Every month an industry leader wraps up MCV with their unique insight. In August, our Final Boss was CEO of Virtuos Gilles Langourieux. He talked on changes in China since he moved there over 20 years ago, his ‘do what I say’ style, plus the excess of violence in the core games market
You moved to China with Ubisoft in the late 90s. You must have seen incredible change in your time there?
Three images from 1997 Shanghai come to mind: large empty streets with almost no private cars, countless cranes visible in any direction as far as the eye could see and the constant smell of cement dust.
I also remember the crowds that gathered at our job fairs, top-notch programmers freshly graduated from university. Most of them were savvy gamers, thrilled that a foreign video game company was serious about hiring them to build world-class games.
Today, Shanghai is one of the most modern cities in the world. Traffic is dense with privately-owned modern cars, and Chinese game publishers are among the richest in the world. Definitely a great change over the past 20 years.
You recently moved headquarters from Shanghai to Singapore, how was that for you?
Personally, it was tough; Shanghai was home and I loved the energy of that city. Business-wise, however, it made for an important move. The relocation allowed us to demonstrate to both clients and investors that we were serious about becoming an international group. It strengthened our Shanghai studio, which is now run more independently than when I was there, and it has given us access to tens of millions of dollars in capital to accelerate our growth.
You have almost 25 years of industry experience, what have been the most surprising changes for you over that time?
Witnessing the rapid transition from 2D to 3D with front-row seats was both unexpected and fantastic. I encountered another surprise in the early 2000s. After setting-up studios in China for Ubisoft, I ran ubi.com, their online division, and soon discovered that online gaming wasn’t taking off as quickly as it ought to. This eventually became part of the reason why I left Ubisoft in 2004.
Aside from that, the relative speed at which mobile gaming gained market share – making up 50 per cent of consumer spending on games within ten years after the launch of the first iPhone – was definitely unforeseen while encouraging at the same time. I say this because a lot of that spending came from people who were not gaming as much before, such as women and people in developing countries.
“Witnessing the rapid transition from 2D to 3D with front-row seats was both unexpected and fantastic.”
What would you say is your management style, how do you help your team work to the best of their ability?
I say what I do and do what I say. The vision and the results of the group are shared and discussed regularly with my team so that they understand what their role is in reaching our goals.
In terms of helping them to be the best, I spend time explaining what trends are on the horizon and how we should adapt to them. For example, cloud gaming is an important topic on our minds and the possibility of larger connected games comes with the possibility of co-developing games in a connected, distributed way.
Do you feel the games industry is headed in the right direction? As a business, as an art form, as a force for good…
As a business, we still have room to grow, demographics and geographies to conquer. As an art form, we are becoming more mainstream, even though it’s been a long time coming. We’re also finally on par with film in terms of acceptance.
As a force for good, we still have some way to go. My heart sinks whenever I see 75 per cent of any renowned publisher’s press conference exhibiting extreme levels of violence. I also feel that our failed efforts in getting our game about climate change, Carbon Warfare, off the ground has been a setback in this regard.