Ubisoft's casual revolution

Ben Parfitt
Ubisoft's casual revolution
It would be impossible to count the number of times the old ‘spotty teenage boy in his bedroom’ cliché was wheeled out to describe your average gamer. And just to add to the total, we’ve just wheeled it out again.

Insulting and stereotypical it may be, but this hackneyed image serves as a handy antithesis of what Ubisoft is trying to do with its new Games for Everyone range.

Having built its empire upon ‘core gamer’ franchises like the Tom Clancy series, it has since moved onto more mass-market properties like mega-selling film licence King Kong plus the likes of Catz and Dogz – and it is looking to complete the circle by pushing into the freshly-invigorated casual market that Nintendo has so successfully plundered.

“The ‘casual’ phenomenon is upon us, evolving in a truly inspired fashion, drawing large numbers of untraditional audiences into the expansive world of console gaming,” explains Ubisoft’s group brand manager for lifestyle and entertainment Mat Quaeck.

“As an innovative, leading games company we fully recognise the need to satisfy this new demand and to maximise revenue potential.”

Having talked about it for so long the games industry is – at long last – making games that concentrate less on the profitable but limited macho pleasures of racing fast cars and shooting guns to create something entirely different.

“All Games for Everyone titles are extremely approachable and positively worthwhile, offering an engaging and rewarding interactive experience designed to help people develop new skills; for example general knowledge, creativity, nurturing, social bonding as well as helping to improve general well-being,” says Quaeck.

“I don’t think there was ever a ‘traditional’ core male gamer aged between 15 and 30 and as an industry we’ve generally been obsessed with shoehorning titles into this audience bracket. Audience definition is and should be far more complex.”

To effectively capture this new, harder-to-define audience, Ubisoft is about to break free from traditional specialist press and website promotion to fully engage with a market that the publisher feels has only just begun to
be exploited.

“Our aim is to become experts within this new field,” adds Quaeck. “We will be investing aggressively this year to ensure we reach our broader audiences and achieve category revenue goals. We will increase investment towards the ‘housewives with kids’ audience, where there is a clear role for TV, print and online.”

Just as Ubisoft has previously expressed its desire to establish an impressive next-gen foothold by releasing major titles at the launch of 360 and Wii, it is now concentrating on getting into the casual games space with a fully developed plan of attack as early as possible.

“The success of Nintendo’s DS and Wii formats has opened up the marketplace and inspired many publishers to enter the ‘casual’ race,” adds Quaeck.

“The result is going to be a massively saturated marketplace where only the cleverest marketers will survive; it’s not all about over inflated advertising budgets, it’s primarily about getting the trade solution right through the entire 12-month sales curve, maximising back-catalogue opportunity and ensuring a clear and simple sales message is conveyed and integrated across all consumer touch-points.

This is what I admire the most about Nintendo, their ability to do this right, tailor campaign messages to individual audience groups and sustaining long term sales.”

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