Ubisoft poised to make big play on persistent games
"The next generation will help us to blur the lines between on and offline play and between single and multiplayer."
-Yannis Mallat, CEO at Ubisoft Montreal, looks forward to a new console generation with second screen and always-online.
Discussing Ubisoft's next generation build-up with The Guardian, Mallat looks back on the technical innovation of the studio in the last console cycle, pointing to evolving consumer media habits in driving game design.
"We have to craft our experiences around the way people are now consuming entertainment," he says. "Look at TV. I'm pretty sure you watch TV with a second screen on, be it a tablet or a smartphone, so we know that consumers are ready to consume 90 minutes of entertainment in 45 minutes -- if you know what I mean."
Asked about the controversial nature of always-on game devices and problems such as with the release of EA's online-only SimCity, Mallat remarks: "I would suspect that the audience is ready."
As soon as players don't have to worry [about connectivity], then they will only take into account the benefits that those services bring. And I agree, these services need to provide clear benefits. It's important to be able to provide direct connections between us and our consumers, whether that's extra content or online services, a lot of successful games have that.
Mallat points to the densely immersive worlds of company titles like Assassin's Creed and the upcoming Watch Dogs, saying "We will have companion games that let you stay immersed in the universe even when you're not in your living room." Tablet, mobile and other second screen devices will become integral, as Ubisoft's games "stay alive thanks to those devices, within our players' minds."
Mallat acknowledges that this plan for platform diversity may lead to significantly increased team sizes, which comes with it a potential for lost creative vision. "If there is one question that keeps me awake at night it's this one," he says. "It's an everyday concern in terms of studio DNA and how we approach production. There is no magical recipe for making successful new games -- you can only ever adopt the best practices."
Mallat remains optimistic, noting the extent to which hardware and software advancement would drive innovation.
"We really believe in our Breakthrough Strategy, which is linked with technological evolution," he said. "And this new way to play through technology, was a minimum guarantee to the players of a new game experience. I don't think technology will impair our ability to be creative. On the contrary, you have to embrace technological evolution."