive sales it has a reputation as letting the side down somewhat.
When Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag was announced, we were surprised - a new number, so soon after the last one, accompanied by no major technological upgrades, and with a subtitle attached regardless? I will go to my grave believing AC4 was supposed to be "Assassin's Creed 3: Black Flag", the way Brotherhood and Revelations built on AC2, but Ubisoft hauled arse to distance it from Connor's underwhelming adventures.
I believe Unity, which has four player co-op and is the first true next-gen entry in the series, was supposed to be Assassin's Creed 4 - assuming Ubisoft didn't just chuck numbering altogether.
With all that in mind, obviously the new last-gen game is going to be called "Assassin's Creed: Something", and "Rogue" is such a perfect choice that if it isn't the one Ubisoft chose it jolly well ought to reconsider before gamescom. And maybe hire the retailer who came up with it.
Assassin's Creed: Rogue is 100% real and I have already written the announcement article ahead of Ubisoft's press conference at gamescom 2014. See you then!