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Ubisoft wants to expand Assassin's Creed audience to kids

Publisher's Splinter Cell brand manager says Mega Blox deal was intended to introduce children to franchise

The Entertainment Software Rating Board explicitly forbids advertising games rated M for Mature specifically to audiences under the guideline's suggested age of 17. That's apparently not enough to keep publishers from seeking those audiences out anyway, as Ubisoft international brand manager Yannick Spagna today said the publisher had been trying to introduce children to its historical action franchise Assassin's Creed.

Spagna actually manages the Splinter Cell brand and an unannounced project for the publisher, but he used Assassin's Creed as an example during a panel discussion on branding at the GameON Finance conference in Toronto. When asked about the revenue share branded activities bring in for Ubisoft, Spagna said in many cases, the publisher enters into branding deals not to pad the bottom line so much as to expand its reach to new audiences.

"On a big IP, like Assassin's Creed or that type of game, I think now the idea is to reach a maximum of people, so it's not about needing advertisement to get additional revenue," Spagna said. "Plus I'm not sure this is the right business model to do that. When you think about it, would you like to have, while playing Assassin's Creed, shaving cream advertising every five minutes when you spent $70 to buy the game? I'm not sure this is what you want. For big IPs, smart brands are the best partners. They do a line with Mega Bloks together. On their side, it's nice because toys are looking for the hype around video games. And we are looking for a new audience: kids, children, it's more like that."

Earlier this year, Mega Bloks and Ubisoft announced the Assassin's Creed line of construction block kits. The suggested age range on the kits spans from 10 and up to 14 and up, depending on complexity. The company also produces kits based on M-rated franchises like Call of Duty and Halo.

After the panel, Spagna clarified his comments to GamesIndustry.biz.

"This quote is not about Assassin's Creed the game," Spagna said. "It's about Assassin's Creed the brand. It's the same way you have The Lord of the Rings brand, the books, Shadow of Mordor, the Lego. It's a huge franchise, a brand, and within that you have different experiences that are tailored to specific audiences."

Spagna said the Assassin's Creed games may not be suitable for children, but the bright and colorful Mega Bloks kits are a very different incarnation of the idea.

"If you think about it, we could even do an Assassin's Creed game tailored for kids," Spagna said. "Imagine a Lego game. It would mean changing a lot of things… I played hours and hours of Lego Lord of the Rings, and you kill people but not kill people, because they're Lego characters."

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Latest comments (19)

Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend2 years ago
It may just be my age showing, but how the hell do you make a game which is primarily about dispatching people in gruesome high definition a kid-friendly brand? I mean c'mon, IMO some things just don't (and shouldn't) translate to kids merchandise no matter how you spin it.

Lol, I feel old now.. Damn kids and their rock n roll!! :D

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 20th November 2014 6:42pm

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James Brightman Editor in Chief, GamesIndustry.biz2 years ago
I mostly agree with you Darren. I suppose if I try to look at it from their perspective it might be similar to having figurines aimed at kids sort of like Pirates or soldiers like GI Joe. Those are inherently violent characters but they don't exhibit gruesome violence directly at kids.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.2 years ago
So when can we expect the inevitable Assassin's Creed Toys To Life figurines?
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Show all comments (19)
Neil Young Programmer, Rebellion Developments2 years ago
Selling toys based on franchises with a teenager or higher ratings attached isn't new, but I'm never sure if it's meant as a way of bringing kids into the franchise in advance, or rather a way of leveraging fans with kids to maximise merchandising. Sounds like ubisoft are trying for the former, interesting to see how it works.
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Anthony Gowland Consulting F2P Game Designer, Ant Workshop2 years ago
Nothing to do with age, or particularly unusual - I remember in the 80's/90's kids' toy lines based on 18 rated IP like Aliens, Terminator, and Robocop.
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Ruben Monteiro Engineer 2 years ago
"Daddy, daddy, when I grow up I wanna be an assassin !!"

What's the matter, Ubi? Franchise ad nauseam starting to show it's cracks among grown up men, so time to exploit the kids?
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.2 years ago
Anthony, all 3 of those IPs had a comic, cartoon, kids rated game or other media in place to target the younger ages. Assassin's Creed does not have any of that.
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Adam Campbell Producer, Hopster2 years ago
Then they can create it Jim. The adult focussed titles are not targeted at children.
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany2 years ago
@Darren: you beat me to it. But just think about this: Back in the 90's they made a cartoon of "Toxic Avenger". Which (for those that don't know), is a series of gore-splatter movies by "Troma films"
We'll see what happens. But something tells me that adults are going to buy this too; and a lot of them ;)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Alfonso Sexto on 21st November 2014 10:55am

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Glorify assassination to appeal to kids. someone isnt thinking straight at Ubi
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend2 years ago
I know there have been many films/products that have tried to market their originally adult rated content to children in the past, but should this really be an accepted practice? Morally it is pretty dubious IMO.

I don't want to take anyone's choice away, I like freedom of choice and don't think anyone really has the right to tell another adult what they should or should not do. But I do think it is a little dark to market adult content to children and would they have come to the same decision if they used some empathy in their decision making?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 21st November 2014 10:26am

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Tom Keresztes Programmer 2 years ago
I know there have been many films/products that have tried to market their originally adult rated content to children in the past, but should this really be an accepted practice? Morally it is pretty dubious IMO.
Jurassic Park?
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend2 years ago
@Tom

I believe Jurassic park was a family movie as far as I remember, even though it had a few dinosaur nom nom moments.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 21st November 2014 12:55pm

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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 2 years ago
The history of Saturday morning cartoons is a history of violence and bloodshed. The only reason G.I Joe, the Transformers and He-Man did not kill off one major character each week was the simple fact that toys sell better if a character has more screentime.
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 2 years ago
Well, there's some interesting history, philosophy and comparative religion at the root of Assassin's Creed.

There's also some kid friendly (maybe I mean kid useful) concepts that could be explored in a game involving assassination, like death, grief, restitution, revenge and atonement.

Er, yeah... that sounds fun as hell, but it could be. Look at Harry Potter - an orphan who gets locked in a dark cupboard nightly - or the children in most of Roald Dahl's material written after his child's illness.
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Shane Sweeney Academic 2 years ago
I grew up with Toxic Avenger and Robocop action figures. There is a line where 10 year olds shouldn't see certain content. But for me it would be Manhunt not Assasins Creed.
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Marty Howe Director, Figurehead Studios2 years ago
kids are easier to trick and con, than adults. We all know, the number 1 motivation here don't we?

Money.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Marty Howe on 24th November 2014 2:44am

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The inherent issue is what demographic is this aimed at.
An age demographic of 10-14, is still revelling in the anti hero and relatively impressionable teen,
with potential additional influence of the under 10

In an era where knife/gun crime is prevalent in various societies, this is not a suitable reasonable responsible angle to think of expanding the franchise into. Choose any other persona than that of a hitman/assasin.
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Henry Durrant Programmer, SUMO Digital2 years ago
As for robocop toys; The toy line didn't come with a free VHS of the movie, he was a Cop ( good guy ) and a Robot ( cool! ) so without the ultaviolence in context, it still makes sense as a child's toy. However an assasin who reason de etre is to stab people in the neck doesn't quite translate into the same arena.
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