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Corre Gamer

Ubisoft's Alain Corre discusses the evolution of the home console business

Ubisoft became the number two publisher in Europe earlier this year, after racking up a number of hits in the past 18 months, from mega-budget blockbusters like Assassin's Creed II to more price-conscious Just Dance titles for the Wii.

As the triple-A market becomes more expensive and risky, and at the same time offering incredible returns for the top five hits, Alain Corre talks through the publisher's renewed focus on the console market, why he's not looking to long-term growth with Move and Kinect, how 3DS can lift the market in 2011, and why online play shouldn't just be exploited as an additional revenue stream. What are you impressions of Gamescom this year?
Alain Corre

It is a very busy show and it's amazing to see how many people are around. There are not that many retailers from countries outside of Germany, but the buzz is from all around. So all in all it's very encouraging. In Germany, the feedback from buyers is making us very confident on Move and Kinect. These peripherals are coming and they can boost our market, because it's been down. Every time you introduce new technology you can lift the market. With Move, Kinect and 3DS in six months, it will be a very good and positive time for the industry. Do you think Move and Kinect can help increase the lifecycle of PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in the long term, beyond 12-24 months? Because that's what Microsoft and Sony are hoping, that's there's another five years in this generation of home consoles.
Alain Corre

I don't think so, no. Yes, it's a good extension of the lifecycle for a certain length of time and it's also a good way to capture some consumers they didn't have on the casual side, because Microsoft's 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3 do not have the casual customers. So it will bring in a new category of customer for them.

Now, will it prevent them from releasing brand new technology in the next five years? I don't think so. This is a crystal ball question, but when would you expect new hardware from the console manufacturers?
Alain Corre

I don't know, usually it's five or six years for every cycle. The Xbox 360 will be on the market for six years, this year. For the moment we have heard nothing, but these guys are always working on hardware somewhere, they are a hardware company after all. Less than five years, to give you another prediction [laughs]. But this will be the longest cycle ever in the last twenty years. Part of the extension of this lifecycle has been through online services and online play, which have finally been done very well, very defined on consoles.
Alain Corre

It has been another way for the consoles to touch the consumers and link better with customers, and for us it's just another way to play online and another way of buying into games. It's a natural evolution of consoles, but it's not a revolution. More and more we're going down the online sales route for consoles, but it's additional to the business of what we're doing. How has the rising cost of making triple-A games changed production at Ubisoft?
Alain Corre

The games that are not triple-A are not profitable anymore. And that's changed in the last 18 months. When you have a triple-A blockbuster it costs more money to develop, but at the end of the day there's also the chance of a good return on it because there's a concentration at the top of the charts. To a certain extent it becomes less risky to invest more in a single game or franchise than spreading your investment between three or four games. Because if those three or four games are not at the right quality level, you are sure to lose money. So the business model has changed and we're changing our way of making hardcore games. With hardcore games that we're not sure are reaching the right level, we stop work on them. And that's why we concentrate more on key franchises, because that's what the market wants - something new with huge quality production behind it. The market is not supporting the full range of product that it used to anymore. With costs so high, will it become essential to monetise console games through online play and downloadable content - in the way that some publishers are hoping to charge for subscriptions for multiplayer gaming?
Alain Corre

It's true that it's important for us to monetise what we create for consoles and online is one way to do it. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood is an example of where we're going with this in the online segment - we decided this year to add an online game to the franchise and it's pleasing a lot of people. What we're doing is building up for the future. Even though we don't get money for the hours they will spend playing online, the familiarity of our fans with the franchises is growing and when we release the next game more people will hopefully be interested in buying it. A game like that is an investment for the future.

Matt Martin avatar
Matt Martin: Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.
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