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Building Believable Worlds: Yannis Mallat On Production At Ubisoft
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Building Believable Worlds: Yannis Mallat On Production At Ubisoft

August 18, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

Do you think about cultivating your audiences from your titles? Especially if you started working with kids as they grow up. They might stick with the DS for a long time. How do you look at that challenge?

YM: It's a really good question. I think the challenge needs to be addressed, and the way we do it is to always provide high-quality games, so that you can have consumers that can trust you, trust your product. It's an experience, and when they get attached to the products, they stay with you.

Someone used to say that it's harder to attract new consumers than it is to keep one. Definitely the quality benchmark at Ubisoft Montreal and Ubisoft in general is the right strategy.

Something that Nintendo does very well is make games that appeal to a broad range of ages. I see adults having as much fun with Wii Sports as kids, and you see that over and over with its games. It's a challenge from a production perspective, but I think it's a mindset perspective too. I think people in the past have thought of casual games as kids' games. They didn't take them quite as seriously as they should have.

YM: Yeah, it's interesting. I think games are for everyone. Again, I can't help myself but think of Rayman Raving Rabbids, which is definitely a game to be played by kids, parents, and all their family members.

It's a good product, and it's a good strategy, as you say. Games are for everyone.

Another game I can think of that is pretty famous for having content that scales well is Smarty Pants. It's an EA quiz game for the Wii. You input your age, and it gives you questions targeted to your age group. So a parent can have parent-targeted questions and compete with a kid with kid-targeted questions. They can still excel at their own level. Things like that are the kinds of accessible options that need to be put into games now.

YM: Interesting.

Have you given thought to that kind of stuff? Maybe not specifically that, but about how you might broaden the target.

YM: Yeah, definitely. Again, Rayman Raving Rabbids is aiming that way. We also think that each segment is not only defined by age, but is also defined by their hobbies and interests.

As an example, there's the My Coach series of games, with My Word Coach for people who love playing with words or My Weight Loss Coach. So different interests, different topics.

The only thing is that you have to have a good experience, you have to learn something if you can, and you have to have quality time with quality products.

You talk about how you have many different games from many different interests, and part of the ability I think to be able to do that is that you're not spending four years and 20 million dollars on them. You can see what sticks. It's a little bit of an experiment. So how do you gauge those things? Is it just through sales, or is it through consumer response? How do you decide what's going to work for you in the future?

YM: Both. We are definitely a big defender of early play test, and putting the game in the hands of the consumers very early, and getting their feedback.

That is tremendously precious and rich, and it goes with the prototyping strategy. So, one and one. We know where we're going, and we know approximately where it goes, and once we have created a brand, we try to capture the audience again and again.

Speaking of working with consumers and giving them early versions, do you do a lot of early testing and focus testing and play testing with consumer groups?

YM: Exactly. That's the point. We put the game early in those guys' hands, and it's really precious what we learn, absolutely. It's a must right now. Nowadays, it's a must. You have to do that.

And do you iterate very rapidly based on the feedback that you get? I've talked to some developers who do play tests as much as every two weeks. They bring in a new group, which plays it, the developer observes it, and they iterate right away. Do you have a similar experience?

YM: Yes. It depends obviously on the scope of the game. Some games are heavier in a way, in terms of iterating. With casual games, you can do that right away, because the technology is flexible and simple in a way. And it's necessary. It's good.

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