Ubisoft may first and foremost be a video game studio, but as the industry continues to shift, it's looking to expand its footprint, CEO Yves Guillemot tells Gamasutra.
The biggest shift these days is the publisher's growing interest in the world of cinema. After seeing Hollywood fumble one of its valuable franchises with Prince of Persia, Ubisoft has started to take things into its own hands, overseeing production on films tied to the Assassin's Creed and Splinter Cell franchises.
And Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot says the company doesn't plan to cede control this time around.
"Generally [video game films] have been too far from the spirit of those IPs and their characters," says Guillemot. "It's not enough in the direction of the vision behind it. When you look at the Harry Potter films, [J.K. Rowling] was very involved in the making of those movies and she was able to push for the ideas she came with. It's the same thing. We created an environment and IP and a complete set of rules that will help the movies."
First up is Assassin's Creed. Ubisoft has teamed with New Regency Partners for the film adaptation, which will star Michael Fassbender. The companies hope to have a script, cast and director in place by next summer, which could put the film in theaters as early as 2014.
Tom Hardy (Bane from this summer's The Dark Knight Rises) will strap on Sam Fisher's goggles at a later date, though the publisher has not yet locked in a studio. (Variety reports it's in talks with Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Of course, if things go well with New Regency, they too could be in the running. And so far, it sounds like things are progressing smoothly.
"We are very happy with New Regency," says Guillemot. "They really listen and they try to leverage our know-how of the brand and of the license and of the characters. We're working to create something different."
Other publishers that have dabbled in Hollywood experiments have always been careful to label those as ancillary income streams and not something that will dramatically impact earnings. Not Ubisoft. It, apparently, is all in.
"It can be a substantial part of our profits," says Guillemot.
The decision to take such a hands on approach to film came after the company worked with some of the biggest names in the film world for game adaptations. As they collaborated together, says Guillemot, Ubisoft learned the value of not only expanding franchises to more than one medium, but the importance of overseeing the process personally.
"We've worked with James Cameron and Peter Jackson and several other [directors]," he says. "When we were doing games with them, we understood they were bringing a lot of value to us with their vision and what they wanted to make for the consumer. So that's exactly what we're doing. We have taken a lot of time to create characters and environment and IPs . We want them to be treated in the movie industry in the same way those [directors] do when they go to do video games [for their films]."
Ubisoft' insistence on maintaining creative control of its films even giving it the power to shut down production, according to some reports is unusual. And it's something Microsoft tried and failed to do with the Halo movie. Many believed Ubi's hardline approach wouldn't work either but the company, so far, seems to have found a way to pull it off.
"We had some resistance at first, but they finally understood we could bring a lot," says Guillemot. "And it could help the movie to be a lot better and closer to the consumers who are already aligned to that game."