INTERVIEW: Murray Pannell

We know you have four 3DS titles available on day one, but what is in the pipeline after that?

As well as Rayman 3D, Asphalt, Splinter Cell and Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars which are available for the launch day, we also have Rabbids and Combat of Giants: Dinosaur 3D due a week later.

And then we are poised to release Driver: Renegade and James Noir’s Hollywood Crimes within a few months too.

Why has Ubisoft decided to support the 3DS so strongly, more so than any other third party, during this launch period?

Ubisoft has historically had a very good relationship with Nintendo and it’s fair to say that as a third party publisher we’ve seen great success on both the Wii and DS platforms in recent years.

We believe that a strong commitment to new platform launches puts Ubisoft in an advantageous position, not just in terms of immediate sales potential, but also in terms of creating longer-term standout of our games in consumers’ minds.

Are there risks in putting out so much content early, when the installed base hasn’t yet been built? And you’re part of a rush of launch titles, of which most people will only buy one to three?

I firmly believe that the benefits of having a broad range of good quality titles far outweigh any risks.

We fully expect Nintendo to do a great job in creating demand for their new hardware platform, across a wide range of audiences, so catering for this demand makes good business sense to us.

Which of your titles will be getting the biggest marketing backing? Will they be marketed as a range, at all, or all individually?

At the 3D launch, we will be focusing our attention on all of the initial titles equally, essentially promoting the offering as a range, and particularly ensuring that we have a strong retail exposure and shelf presence.

That said, we know different titles will appeal to different audiences – be they the more traditional gamers after something like Ghost Recon, or the more casual consumer for whom Rabbids or Asphalt 3D might appeal more – so our PR and marketing will certainly be steered towards the appropriate games for the media.

Can you give us details of the campaigns?

We are focusing the bulk of our launch marketing on multiple channels. As well as a strong retail push, we’ll be advertising through print and a variety of digital channels targeting the traditional Nintendo heartland via a range of gaming and community websites.

PR will also be crucial, so we’ll be looking at generating a load of coverage to promote our titles, not just for day one but throughout the launch phase, when we expect interest in the new platform to be
at its peak.

Does your style and placement of marketing change much on Nintendo platforms because of the breadth of the audience? Or do you think that in the early stages of the 3DS life cycle you’ll actually be talking and selling to pretty hardcore gamers?

Instinctively, it’s easy to assume that the hardcore gamer will be the early adopter to new hardware, and inevitably this will be the case to some extent. But when you consider that millions of consumers have already bought into the DS console family, it’s not difficult to believe that the broader audiences will come quickly to the new 3DS. As such, our PR and marketing approach will reflect the fact that we need to cater for all audiences – both core and mainstream.

Do you worry about being in the shadow of first party titles when it comes to marketing?

There is always an expectation that first party will spend large, but in the case of 3DS I genuinely believe that Nintendo will be focusing on ensuring that the overall 3DS platform is a success. So assuming that does happen, then it makes the job of attaching more of our games to the install base so much easier.

How important is the 3DS this year for Ubisoft – and for a market in general that’s definitely in need of a boost?

New platform launches are always exciting for the industry, and 3DS is no different. Consumers are clearly eager to get their hands on the console and it should certainly give the market a welcome boost as we head into 2011.

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