Ubisoft stole the show at E3 last year, with new IP and major blockbusters – and the firm is promising more surprises in Los Angeles next week. MCV caught up with EMEA?executive director Alain Corre to talk next-gen, new IP and the ‘death of the console'
What are Ubisoft's hopes for E3?
Now that the two new consoles are coming this year, we're relieved and excited about the market. E3 will offer a lot of surprises, and I think the market will be buoyant.
What's the most important game for Ubisoft at the show?
We have the chance to present our biggest franchise, Assassin's Creed, and our biggest hope, Watch Dogs. Both are coming to next-gen, but also current formats, which will be at their peak so far. We think we can get more people into Assassin's Creed.
Watch Dogs' reception last year proved the demand for new ideas. Will you be ‘repeating the trick' with another surprise this year?
Well Ubisoft is one of the companies taking risks – and we always like having new ideas for new machines. So you can guess that E3 will be important for us.
You mention your cross-generation games. But historically the industry hasn't done well during the console transition. What's changed?
For us, we have global development teams but with project leading teams which are taking care of the game overall, and then work out how we create the best versions for each machine. We tailor each release for each format.
Now that the Xbox One is announced, what do you make of it?
What we liked is that the machine is coming this year and that Microsoft has a lot of ambitions to establish it. The technology included with it is very high quality and it will prove to the market and consumers that it is time to take the next train, and invest in a new console. The next-gen experiences are second to none. So we have been reassured by the announcement.
Have you seen much of the debate around game ownership, and pre-owned? What does Xbox need to do in that space?
Well it's within its remit to decide what to do – and Ubisoft will adapt to that strategy. When it comes to second-hand, we anticipate that consumers will still be able to bring back older games to help purchase new ones. We like that element.
And Ubisoft has experimented with the ‘online pass' system, so you have seen customers adapt.
Well, we always have to adapt. But what we are taking into account is the satisfaction of our consumers. Ultimately, the final decision to embark on an adventure with our games lies with them, so we have to always keep that in mind. We are trying to make a living, and if our consumers are happy they will come with us. That's what matters to us.
"The technology included in Xbox One is very high
quality and it will prove to the market and
consumers that it is time to take the next
train, and invest in a new console. The
next-gen experiences are second to none.
So we have been reassured by
The prospect of a simultaneous launch for the new consoles excites you. Why?
These two huge machines are backed by big companies – together that will create a huge buzz. The market needs it. We haven't had a machine from either in the last seven to eight years, and what they are bringing will excite fans. Now, gamers will eventually pick one to go with – or maybe eventually both – based on what games are on each system. But what's most important is that, together, the prospect of next-generation machines simply reinvigorates the market, and gets more and more consumers to touch our worlds.
Microsoft is predicting the next-generation to sell through more than the current one. Do you think that's possible?
It's true that generation on generation the sales outstrip the previous ones. I think it depends a lot on the games and the content proposed for them. If the industry keeps being innovative and helps gamers dream, then there is no limit to what we can achieve. That's why it is important for companies like Ubisoft to deliver new ideas, strong franchises and make sure we don't dip in quality.
There is a lot of talk about the console dying out. But everything Ubisoft's doing suggests you have real faith in them.
Yes, shortly after the PS3 and 360, people were questioning the validity of those formats. So we're no stranger to this. The thing that mobile devices can't replace is the chance to experience a game on a big TV, that is second to none. You can play on the Tube on a phone, but does that really replace the emotion you can have on a big screen?
What have you made of what happened to Wii U, then? That had huge potential, wanted to wow the living room, but it hasn't delivered yet.
For any console it's a question about the number of games you have. It takes time for a machine to establish itself, too. We've seen in the past with other platforms that when more games come, the console picks up. That is what we believe will happen for Wii U. There are some great games coming from Nintendo, and we have Rayman Legends, which I think will be one of the best games on that platform all year. Plus Assassin's Creed, Watch Dogs and Splinter Cell. And I am sure others are working on games too. There is a place in the market for each console, and with the right games Wii U will find its public and sell in the long-term.
Do your investors and analysts, and journalists like myself, not appreciate this? Because you give a robust answer but commentators haven't been so kind to Nintendo.
Our industry is based on the quality of the experiences that are proposed. One single game can change a platform's fortunes – it happened for the DS, it happened for the Super Nintendo. I believe it can be the same for Wii U. When people can experience something they haven't had on any machine, they will come. You need something unique to excite people – and what I see, and what I know, there are many experiences like that on Wii U. Watch out.
Broadly, though, the games market has been depressed, and we're waiting until August for games to appear. Are you optimistic about the market otherwise?
I think what has happened is everyone is waiting. Consumers are waiting to see what will happen. The industry is waiting. And I think E3 is when everyone will know and start getting excited. I think that even gamers who have quit video games as a pleasure will come back. Publishers and investors will be confident, plus a wave of new ideas and IPs – after there being so few in recent years – and that will create a good ecosystem. We are very confident.