With the current console generation in the midst of its eighth year -- and retail game sales sliding for the past seven months -- there's little argument that the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii have become a bit long in the tooth. There might be plenty of power left to exploit from their components, but from a consumer standpoint, people are ready for something new.
So is Yves Guillemot. The CEO and co-founder of Ubisoft says his company has plenty of strong titles doing well these days, but the publisher revels in new hardware launches.
"What we missed was a new console every five years," he says. "We have been penalized by the lack of new consoles on the market. I understand the manufacturers don't want them too often because it's expensive, but it's important for the entire industry to have new consoles because it helps creativity."
Ubisoft is typically one of the most prolific publishers when new systems hit. That can result in a few flops, but it also can open the doors for a new franchise. (Hopes are already high for Watch Dogs
, which hasn't officially been announced as a next generation title, but the company's no comments tend to come with a wink.)
"It's a lot less risky for us to create new IPs and new products when we're in the beginning of a new generation," he says. "Our customers are very open to new things. Our customers are reopening their minds -- and they are really going after what's best. ... At the end of a console generation, they want new stuff, but they don't buy new stuff as much. They know their friends will play Call of Duty
or Assassin's Creed
so they go for that. So the end of a cycle is very difficult."
What a lot of people don't realize is those early risks often pay rewards throughout the life of that console cycle. Sometimes, that's just a matter of using the game's graphics engine in other titles, but every now and then, ideas in those new games can work their way into other titles.
For instance, notes Guillemot, if it weren't for Rayman: Raving Rabbids
, there would never have been a Just Dance
. (The idea for the Just Dance
series was born from the dance mini-games that were a part of Raving Rabbids
"If you can't take risks because people don't buy, you don't innovate," he says. "And if you don't innovate, customers get bored."
Ubisoft, of course, will be rolling out new IPs for the Wii U. ZombiU
was one of the most prominent examples of third-party support for the system at E3. While some publishers' CEOs have openly questioned
the system, Guillemot notes that doomsayers have been wrong before.
"I think Nintendo has very often surprised us, so you never know," he says. "I think they've created something good, if the customer uses everything they have created, I think we can see a good success with that machine. That type of collaboration can be fun and also challenging at the same time. It's something has never been done before. ... Those guys are taking lots of risks with the games they create -- and they're extremely successful."
Still, while the Wii and the DS have been responsible for a big chunk of Ubisoft's fortunes this generation, Guillemot hedges when asked if he expects the company to be as big a contributor to the bottom line in the next cycle of game machines.
"Nintendo is very family oriented," he notes. "It's a different demographic, so we can't say one machine will be more important than the other."