You showed I Am Alive at the end of your E3 conference. How important could this game be to Ubisoft?
We have big ambitions. We think it will please the community. We’re always very careful in introducing a new brand; we all know it’s more complicated to produce a brand that is appreciated and a success. We think the topic of this future project will please a lot of people. It hasn’t been done a lot or at all in the past – at least on this generation of machine. But we are pretty confident on this one.
Could there be more I Am Alives in the future?
Yes. We want to remain alive, anyway. Clearly, when we are creating a franchise, it’s a long-term process. We want to keep it and have more iterations, because it’s a big investment at the beginning to launch it. So it’s better when you can advertise and bet on a few franchises in the years to come. We hope it can be another strong franchise for our portfolio, alongside Prince Of Persia or Rayman Rabbids. It’s a new baby for us – and we have big hopes.
You touched on your new multimedia rights to the Tom Clancy franchise at E3. How will this evolve over the coming years?
It’s early days. We’ve just acquired this new special effects company. We have a strategy in the three, four or five years moving forward of being able to launch Tom Clancy brands – not only with games, but also with movies, CGI, TV series or whatever – and we think that it will be part of the future of this industry.
We need to count on several different iterations of the same brand on different media to make a profit and market it properly. CGI started at our studio in Montreal, but the idea is to learn more about what our colleagues in the CGI movie field are doing – they are very good in narrative, scenario and their graphics are spectacular sometimes.
Following Square Enix’s Final Fantasy, will you be the second publisher to bring a game to film on your own – with a Tom Clancy cinema release?
We feel there are a lot of synergies between these two media. In terms of creativity and technology, the worlds are nearing and one day it will mix – whether that’s interactive or non-interactive. For us, with a strong development capacity and all the technology we’re developing year after year, it’s making sense. I don’t know if it’s the same for other companies around the world, but for us, studio-orientated and technology-orientated is the way forward.
End War is completely voice activated. Do you think this is a technology that will catch on, both at Ubi and amongst your competitors?
In general, Ubisoft is trying to innovate in terms of technology and gameplay, and this is clearly the case for End War. It has been developed by Michael De Platter – who has created a lot of great RTS games in the past. He’s very talented, he knows what he’s doing – and it’s based on his good knowledge, which gives us confidence.
Strategy games on console are complicated with the pads, so we asked: "What can we do to help the console?" We needed to simplify the interface, and we think the voice can replace the PC experience to some extent. You still feel the strategy part of it, and you feel completely in the field.
Why does Ubisoft seem to enjoy such creative freedom compared to other publishers?
I can’t speak for our competitors, but clearly our success at Ubisoft has been built on creativity, trying to bring something new and fresh all the time and taking risks.
Assassin’s Creed was a big risk for us – a risk in terms of its environment and the freedom of its gameplay. It’s the same for End War. Our strength today is in our ability to create brands and to grow them. This is Ubisoft all over. It’s in our DNA.
Out of all the big games publishers, do you perhaps take the most risks?
We take calculated risks, because we are lucky to be able to rely on strong franchises. We know we can count on a certain number of gamers, so that allows us to innovate on existing franchises. It’s something solid that we can rely on.
Our aim is to create three brands every two years. And it works – we’ve been able to do that and we want to keep it up. Yes, we take more risks, because we have to. But the more we have strong brands moving forward, the more stable we are. There are many different models to choose from, but for us this is the obvious one.
Your studio network is huge. Does it worry you that your studio headcount is getting so big – or is it a big advantage over your competitors?
We feel it’s an advantage. We have to increase the speed of our growth organically, and to do that you need to create more quality products and you need more talented people to do that. Our aim is to grow our studio network even more in the future because we feel that these are really the great assets of our company.
To be able to manage with all these countries and cultures isn’t easy, but we have done very well over the last ten years. It’s working and it’s also one of our strengths to be able to motivate all these people differently, but ensure they also share a focus and spirit within the Ubisoft family. Growing the studios will be bringing us even more creativity and more great products.
How will the formation of Activision Blizzard and EA’s possible acquisition of Take Two affect Ubisoft’s business?
It’s true to say that we are looking at that very carefully. You have two big ones with ambitions of between four and five billion dollars revenue this year. We have announced a €1 billion revenues target for this year. It’s euros, which is obviously better than dollars, but still it’s number three and there’s a big difference between us and these two. But our idea is to increase the speed of growth organically and to look at other opportunities for external growth within certain limit. It’s sensible.
We feel that mergers and integrations are something that can be very damaging to a global company. We have been doing limited acquisitions in recent times, which is what we want to do, but we feel that if we increase the quality of our products in this market, we will be able to sell more of each.
Then very quickly, your size will grow – as we saw with Assassin’s last year. We want to create new Assassin-type giant products and we think we have some in the making. Clearly, if we can have a few of those regularly, our size and profit will jump.
In this climate of consolidation, have you seen interest from other companies in teaming up with Ubisoft to make an ‘Activision-Blizzard’ of your own?
We have been meeting everybody all the time over the last few years to see if there are any synergies. At the moment, we think our own way of growing is the best one – but we are always open to seeing if there are some synergies and opportunities. But we know what we have, our strengths and our DNA. As for a match, who knows? We are always talking to everybody. But for the present time, we are very successful as we are.