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Ubisoft outshone Sony with its most assured E3 performance to-date

Full of risk, invention and blockbusters

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Yesterday was supposed to be all about PlayStation.

The platform holder delivered a short, quick-fire conference, featuring a vast array of games we mostly knew about (aside from a Shadow of the Colossus remake and a nice array of new VR games), and the majority of which are not arriving until some point in 2018. Indeed, PlayStation will be relying on third parties once again this Christmas - with Activision its biggest ally.

As a result, Microsoft will be feeling confident. It'll know Xbox One X has a stronger chance of success this Q4 due to Sony's relative absence (at least in terms of exclusives). But this is still PlayStation's generation, and with a 2018 release slate as strong as the one we saw last night, Sony shouldn't feel it needs to counter every move Microsoft is making.

Monday was supposed to be all about PlayStation, but in ended up being a day to savor for Ubisoft.

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Ubisoft was the company that generated the most noise at E3 yesterday

This was the publisher's most assured, confident and consistently surprising E3 showcase. It was also vintage Ubisoft, mixing huge established brands (Far Cry 5, The Crew 2 and Assassin's Creed: Origins), with ambitious new IP (Skull and Bones), and returning fan favourites (Beyond Good and Evil 2).

"Ubisoft doesn't care if toys-to-life is dead, or if VR isn't profitable, or if Beyond Good and Evil 2 is a sequel to a 14 year-old game that nobody bought"

It also highlighted Ubisoft's strength in depth, because it was able to deliver such a strong showcase without Watch Dogs, or The Division, or Splinter Cell, or Rainbow Six.

Yet it wasn't just the shiny blockbusters that won the day for Ubisoft, but all the nonsense that went along with it. Like that bizarre VR psychological thriller co-created by Elijah Wood's production company. Or the spaceship toys-to-life game from the makers of Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Or the South Park mobile game.

And although it had been thoroughly spoiled online weeks before, that Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battles Switch game, which was announced on stage by a gun-wielding Shigeru Miyamoto, was as bonkers as we all thought it would be (albeit much better than some had feared).

E3 is a place where Ubisoft's uniqueness really shines through. Some of those games might prove disappointing (some may not even come out at all), but the company is openly fearless in its approach to creativity. It doesn't care if toys-to-life is dead, or if VR isn't profitable, or if Beyond Good and Evil 2 is a sequel to a 14 year-old game that nobody bought. It is happy to take gamble after gamble, knowing it has plenty of lucrative blockbuster brands to give its teams the creative freedom they crave.

Would this risky approach continue if Vivendi got its way and took control of the publisher from Yves Guillemot and his brothers? It seems unlikely. Yves is the heart of this strange, flawed but often brilliant business. The heartfelt thanks from [Beyond Good and Evil creator] Michel Ancel at the end of yesterday's conference spoke of the company's persistent love and respect for its CEO. Yves Guillemot is Ubisoft.

Hopefully the firm's investors were watching.

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Latest comments (2)

Alexandru Birzanu Game Designer, GameLoft4 months ago
Would this risky approach continue if Vivendi got its way and took control of the publisher from Yves Guillemot and his brothers? It seems unlikely.
I'd argue for the use of some more objective tone when commenting on companies without having worked in them or with real inside information.

Working in Gameloft after Vivendi took over is the best thing that could have ever happened to this company, and Vivendi's approach is almost hands-off completely and with ideas conceived in company organized Game Jams, seeing the light of production and actually being launched.

Could this have happened if the Guillemont brother would have still owned the company? Most certainly not.
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Nicolas Fleury Technical Architect, Ubisoft Montreal4 months ago
I agree with the author that it is unlikely, I think this is objective enough. Gameloft and Ubisoft are 2 different beasts. Look at Massive Entertainment. Vivendi got rid of them while Ubisoft was patient to develop The Division during 8 years. I work on Rainbow Six Siege, a game only possible after a lot of patience. You cannot have clueless hands-off upper management for projects taking that long to develop. It's a collaboration. I've seen cancelled projects after years for good reasons. Vivendi helped Gameloft by bringing Havas, its advertising firm, into the mix, but advertising in AAA games is a different thing. I don't see what good Vivendi would bring to Ubisoft, it's quite the opposite. And if Vivendi takes control of Ubisoft, it won't be through a public tender offer like with Gameloft; they don't want to pay that price, so they have by law to stay under 30% if they don't want to. It means they will convince shareholders they will make more money quickly with them, which is quite the opposite of being patient, like with BGE2.
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