A publisher’s take on 2010

There will be many challenges facing the country’s games industry as the first years of the new decade start to unfold. One thing is for sure, these will be important times as our business fully comes of age, matures and continues to give the longer-established entertainment industries a real run for their money.

Such a rise, though, also brings risks and we need to work together to offset the greatest of them and ensure solid stability and growth.

Ubisoft has been a member of ELSPA for more than a decade and over the years we have both been evolving for the best. Initially, we joined the association just as a games publisher operating in the UK and arguably one of the most useful benefits at first was the regular sales information sent out to members that allowed us to spot trends and opportunities.

Today, however, there is so much more we want – and expect – from the association. It’s important that the industry is properly represented at Government level, not only to fight our corner on important matters such as game rating issues, but also to look at R&D credits, the opportunities to talk about tax breaks and so on. And we need ongoing campaigns to encourage the right graduates and skilled talent into the industry to ensure we stay, excuse the pun, ahead of the game.

It is also vital that the industry as a whole raises its profile and courts good coverage in the press – something for which individual publishers and developers rarely have the budget or inclination.

The One-ders, as I have heard some refer to this next decade, will certainly see ever-more ambitious games projects taking off as layers of detail are added to some top end productions. Where once fuzzy pixels danced around on the screen, now we expect everything from the visuals and sound effects to the dialogue of our characters – along with the emotions they can portray – to be more finely tuned. All of these touches increase the studio costs exponentially so we will all be looking at ways to trim them when we can.

But there is no point spending more on our products if the profit margins evaporate to a trickle or the prices that the public have to pay for our wares become horrifically high.

Ensuring a healthy return for publisher investment, particularly in such tough economic times as these, will remain a priority for our industry as we race through 2010. Smart publishers will also ensure they have found ways to delicately balance the risk of creating bold new IPs against established franchises – it is something Ubisoft has so far managed pretty well.

Whilst we are always looking for fresh, new ideas to bring to market, we do not dismiss the value of our older and much-loved IP. Assassin’s Creed is an exceptional game that hardcore gamers adored and newcomers to the world of gaming drooled over for its rich detail and strong narrative. Both sectors of the public wanted more and we delivered with an exceptional sequel.

In just the time AC I and II came along, so too did more new IPs such as Just Dance, which has been incredibly successful for us. Ubisoft is on its way to realising its strategy of becoming an established broad entertainment company and to do this we are experimenting and investing in such brand extensions as movies, books and toys.

Ubisoft also has a strict code for marketing and developing games for appropriate audiences and here our path will follow that of ELSPA in the coming years.

Just as PEGI has evolved to become a better standard for rating games, and one working across Europe and beyond, so too have we evolved our methods at Ubisoft to help parents make the right game choices for their children.

As an industry it is important that we can come together via our local trade bodies to ensure that we are all committed to the process of getting games properly rated.

Clarity is the key and we must ensure that consumers understand the content of a game and any inappropriate risks they might pose to underage players.

For us a simple and streamlined process in order for publishers to rate their games and then promote them with confidence is what is needed and we hope that the first big industry news of 2010 will be the government’s introduction in UK law of the PEGI rating system solely for games.

Across the continent all eyes were on the UK in 2009 and the decision we make for rating games going forward.
We lead, others follow!

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