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Ubisoft's Yves Guillemot

The CEO talks making movies, Wii U and 25 years of Ubisoft

This year Ubisoft celebrates 25 years as a publisher in the video games business - nothing to be sniffed at when you consider the turbulent changes the business is constantly faced with. It's done that by building multiple evergreen intellectual properties, writing smart licensing deals and backing the risky creation of new intellectual property, resulting in either massive hits (Assassin's Creed, Rabbids) or fumbled misses (Haze, RUSE). But what's important is it allows its creative teams a certain amount of freedom not afforded at other publishing companies and backs them with high-level marketing until the game is in the consumer's hands.

So when new formats come along, you can expect Ubisoft to jump in with both boots. Having seen considerable success on Nintendo's Wii and DS when other publisher's were struggling and complaining about a lack of third-party support, Ubisoft has announced a bundle of upcoming Wii U titles, including new IP. And on top that, the firm is also going headfirst into TV and movie production, maximising assets already created for video games. We caught up with the shy and quiet CEO Yves Guillemot at E3 earlier this month, to hear more....

GamesIndustry.biz Nintendo has revealed the Wii U, and I know Ubisoft has been closely involved with that hardware - what's you initial reaction to a new console like that and Nintendo's approach to the living room?
Yves Guillemot

I think that from the beginning when we saw that console we were impressed by the level of quality of the experience you could get. In fact, being able to have the pads plus touch is really something that can enhance your interaction with the game. And the fact that it's a screen as well and it can receive information, send information, to your friends and family and so on, to make it easy for social activity, is something that I like a lot as well.

GamesIndustry.biz So you're happy to be getting in there quickly and first with Nintendo on this, and be there day one when the console comes out with some Ubisoft games?
Yves Guillemot

Yes, and certainly we will announce one game that we want to launch day one that is a new type of game, which should be interesting. It's a first-person shooter game.

GamesIndustry.biz I think it's interesting that you still see that first mover advantage as important in the console space.
Yves Guillemot

It is still very important, just because you can test a market and also see through the eyes of the first consumers. They are the people that actually have the word of mouth factor. The trendsetters.

The TV business is interesting because everything is pre-sold before you start creating the project, so it's not that risky

GamesIndustry.biz Nintendo has been kind of vague on the specs of the machine at this stage, but how would you say that Ubisoft games are going to compare to games that are already out there? Is it going to be on a similar level in terms of visual quality and other aspects, as your Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 titles?
Yves Guillemot

Yes, I think at least. It should be even superior for some of the games. We don't know everything, so we have a few things Nintendo is telling us that will have such and such powers.

GamesIndustry.biz How long have you been working with the technology?
Yves Guillemot

I'm not sure of the exact date but it has been a project for quite some time.

GamesIndustry.biz Developing for the Wii U, how significantly does that raise your development costs in the AAA space?
Yves Guillemot

It doesn't increase it very much because the advantage is in being close to the other machines, you can do the game for all the formats at the same time. It's a way to reach new families that may not have a PlayStation 3 or an Xbox 360. And with this interface it's a new way to play, so many families who don't play games will find it easier to use that controller.

GamesIndustry.biz Do you think you'll create contact exclusively for that or do you see it more as a third location for your big franchises?
Yves Guillemot

It will be both, new content and a third location.

GamesIndustry.biz Ubisoft recently announced plans to move into movie and TV production. What was the thinking behind that decision? Why move into that different entertainment space?
Yves Guillemot

It's just because we think that our consumers are very interested by that, so we try to bring them what they expect. And what's really happening is the machines will be so powerful, are already so powerful, and will continue to evolve, so that we will be able to do linear content for a cost that is very low. So why not take that opportunity?

GamesIndustry.biz You guys have 25 years of history in creating games, but not in creating movies and TV, is that a big risk?
Yves Guillemot

You know the TV business is an interesting business because everything is pre-sold before you start creating the project, so it's not that risky. And then you can, because its an industry where you can recruit people for a short time to come to you to help, you can quickly get the talent, the financing, it's a way to expand your brand without taking too much risk. It gives you the possibility to reuse the content for your games, so its really complementary to the games. And if you can have 20 per cent or 30 per cent of your content that is created for the TV series that you can reuse in your game it's a way to reduce the cost of the game or to do a better game.

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Matt Martin

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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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