Ask Yves Guillemot how this E3 went, and he’s quick to share the credit for what he calls a “fantastic” show. First he mentions the creativity, the talent and the drive of Ubisoft’s development teams. Next, he points to the power of some of Ubisoft’s biggest brands. Finally – and perhaps most importantly – he credits the gamers themselves, whose passion has helped push Ubisoft and the entire industry forward.
But, even if he’s not directly spelling it out, Guillemot’s vision for gaming’s future was very much on display at this year’s show (and was a reason for the nearly 200 awards and nominations from the worldwide critics and press). The founder and CEO of Ubisoft has some very clear ideas on where he wants the company to go and how he wants to get there. As E3 2014 was winding down, we chatted with the big boss to get his insights into a wide range of topics. In the first part of our discussion, we cover new-gen development and open-world games. And in The Yves Guillemot Interview – Part 2 we tackle movies, indies and the return of Rainbow Six.
Welcome to Your World
Assassin’s Creed Unity. Far Cry 4. The Division. The Crew. Four of our top games at this year’s E3 are open-world. Considering the hefty costs and challenges involved in producing any open-world game, why the huge investment in this genre? Why not take a smaller risk with more linear gameplay experiences?
According to Guillemot, it’s because this is the future of gaming. And not just due to the bigger and more immersive experiences these titles offer – but also because this genre does the best job of allowing players to experience games much in the same way they experience life.
“We live in worlds that are systemic,” Guillemot says. He hones in on games’ potential to mimic the many different kinds of systems that are part of our daily lives – both natural and man-made – and the rules upon which those systems are built. “When we create games, it’s very important to recreate systems that we can interact with like it happens in our real life.” Open-world games offer players more choices, letting them do more of what they want, when they want, and all within an environment that responds in increasingly believable ways. Guillemot also notes that open-world games allow for more inherently social interaction, so that a player’s individual game can be influenced by the game’s community as they participate in a shared game world.
Which brings us to another key point about Ubisoft’s E3 2014 lineup: these open-world games also incorporate seamless online experiences in wholly innovative ways. Whether we’re talking about co-op adventuring in Far Cry 4, open-road exploration in The Crew, or seamlessly integrated four-person missions in Assassin’s Creed Unity, Ubisoft’s lineup is all about removing the boundaries.
“You want liberty,” Guillemot says. “When you want to play solo, you play solo. If you want to play with your friends, then you let them come join you. The seamless solo/multiplayer is something that we’ve developed and that will continue to grow in the next few years.” The growth of choice that gamers crave means open worlds should get bigger, better and more prevalent, he notes “All those elements are so aligned with what people want that I feel it’s going to grow quite dramatically,” Guillemot says.
We’ve Got Next
Ubisoft also has been at the forefront of every transition to a new generation of consoles, and this one is no different. In fact, many of our games that were at this year’s E3 are new-gen only, including two being released this year: Assassin’s Creed Unity and The Crew. Why this relentless focus on the new hardware?
“What I saw from the beginnings of this industry was, during those console shifts, there are lots of opportunities,” Guillemot says. “Each time a new console is coming, there are lots of opportunities to create new brands or new types of gameplay – to change the worlds players are spending their time in.”
That’s why games like Assassin’s Creed Unity, The Division, and Rainbow Six Siege are all exclusively new-gen. And while Assassin’s Creed may be an established brand, the team is leveraging new-gen to bring a hefty helping of innovation to Unity.
“It’s a game that takes full advantage of the new gen,” Guillemot says. “It’s really a good demonstration of what those machines can do. And people are amazed. They didn’t expect those machines to deliver that level of graphics and animation quality, the depth of the number of people that can move in the environment, and so on. It’s helping the brand to have a new beginning with totally different possibilities.”
As for the others: The Division will redefine the Tom Clancy brand for the new generation. And Rainbow Six Siege is heading back to its roots while delivering a unique asymmetrical multiplayer experience.
“In our industry, each time a new console arrives, it gives us a chance to actually create new brands, or to push forward some of our legacy brands,” Guillemot says. “That’s why at Ubisoft, we have always been there early with the arrival of new consoles. Because after that, you have five or ten years with those brands – even 15 years for some of them.”
The new generation was also a big part of Watch Dogs’ success. While the recently released game is cross-generation, it was built from the start to deliver a next-gen experience. And that vision paid off: The game sold four million copies in one week and was the top-selling new IP of all time for the entire industry.
“That is tremendous for a new brand,” Guillemot says of Watch Dogs. “It shows that people want something new. They want to experience new types of gameplay and new game worlds.”
Be sure to check out Part 2 of our interview, where Yves Guillemot shares his insights on movies, creativity and the triumphant return of Rainbow Six. And head over to our E3 2014 hub for all our coverage of this year’s big show