10? 'I hope so,' says Ubisoft's Detoc
The core market isn't shrinking, says Ubisoft North America executive director Laurent Detoc -- it's just there's only room for high-end games. And if you own one of those brands, as Ubi does with Assassin's Creed, there's no such thing as too many sequels.
Does that mean the company would make an eighth, ninth, tenth installment in the prolific Assassin's Creed series? "I hope we will," Detoc told Gamasutra at E3. "I also hope we'll be able to branch out from within the franchise. It's very simple to me: There's no such thing as not being able to annualize a franchise. If it's good, people will come."
He also says the company's mobile and social strategy must be very prescriptive, and embrace the idea that what consumers want from a game experience is contextual and situational. Detoc likens it to film and television, where sometimes one might want an ad-supported 30-minute program at home, and at others one might be ready to pay for an experience at the movie theater.
The game industry has an advantage, though, in that it can leverage one product across multiple platforms (Ubisoft's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier has a Facebook companion in Ghost Recon: Commander). "We can make these games collaborate and communicate and use one to help the other," Detoc says. "But we also need to concentrate on making these products that stand on their own."
Ubisoft says it'll lend as much support to Nintendo's Wii U and other new technologies as it has in the past; having had a strong Wii strategy paid off for the company earlier this generation, and getting a jump on new hardware maximizes the time developers have to learn a platform.
"We're very supportive of Wii U, and we leave it to Nintendo to go and sell millions of machines," Detoc says lightly. "With the Wii, it was a sound choice for us to have been very supportive."
In Detoc's view, the hardware trend that seems to hybridize tablet and console gaming isn't a response to the tablet trend, but rather a continuation on what console-holders with portable platforms have been hoping to do for some time.
"It's a natural evolution of how we engage players; we're just taking advantage of new technology," he says of the hardware industry. "If it ties in with tablets, even better -- why not? It gives [consumers] the flexibility to play how and when they want; it's an all-you-can-eat menu."
But signs of massive transition are still everywhere. "The hardware is going to be replaced, and it's been a very long cycle," Detoc reflects. "I think that's partly an issue because there's been some fatigue from gamers who want the excitement of new hardware; they want to see that evolution."
Even the period after a new platform launch is still exciting to gamers because of the software leaps and bounds that can be seen early on. "Whereas now, the games just have to become bigger and bigger, rather than shine versus last year's games. [The industry] needs to finish this cycle properly and then start a new one," he says.
"I totally see HD gaming staying at the forefront of the industry," Detoc adds, explaining how one of his friends' first thoughts upon seeing the Watch Dogs presentation video was that it should become a movie. "That tells me we are getting into a level of expertise in production value that's making people dream, and it will only be exacerbated. To me, HD gaming is going to be very healthy for a long time."