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Ubisoft gearing up for new hardware

Publisher already dedicating 10% of internal development on unannounced technology

Ubisoft is among the companies already gearing up for the launch of new gaming hardware, with CEO Yves Guillemot claiming "there are lots of things that will happen in the next few years."

Speaking in a conference call to investors, Guillemot didn't drop any significant hints as to whether we could look forward to entirely new platforms, next generations of existing hardware, or simply revisions to current handhelds or consoles, but he did stress the importance of investing now in order to be ready as and when products are released - and that in the main new technology will focus on accessibility over other aspects of gaming.

"It's difficult to answer because details are confidential, but what we see is that on handheld and on consoles there are lots of things that will happen in the next few years," he said. "That's why we consider that it's important to recruit now, and train people, so that those investments will come in the next few years. I'd say that some of the needs will come in one to two years, to start working on products.

"To answer the question on new technologies - I'd say at the moment it's no more than 10 per cent of internal development, on technologies that have not yet been made public yet.

"[These] new technologies are going more towards ease of use and accessibility than anything else. What we see more and more is that Nintendo will continue to go through that path, and the other players as well. So you'll see elements of technology that will enable more people to come to the industry and to play games.

"Yes, internet and multiplayer, digital downloads and the ability to stream products will increase, but most of the things that will happen will be in the technology to help people to play."

The call also shed light on a number of other aspects of Ubisoft's strategy for the coming months, including the intention to hire a further 500 staff before the end of March 2010.

While that doesn't compare well with the 1300 people hired in the last financial year, it does even out the previously-stated intention to hire around 900 people per year on average.

"We'll spend a lot of time to integrate and train the people that came in this year," said Guillemot. "The good advantage is that even thought we increased a lot the number of people this [past] year, lots of them came in places where the cost is low. So the number is impressive, but the investment is not huge."

"What we see is that we never have enough people in our studios, even after recruiting 1300 people this year, we still need 500 people more to create more products that we are sure will be profitable.

"So the need for very talented people in our studios is very important, and that's why we're recruiting and training lots of new talent, to make sure we can continue to create high quality games in the future, at a good speed."

Other snippets of interest from the call include the following:

  • Internal development costs are expected to rise from EUR 205 million (USD 273 million) to EUR 235 million (USD 313 million)
  • The insurance payment from the collapse of Woolworths in the UK last year has not yet been paid, but is expected by the end of May
  • Ghost Recon 4, previously unannounced, is planned for release in the last quarter of the financial year (January-March 2010)
  • Last year's Far Cry 2 title took more than EUR 80 million (USD ) in total, and will have been a top ten game in Europe overall
  • The iPhone was identified as a potentially exciting platform for the future, especially when compared to the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable which suffer from piracy