Monday, 13 August 2007

QA - Yves

1st question: How difficult is the management issues in China?

I was quite impressed when we first went into China. At first, we said we would only to do graphics or part of a game, but very quickly we saw that this [was too difficult]. So we asked them to convert games [across platforms]. This allowed them to learn about the whole game and to create better games and to innovate. We have 500 people there.

Q: How difficult was it to enter America? To what extent did the Tom Clancy acquisition impact this?

We always wanted to go to America. We used the [market boom] in 2000, and raised money to acquire Red Storm, who were not too expensive and helped us become American.

Q: Ubisoft sold remaining shares in game loft. What was the thinking behind that? Withdrawing from the mobile sector or raising capital?

Our intention first was to buy the company, but they are in the business growing extremely fast so they didn't want to sell. We needed the money elsewhere, so got out, step by step.

Q: You spelt out a scenario where the industry growing world-wide. What are the challenges of the industry in Europe?

We are also recruiting a lot in Europe - we increased our French studio by 30%. We are capable of expanding where the cost is high (Europe, US, canada) because the skill-base is there. Other cheaper countries, we have to train them. The world-wide market is expanding which brings along Europe. The governments need to help a little with e.g. pound and Euro costs.
[When everyone (worldwide) knows everything about gaming in ten years, there will be more of an issue with global competition and development costs.]

Q: You mentioned in your talk about building closer links with the film industry, even though historically the association has not been good. How do you start to break down the barrier of mutual incomprehension?

In building a CGI studio you start to understand the movie industry better. When you understand them better and have more and more talent cross between both worlds it becomes easier to deal with them.

Q: (follow on) The movie industry spends a lot to raise the profile of IP very quickly. Do you see the game industry moving in the same direction?

We are moving towards launching the book, the game and the movie at the same time. The movie industry creates more ideas than us at the moment, but the more they work, the more they are coming up with the same ideas. We are working more and more on re-using the same graphics, the same ideas [to reduce costs] and we are going in that direction, especially for the AAA products. We will have to start making movies because if we don't do it, we won't be able to take advantage of the power of the next generation (Aside: !!!). In creating the movies and the games at the same time, we see what we have to improve in the games to make better games as well.

Q: Is there a sweet spot in terms of the length of game-play for AAA games? How long do you want a game experience to last.

We always try to make a game that will last between 12-15 or 20 hours, in a single player game. Multi-player is different.

Q: How far do you intend to take user generated content on the console?

We will try to create as useful and easy to use tools as possible. We will come back to what we had on the Amstrad or Atari ST where users could create a lot of content. The goal is to make sure our customers become creators.

Q: Is there not issues with problems with character in releasing across multiple medium? Does a faceless character suits games, whereas a stronger character is important on film or game?

Yes. You have different experiences in different mediums. We try to make the products complementary in different mediums. [You'll do more explaining of the why in a book medium, for example]. The goal is not to do the book of the game, it'll be a quality product in itself, but will help you feel more immersed in the game because you know more. Its the same in the movie.

Q: (follow) The game-mechanic e.g. the moving stairs in Harry Potter works in the film, but is horrible as a game mechanic. Does this cause problems?

Yes. You have to do these at the same time - you have to modify the mechanics in the different medium. We'll find the answers, for us, its the beginning of this idea.

Q: Given the different models for content distribution across different platforms, will you be tailoring user content differently for different platforms?

We are already sharing content across multiple platforms. We already have a system of evaluating user generated content, what are the best maps, who are the best creators and so on. The experience will be the same on both consoles - Ubisoft will help creators port across to multiple consoles [for e.g. top 10 maps]. Some people will be happy to keep their content on which ever platform they are on, because their friends are on the particular platform.

Q: How are you handling the idea of games educating people, when the media is interested in stories about e.g. manhunt?

Its part of a normal industry, we just have to make sure we have good rating systems to make sure that consumers don't make mistakes. I want to take more creators who have the know how of content, which is the only way we'll enrich our industry.

Q: About bringing back old gamers. I don't have the time to be fully imersed any more.

That's why we are creating games with valid 12-15 minute experiences, which you can drop and come back to a month later. The goal is to ensure that you can download content and have the time to play.

Q: How are you working on getting mass media acknowledgement of games as an artform?

We have to get the guys who are writing the articles playing the games. Its playing, but its playing for fun, or playing to learn things. If you get more from our products, you'll spend more time for them. Players are getting burnt out, even though they know it is a good things to do. The longer we last, the more people will be playing our games.

Q: Mass marketing. You are spending less on print media, particularly special interest media (Questioner is from Germany - where Ubisoft has a 70% less spend on specialist media). What is the role of the specialist (print) media.

It went down in the last two years, because the new generation of consoles. Its easy to get the information from the internet, and we were putting more money in the creation of games for the new generation of consoles than the marketing. I see quite a good future for people who are able to relay information about the products and help select the best products.

(Aside: I have heaps of questions, but am to busy typing the answers to previous questions).

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