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Soft Touch

Ubisoft boss Yves Guillemot discusses new markets, price cuts and why size doesn't matter.

Last month, Ubisoft held a special event in Paris for press and retailers from around the globe. Titled Ubidays, it was designed to give attendees the chance to learn more about the company's product line-up, which includes new instalments in long running series along with original IP such as Assassin's Creed and a new range of casual games.

During the event, got the chance to sit down with Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot. Read on to find out what he thinks about the success of the Wii, the need for a PS3 price cut, the importance of new markets to third-party publishers and more. In your speech

opening Ubidays last night, you said that this is Ubisoft's E3 - that E3 is really for the US now...

Yves Guillemot: Yes, E3 has changed into a different show. It's a totally different approach, moving from mid-May to July to present the games to the retailers and press.

E3 is not very much for Europeans any more, so we thought it would be better to create something that's at the same time as E3 [was], for everybody.

What about other events like Leipzig, for example - will you be present there?

We will also be presenting at Leipzig. What we know is we have to have enough space to present the games, and Ubidays is good for that. So we're going to have our event, and we're also go to places where not everybody is going, but we can again see people that didn't come here or want to know more about our products.

Ubisoft is making a big move into casual gaming at the moment. Is that because of the success of your strategy for the Wii? You offered seven titles for launch day, more than any other third-party publisher. Did that strategy pay off?

Yes, it paid off very well. We had 29 per cent market share in Europe on the Wii for the first four months after the machine launched, so it worked well. We realised there are lots of new customers very interested in completely different games.

We are fulfilling that demand. We have customers that want different games, and within the company lots of creators who have been asking us to do different games.

Isn't there a danger that as more companies like Ubisoft move into casual gaming, the market will become more crowded? How will you compete?

I think as with all markets, what's important is to have many creative people taking care of it, and working to produce innovative, quality products. You can never have too many high quality games.

The more we grow, the better the quality of these games will be, and we'll respond to the demand from consumers.

Do you think some other publishers are trying to catch up with Ubisoft now? For example, some critics have said that Electronic Arts didn't have enough faith in the Wii and should have committed more to it at the beginning. Do you think that's damaged them?

No. When we saw the Wii and spoke with our teams about it, the reaction was very strong because most of our creators have been Nintendo fans since they were very young. When they saw the Wii, they saw they could create something different.

Now the machine is successful, so all the publishers are going to create for it. I don't think being late is a problem - what's important is to produce the best games for the machine.

Seeing as the Wii has performed so well, as has the DS, are you going to focus on those two platforms?

No. We will continue to focus a lot also on the other machines, but we now consider PS3, 360 and PC as one kind of machine, Wii as another one, and DS and PSP also as another one.

We differentiate the machines because we know the consumers are a little bit different. We can come with different brands and different experiences.

PlayStation 3 seems to be lagging behind in terms of sales figures - how concerned are you about that?

I think you'd have to ask them what is their plan for this year. I think they had a great launch, and we all know that after the launch it's always slower because all the people that love the machine came and bought it on day one. Now it's really Christmas that will tell us what the machine will do.

You hit the headlines recently for calling on Sony to cut the price of PS3...

I was just saying that in the last generation, we had machines that were at a lower price and they were selling more. It's just something to consider for all the manufacturers, that the price of the machine has a huge impact on the number of machines sold.

Everybody has to remember that volumes are very dependent on price. I know the platform holders all know that, so now we have to wait for them to see when they want to achieve those numbers.

Do you think cutting the price before Christmas would be a good idea?

It depends on the volumes they want to achieve this year, on their policy. For publishers, we want as many machines sold as possible, so for us the lower the price the better.

[Sony has] sold a machine that is actually expensive to build at the right price for consumers. It's just that if we want more consumers, we'll have to have a price that will make more people come in.

How would you describe Ubisoft's standing amongst third-party publishers now?

I would say publishers are really dependent on the quality of the games they launch. I'm looking at the industry in terms of segments of the market, and how publishers are performing in those segments. We are all more dependent on the quality of the games we do than the size of the company.

If you are strong segment more than another... If gamers like first-person shooter games, they buy the best ones. So it's not the size of the company that counts, but how good that company is at creating games.

Is it a good time to be a third-party publisher?

Yes, because of all the innovations - the 360, Live Arcade, the Wii, the DS, PlayStation Home... I think all of these will expand the market a lot and as publishers, we'll be very happy to share in that success.

Yves Guillemot is CEO of Ubisoft. Interview by Ellie Gibson.

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Ellie Gibson avatar
Ellie Gibson: Ellie spent nearly a decade working at Eurogamer, specialising in hard-hitting executive interviews and nob jokes. These days she does a comedy show and podcast. She pops back now and again to write the odd article and steal our biscuits.
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