Ubisoft is planning a digital revolution

Craig Chapple
Ubisoft is planning a digital revolution

Ubisoft’s recent Digital Days event showed the publisher has its sights firmly set on digital, but not in all the ways you might expect.

When EMEA executive director Alain Corre took to the stage to open the show, he set high ambitions for the company’s digital growth, outting a goal for digital to reach a 50 per cent share of the publisher’s turnover within the next three-to-four years.

And it’s not just empty words, Ubisoft revealed an array of mobile and digital-only titles such as Valiant Hearts, Child of Light and Trials Frontier to help it get there.

These titles are smaller in scale than the publisher’s big triple-A offerings, but Ubisoft is deliberately focusing its efforts on bringing what it terms indie and ‘mini-triple-A’ experiences to its users.

“It’s more an indie mindset. To do an indie game is not because you are independent, but it is also something that is about creativity and freedom,” says Ubisoft EMEA marketing director for digital publishing Thomas Paincon.

“The guys have no constraints, they can do whatever they can, and you saw it on Blood Dragon. So it’s more an indie mindset, than ‘okay I don’t have money, I’ll go to Kickstarter for that’. For me, it’s more a mindset than the size of the company.”

There are also a number of new companion apps being created, chiefly around the company’s ambitious open world title Watch Dogs, which allows tablet users to interact with their console counterparts as they try to stop the player from reaching certain checkpoints in the city.

"Today, if you come and you have a new game,
you have to think what you will do on mobile
and what you will do on digital. You have to
propose an overall strategy, and not only a
game on PS4, solo or anything like that. That
doesn’t work anymore.”

Thomas Paincon – EMEA Marketing Director for Digital Publishing, Ubisoft


Paincon says these companion apps for mobile and tablet can act as a gateway for more casual consumers into a game’s universe, and even turn them into a paying customer outside of the free app.

“We see that as an entry point to the universe. Because again, right now we are talking about open world for triple-A. The goal is through this open world we will have a different entry point. And the goal is to make them as easy as possible.

“Mixing business models, you will have part free-to-play, part premium. This is really how we see the licence right now. The companion app that you see will really be the key for people that are not interested in the licence to interact with the players and then, maybe they’ll be interested in it, understand the story and the background.”

This is the kind of strategy that is playing a key role in Ubisoft’s drive toward digital, which means game concepts, at least at this publisher, can no longer just be large triple-A games for console – they must cover a variety of platforms, even outside of gaming.

“I think it will be less part of the platform, but it will be more of a global experience through digital. Meaning that today, if you come and you have a new game, you have to think what you will do on mobile and what you will do on digital. You have to propose an overall strategy, and not only a game on PS4, solo or anything like that. That doesn’t work anymore.”

On whether this makes triple-A releases more viable for developers and publishers, given the ever-rising costs of development, Paincon adds: “Yes, but also to really attract a lot of players in different ways and to be able to propose something linked to the universe to the different type of players.

“Maybe you will have mobile only players. Players who don’t want to spend €60 in a game, so maybe they will enter through a different entry point.

“It’s giving the opportunity on a worldwide basis, because some countries don’t have the same level of income as in Europe. So you have to also think about that, how you give more access to the maximum of players in the world.”

These smaller digital titles, companion apps and cross-platform games show just how broad the definition of digital has become as Ubisoft and other publishers look to connect their games with the mass audience.

But even though the lines between console and mobile are increasingly blurred, does that mean the same for digital and retail? Are traditional packaged releases as important as ever, and can they in fact the lead the digital charge? Paincon believes the two can co-exist.

“The next-gen is more digital than ever, so
I think that a shift will arrive. But it will not
mean no retail, I don’t believe in that. I think
it will always be based around retail. If you
take Minecraft at retail in the UK, they are
doing amazingly well.”

Thomas Paincon – EMEA Marketing Director for Digital Publishing, Ubisoft


“Digital will represent a lot of different platforms. We really believe that all the companion apps, all these second-screen features, will also be a lot more present here in the next year,” he says.

“The next-gen is more digital than ever, so I think that a shift will arrive. But it will not mean no retail, I don’t believe in that. I think it will always be based around retail. If you take Minecraft at retail in the UK, they are doing amazingly well.”

With digital broadening its definition and consumer base so greatly then, Paincon says this could mean a few changes to how Ubisoft’s own Digital Days operates.

The event will likely stay, but with additions including its bigger console titles like The Crew and Watch Dogs, the publisher is clearly making a point that digital has become an integral part of its offerings.

“I cannot see the future. But you can see the frontier between digital-only and triple-A games is thinner.

“I think we will always have Digital Days, but I think there will be more to show our innovations. There will still be events, but it will not be digital only titles anymore, but how the digital world is included in all Ubisoft titles.”

Advertisement

Tags: Ubisoft , Digital , download , titles , paincon

Follow us on

  • RSS