INTERVIEW: Yves Guillemot

What’s Ubisoft’s strategy going into Q4 and 2011? You’ve got a fairly diverse set of games on the slate ahead of you.

The number of players is increasing tremendously and so it’s very important to have games for all those new audiences. But at the same time gamers are now buying fewer games and only focusing on the biggest titles, so we have to make sure that all of ours are at the highest standard.

Overall, we are actually making fewer games but are trying to increase the quality of them.

That’s why we continue to make products for casual gamers, with dancing games that are very popular this year – especially in the UK – and on the other side there are high-end games such as Assassin’s Creed and Driver, which is coming at the beginning of next year. The 3DS is also coming next year and that is a really good step in making sure we can be more immersed in game; I’m really looking forward to that.

Just Dance 2 has just hit the charts – that franchise has had an incredible 12 months. Were you surprised by its success?

Yes, very much. We loved the original concept; it was very successful as a mini-game in Rayman Raving Rabbids and was played a lot in that game, so we knew that there was more to get from the idea. But it went on to sell over four million units. And I can tell you – that was not in our expectations.

So did you have to move fast to bring Just Dance 2 to market?

No. Just Dance 2 was well on the way following the original, and we had enough time to improve the experience. We’re confident players will love it – it’s a real high-quality game, with some great additions.

Music games have had mixed fortunes of late. Are you worried a similar slump could hit Just Dance and the Michael Jackson titles?

These games offer a different way to experience music, I think. Music is extremely powerful and brings a lot of pleasure to people. But allowing you to perform at the same time as listen – you’re actually getting a deeper connection with the artist that created it. I think it enables users to have a better experience this way.

Just Dance’s success makes you one of the few third-party successes on Wii lately. What’s your secret?

It’s because we were early on the machine. And in being early we were able to catch those customers and make money and continue to invest.

It will be the same story on 3DS. We want to experiment with new technologies such as the 3DS early to see what we can do with it. We’ve put a lot of development resource behind it to make sure we have devised high quality projects early on. That in turn will help us to create better games in the following year. The quicker you master 3D, the better the games you can produce.

Coming into a market early means you learn more than if you waited. Look at Avatar – that was the first 3D console game. And now we know the technology, we know what we can do – and what we must not do as well. Certainly, for 3D in the home once that picks up we will be immersed in proper 3D projects very quickly.

Ubi is also first in with both Kinect and Move games. Which do you think will offer the bigger addressable market?

I think it will be very interesting to see what happens in the US and Europe. I don’t like to say who will win, but I think one will win in one territory and one in the other.

Overall, the new machines are very good because they give a chance for more people to play. Nintendo showed that it can make lots of money and also serve lots of customers, so now everybody wants that part of the cake.

So that’s what we love – it’s not just an investment in this generation, it’s building the next one too. The next generation of consoles will automatically use all of these motion-sensing innovations and so a lot more people will be able to play with the next generation of consoles.

Ubisoft has made a steady ascent up the publisher rankings in the last five years. What’s your objective for the end of 2010?

It depends. Last year we were No.3 but this year we have to wait until the end of the year to know where we will be. Our position usually depends very much on when Take-Two releases a new Red Dead or GTA. But if Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood does well at the end of the year as we expect, we should be able to move up the list. Right now we are between No.3 and No.4.

We are, overall, in great shape – we have doubled the size of the company in the last five years. We have seen very good business growth.

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