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Ubisoft: Just Dance won't go the route of Guitar Hero

Ubi marketer Tony Key talks about keeping Just Dance fresh and why it's like an annual sports franchise

Just Dance 4 has been one of the top sellers this holiday season, continuing its reign as the top dance title. According to Ubisoft senior vice president of sales and marketing Tony Key, the company invests a lot of time and effort into keeping the Just Dance brand relevant.

“Traditionally, that older male is the bread and butter of the industry and so many games are targeting that demographic, and we target it too, but if you want to do something different, find blue water and take risk, you have to think a little differently. Things like Just Dance don't come around very often, but at the end of the day, it takes tremendous effort to reach that non-standard audience. We have to spend considerable time with retailers for people who are not explicitly looking for games, so you have to reach outside the game industry to be successful. You have to have visible PR at Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O'Brien and Ellen DeGeneres for that outer circle of gamers, people who don't hear about games until they've released. This is the fourth try in keeping Just Dance relevant and we think we've gotten pretty good at it.”

Some would look at the tack that Ubisoft has taken with the Just Dance series and worry that they will wear out the franchise the way Activision did with Guitar Hero. Key, however, was emphatic that that Ubisoft would not let it happen, and compared its annualized nature to that of a sports game franchise.

"When Guitar Hero was able to bring people in, it was good for everyone in the industry, and the same goes for Wii Sports, Wii Fit and now Just Dance"

Tony Key

“Not publishing Just Dance 4 would be leaving money on the table... we believe in it and we feel like there's no reason we shouldn't do it. So it's about annualizing it. It's about making it the top dance game for yet another year,” detailed Key. “[Just Dance is] a reflection of what's happening in pop culture - as it evolves, so does the brand. Just Dance always has the best new music every year."

"I would rather not compare it to Guitar Hero; Just Dance is about the latest trends, and Guitar Hero is about great classic rock. I'd rather compare it to a sports franchise - every entry evolves the franchise and changes the roster, and that's what Just Dance does, and every year we're successful. It's not burnout we're worried about and we put a lot of work into keeping it fresh. It's more a console tradition now and we're the number one selling game on Kinect. So long as motion control is used on consoles, I think there's a place for Just Dance.”

Just Dance is a casual console game during a time when console games are becoming increasingly more hardcore. Key notes that by having games that appeal to a broad spectrum of gamers, it's better for the console business as a whole.

“The casual and less-core gamer is part of the ebb and flow of the industry. When Guitar Hero was able to bring people in, it was good for everyone in the industry, and the same goes for Wii Sports, Wii Fit and now Just Dance. When hardware transitions occur, it shrinks the business, and it's important to expand it again and doing so comes in part from capturing the hearts and minds of casual gamers. It would be a shame to relegate them to free-to-play and mobile... there's nothing wrong with those systems but there's no reason we can't have that experience on consoles as well.”

Read the full interview at [a]list

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David Radd avatar
David Radd: David Radd has worked as a gaming journalist since 2004 at sites such as GamerFeed, Gigex and GameDaily Biz. He was previously senior editor at IndustryGamers.
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