The crowds are gone, the booth has been safely packed away. E3 2014 is now a recent memory, but it lingers in gamers’ hearts and minds. In our hearts and minds, it was one of our best shows yet. With a huge push into the new generation and a focus on open-world games (covered extensively here: The Yves Guillemot Interview – Part 1), Ubisoft continues to deliver new experiences to all kinds of gamers. But it’s not just about huge triple-A games. In the second part of our chat with Ubisoft’s co-founder and CEO Yves Guillemot, we discuss movies, creativity and the return of Rainbow Six.
Beyond the Box
Every new console generation brings its own unique challenges for the development of triple-A games. At the same time, every publisher has to battle to reach gamers in an increasingly competitive market. How does Ubisoft continue to deliver big games in this spirited environment?
Ubisoft’s vigorous approach to transmedia has played a significant role. (Put down your jargon dictionary; transmedia is just a fancy way of saying licensing and multimedia extensions.)
The highest-profile transmedia push for Ubisoft, of course, is into movies. Let’s put aside the old cliché (which happens to be true) about the lackluster reputation of game-based movies to date. Guillemot plans to get it right with the next batch of films based on Ubisoft’s brands. How so?
‘If you do a movie and you have lots of special effects, lots of creations of worlds and characters, you can pick that up and put that in your game. So, the games become richer, more alive, and more cinematic.’
“The best way to do that is to make sure you control what is important in movie creation,” Guillemot says. “It’s the scenario and the cast and the director. And if you are capable of negotiating with those guys in the movie production studios, making sure they are on the same page as you, that they understand the IP – what is strong, what makes it interesting for the gamers – then you can create something that will match people’s expectations.” This is precisely why the company created a division – Ubisoft Motion Pictures – that’s dedicated to film and television production.
A successful movie also can benefit gamers by creating a virtuous investment cycle, says Guillemot. “Ancillary products such as movies are another source of revenue to keep building strong and rich brands.”
But it’s about more than just the money, according to Guillemot. “Movies can also create content that we can reuse for our games,” he says. “For example, if you do a movie and you have lots of special effects, lots of creations of worlds and characters, you can pick that up and put that in your game. So, the games become richer, more alive, and more cinematic.”
A strong transmedia strategy has another benefit as well: it helps keep alive the brands gamers love between game releases. By delivering quality movies, comics and more, fans can stay engaged with a brand while helping expand its reach and popularity. “Otherwise, the brand goes down or disappears, and you have to rebuild from the ground up.”
Big games and big brands aren’t the only things Ubisoft showed off at E3 2014. Along with the latest from Just Dance (including Just Dance 2015 and Just Dance Now), Ubisoft debuted an emotional trailer from the recently released UbiArt Framework-based game Valiant Hearts: The Great War. Which had us wondering: What is it about Ubisoft that allows a series of smaller, artistic digital releases to sit comfortably alongside big-budget triple-A productions?
“It’s due to the fact that we are listening to the creative leads in the company,” Guillemot says. “We want them to be happy and in turn they are bringing a lot to Ubisoft.” On occasion, that means giving Ubisoft’s creative talent the time and space needed to come up with something new, even if it’s on a smaller scale than one of the blockbusters on which they previously worked.
“We create an environment where they’re not afraid to fail,” Guillemot says about the company’s developers. “So, because they are not afraid to fail, they actually push to try new things. And that’s what makes the difference. I think that’s the only way to be creative. If you can’t test, if you can’t make errors, you won’t experiment as much. You will go only for what is easy and obvious. Whereas if you can try, and it doesn’t work, you try again and again. Then, you have a chance to create something totally innovative.”
These passion projects have also proven to be good for business, thanks in part to the UbiArt Framework engine.
“Michel Ancel came up with that engine, and we really saw that 2D had big potential again,” Guillemot says. He points out that UbiArt has allowed Ubisoft’s developers to harness the power of the latest machines to create new games that evoke artistry and emotions without heavy resource and time costs.
Over the Rainbow
Finally, our big surprise reveal this year was Rainbow Six Siege. As has been custom now for several years, Guillemot took the stage at the end of Ubisoft’s E3 media briefing to reveal the latest incarnation of this beloved brand. The response was phenomenal. Even in this early Alpha stage, the game was playable on the show floor, and the media lavished the game with all kinds of nominations and awards.
“We needed Rainbow Six to really take off, and it’s happening,” Guillemot says, smiling. “I think this team has a good understanding of what the industry is today, and what the gamers want. They really understand that gamers who play shooters want speed, they want responsiveness, they want 60 frames per second, and they want to be able to have surprising moments and emotional connections. Rainbow Six answers those needs. Also, gamers will appreciate that you die quickly if you make mistakes. It gives the sensation to the player that I have to be careful. I count, each life counts.”
Be sure to check out Part 1 of our interview, in which Yves Guillemot talks about what makes Ubisoft a leader in open-world games and new-gen developement. And head over to our E3 2014 hub for all our coverage of this year’s big show