Desilets: "Eventually AAA games will make money again"
Assassin's Creed creator sees digital as saviour of big-budget games; says he's "fighting" for rights to 1666: Amsterdam
Former Ubisoft and THQ creative director Patrice Desilets has dismissed the idea that AAA games will soon be a thing of the past, pointing towards a digital-only future as their possible saviour.
"Deep down, nobody cares about not having CDs any more. The future is digital, and there's nothing you can do about it"
In a session at the Gamelab conference in Barcelona, Desilets - the creator of the Assassin's Creed franchise - listed the huge changes that have swept through the industry since he began his career at Ubisoft Montreal in 1997.
Several of these - specifically the rise of more accessible digital platforms like iOS and Android - have prompted ongoing discussions about the long-term validity of expensive AAA games. However, while Desilets believes that certain aspects of the AAA model are likely to evolve, the actual games satisfy a need that other games simply cannot.
"Right now we are at a crossroads in our industry," Desilets admitted, standing before a screen displaying the many disruptive influences that have upended the world of console development. "But I don't believe the AAA blockbuster will die. Maybe the way it is distributed will change, but it won't die."
Desilets suggested that it is in the structure of the AAA industry that its salvation could be found - i.e. how the games are distributed and sold. He stated that, "eventually AAA will make money again," and went on to assert that, "the future is digital all the way."
"Yeah, games come on disc, and I get it guys you were really pissed off," he said, presumably referring to the huge backlash that greeted Microsoft's now scrapped licensing policies for the Xbox One. "But, deep down, nobody cares about not having CDs any more. The future is digital, and there's nothing you can do about it."
The changes necessary to ensure the long-term survival of blockbuster games will ultimately be found because, in simple terms, games like those that Desilets creates are an example of supply meeting clear audience demand.
"There are video games and there are interactive experiences. I do interactive experiences a lot more than I do video games. It's great to play smaller games - I play them also - but there's something else. The little games that make so much money these days are like magazines - like People magazine. It's great, you read the gossip, but after a while it's done. It's hard to care about them.
"Interactive experiences are novels. They are something else. You're inside them, they take time. You can change people's minds and lives with them.... They are all great, but that's the main difference."
Nevertheless, Desilets asked the creative minds in the games industry to expand the scope of what blockbuster games are actually about.
"I'm fighting for it, and that's all I can say for now. It's all those years of experience put together"
Desilets on 1666: Amsterdam
"I believe we need a revolution in subject matter," he said. "It has been four E3s that I've gone to, and it's always the same thing. I get it: we all like space marines and shooters, but come on, we need to talk about something else.
"Make games with a cultural point of view. We did a game, somehow, about the Muslim faith. We did a game about the Italian renaissance. [Ubisoft] did a game about the American Revolution. Having a cultural point of view will become more and more important. There is something about where I come from in the game I was making [1666: Amsterdam]. I think that will change the entire industry.
"We're still talking about these things because the medium is really in its infancy. It's so much easier in terms of production and coding to just blow stuff up than to create an interaction about human beings. It's so much more subtle than killing. Eventually we'll get there, and it's really a shame that I cannot finish 1666, because it was about all of that."
Desilets was working on 1666: Amsterdam for THQ when the company went under. Ubisoft acquired the Montreal studio that Desilets had helped to establish, and with it the rights to his new game. Desilets was subsequently fired by Ubisoft, and he has since filed a lawsuit in order to regain control of the project.
"I'm fighting for it, and that's all I can say for now," he told the Gamelab crowd. "It's all those years of experience put together.
"I'm sorry guys, it was amazing. And it still is amazing, and I hope to get it back and finish it for you - and for me."