Ready to Launch: Ubisoft's Wii U Strategy
CEO Yves Guillemot reveals why he's committed to Nintendo's new console, and how it reflects the evolution of social gaming
This E3 is a big one for Yves Guillemot. Ubisoft is announcing not one, not two, but eight different launch window titles for Wii U, and pushing its flagship franchises harder than ever.
GamesIndustry International spoke to the Ubisoft co-founder and CEO ahead of the company's conference at E3, where he was able to shed some light on Ubisoft's commitment to the Wii U, and how he expects the industry to evolve to meet the need or more sociable gamers.
Q: You have eight titles for the Wii U launch window, why did Ubisoft want to make that commitment to the console so early on?
Yves Guillemot: Because we love the machine. We think it's, again, Nintendo coming with a good machine that is going to bring accessibility for the living room with the game controller, with touch, that can be associated to the Wiimote. We can have two types of gameplay in a very convivial way in the living room, and this will allow more people to actually be able to play. So it's a good evolution in the industry, and our creators were really excited about the possibility to use that potential and to come up with games for core gamers - and for that we have Assassin's Creed and ZombiU, which is a new brand.
And on the other side is what is the most important part of the Nintendo machine which is also all the casual business with dancing games, with fitness games, with multi-sports games, with Sport Connection, and this is going to help us to have a large penetration of the new users on this machine. We also have Rayman, that is coming again and will be wonderful, we love it, and we have also have Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth. So its four for families and four for the gamers.
"The Wii U is a good evolution in the industry, and so our creators were really excited about the possibility to use that potential"
Q: Does that reflect the audience split you're predicting on Wii U? Do you think it will be half casual, half core?
Yves Guillemot: When we say core, you know, it is core families also. Adventure and Rayman are for all the family. It's not because you are casual that you are don't play also games. You have two games for 18+, which are more hardcore like Assassin's and ZombiU, but the two other games are more for the family audience.
Q: Do you think Nintendo has a difficult task going up against the current consoles and their install bases?
Yves Guillemot: We think that it's a good offer for the family. For the people that had a Wii it's a good machine that gives the HD quality for the games, and an increase in performance and accessibility for the family. Many people that have a Wii I think will convert to the Wii U.
Q: What really stands out to you or your creative teams about the Wii U as a machine?
Yves Guillemot: We are very impressed by the controller. We think to have have a mix of buttons on the side and touch and videos, the possibility to take all the possibilities with the online, the asynchronous gameplay so you can send challenges, receive challenges, so all the social aspects of video games will be really well treated by this screen. So many possibilities.
We want friends to play with us, we want to send them challenges, receive challenges. As the machine is always on we will be able also to start playing very quickly, and this device is going to be able to help us to jump on it. Like on an iPhone or an iPad, it's easy to access, lots of possible communications with our friends, sending them challenges and receiving challenges from them.
Q: You mentioned the iPhone there, do you think that has had, and will have, an impact on the design of more traditional consoles?
Yves Guillemot: I think its that everybody goes in the same direction, which is accessibility. And Nintendo started with the Wiimote and the next step was really the same as Apple, being able to go to touch. And Microsoft also have the Kinect, with is also a very good approach. So anything that helps people to play, that makes games easier to access and control, is going in the right direction. So as they are looking for the same thing it's logical they come to the same conclusion.
Q: Do you think Nintendo releasing a console now, in that gap between Microsoft and Sony's hardware cycles, will give them an advantage when it comes to sales?
Yves Guillemot: It's always good to be alone when you launch a machine. So it's a good thing they come this year. Because also it's the right time to come with a new machine, the industry is waiting for new machines, new types of games, and so it's the beginning of changes in the industry which is good.
Q: Do you think consumers are ready for something new as well?
Yves Guillemot: If the consumer is ready, yes, we'll see? I think many people have been waiting for that, and really if we can show good new usage of the hardware we'll have lots of people who will want to take those experiences.
"It's the right time to come with a new machine, the industry is waiting for new machines, new types of games"
Q: Are you concerned about the rising costs of game development as the consoles get more and more advanced?
Yves Guillemot: I think what's important is what you can invest and what you generate as revenue. What we've seen each time we have new consoles is that we have an increase of the number of people playing, so I feel that this new generation is going to bring new possibilities. It's going to also take all the revolutions that have happened in the last seven years, like the arrival of social and asynchronous gaming, and the possibility to have machines that are very easy to access and the possibility to be closer to our customer so we can give him an experience that is more adapted to each person, all those things that have been invented on other platforms are going to be available now in the living room and so that will normally help this industry to grow quite significantly. So we will be able to generate more revenue, like it happened in the last few transitions in fact.
Q: Is it even more important to have those flagship brands at this time?
Yves Guillemot: I think it's like it has always been, brands have good power and they are very strong on high-end consoles but they can also be strong on iPhone and iPad and PC. Consumers have been playing those games for a while, they are used to the rules they follow and the characters and environment and when we come back with new stories and new volume they can really go back to this world and experience a different adventure but following the same rules. For them it's very attractive.
Q: And what about making an impression with a new IP, is it just down to marketing spend?
Yves Guillemot: You will see at E3 our new IP, two new IPs. So we will have Watch Dogs which is going to be presented at our conference, and also ZombiU, for both of them are going to come with everything that we feel can create a totally new experience compared to what existed before. So really what a new IP has to bring is new possibilities to play with, with your friends and have a completely different experience to what you had before.
Q: You've got Assassin's Creed Liberation coming up on Vita. That handheld seems to have had a slow start, do you think it can still achieve big sales?
Yves Guillemot: I think the Vita, with the level of quality of games they will have at the end of the year, should do very well. I think they really have a neat machine that is really bringing a completely new experience, and they seem to have good games for the end of the year. So that should help the machine to really help take off.
Q: So the software is really still key to driving those sales?
Yves Guillemot: As it has always been. Software is what people are buying machines for, and it doesn't change in fact. And it's even more important than before.
Q: Splinter Cell is being developed at Ubisoft Toronto, but with support from Shanghai and Montreal, is that the future of AAA development? Multiple studios?
Yves Guillemot: Splinter Cell is no different to Assassin's Creed or to Far Cry. All those games are actually created in many studios at the same time. Just because you need lots of people to create games, and so when you have a large organisation you can make them happen faster.
Q: And launching digital products from the same franchise, at the same time, means there's more work to go around these days?
Yves Guillemot: It's harder. We can say that. It's harder to handle all the possibilities, but it's also opening a lot more possibilities where gamers want to play for a long time. They have all the tools to continue to play and communicate between them, so that's really I think the future of gaming. The possibility to always be connected with your game and your friends, so you can prepare or defend strategy and be in this adventure for a long time, and really I would say it's actually a good way to be connected to your friends, doing something specific. Playing something together. That will become more implemented in games.
Q: So that's something you would hope to see in the next generation of consoles?
Yves Guillemot: What we see is that the PC is doing that a lot, so generally as consoles take all the new interesting inventions of the PC we hope it's going to be there. But it's already happening on 360 and PS3, so I think it's really in everybody's head, how can we make sure we people play with their friends? So it's not automatically one against the other, but it's also the core and collaborative gameplay that is going to increase.