SINGAPORE—In this day and age of smartphones and mobile applications, what makes a video game console thriving amid a competitive environment?
While the global video game market is expected reach P83 billion in 2016 and more than 14 million new generation consoles have been sold in less than a year, the developer of the hit “Assassin’s Creed” franchise based here acknowledges the threat that is the booming smartphone industry.
“We need to be at the forefront of the industry… There is a seamless transition from console to mobile,” Ubisoft Singapore communications manager Sylviane Bahr told the Philippine media in a studio tour, noting that 792 mobile applications are being downloaded every second.
But Bahr said video games are not backing down, especially in a fast-growing and very dynamic market like Asia.
The Singapore studio of the French gaming giant, the largest game studio here, was established in 2008 and made its mark since for being one of the lead studios in the production of the Assassin’s Creed series. It takes pride for its naval expertise first introduced in sea battle scenes in Assassin’s Creed III.
Highlighting the importance of continuous innovation, Bahr said cutting edge technology and outstanding graphics are necessary to convince players to stick to video games.
“We need to create new ways for players to be immersed in video games. We strongly believe in virtual reality—a realistic world fueled by new processors. We are obliged to create that level of detail,” she said.
Bahr said creativity and taking risks in creating games, backed with data and marketing research, propelled the local studio to success even only eight years since it was set up.
Asked if they are threatened with the increasing popularity of mobile apps, Ubisoft Singapore managing director Olivier de Rotalier said “the threats are the same as opportunities” in the gaming industry.
“You need to be on top of every innovation, understand them quickly, and see what they are going to bring. If you are not going to do that, then that is the threat,” De Rotalier said in a meeting with Filipino journalists.
“The objective is not only to create a game but to create a universe,” he added.
Compelling content, ‘open world’
But noting that Ubisoft has always been an adaptor of new technology, Assassin’s Creed senior producer Hugues Ricour said a compelling content, a constant challenge to the industry, makes a video game successful more than the innovation.
“Our ambition is to enrich players’ lives by creating original and memorable gaming experiences,” Ricour said in a presentation.
As head of the development of the history-based Assassin’s Creed games, Ricour said the creation of a “memorable and quality” story arch and “strong game narrative” that would lead to a “shift to an open world” was necessary to engage a certain audience.
“While we execute, we need to differentiate ourself from the rest…. We need to understand those turning points of history very well to have a rich understanding of the future,” Ricour said.
“The hardest part of our job is how to make an intellectual property successful and make people understand why it is successful. Part of the success of Ubisoft is risk-taking. What made the deal is compelling character,” he told reporters.
Ricour’s teams were responsible for bringing to life the naval fantasy in Assassin’s Creed 4 Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed Rogue, exploring time anomalies in Assassin’s Creed Unity, and the latest developments in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.
Collaboration and unique culture
But as much as innovation and content, Ricour said the key to a successful video game development are the people and culture of collaboration behind it.
Ricour said Ubisoft’s approach included leveraging cross-studio collaborations, growing talents to the next level, and attracting experts.
Created in 1986, Ubisoft, the third largest independent publisher of video games worldwide, has more than 9,700 team members in 28 countries. It has earned €1.007 billion in sales in 2013-2014, and more than 15 of its franchises have sold more than one million units.
Ubisoft’s studio here houses a multi-national team of about 300 employees, including Filipinos, which grew from only 22 people when it opened eight years ago.
Citing Assassin’s Creed Syndicate as a good example of a product of collaboration, Ricour said each studio of Ubisoft in the world has an expertise to share, which made knowledge transfer possible.
“Collaborating is one of the key strengths of Ubisoft… It’s risk-taking and always trying that will lead to big innovations,” he said.
But Ricour said game development was not only about working hard, but also about having fun and creating memorable experiences while pursuing one’s passion.
“It’s about excitement and creating a team that’s gonna have fun,” he said, citing strong team spirit, innovation, and ability to execute as Ubisoft’s “success values.”
Bahr said what set Ubisoft apart from the rest was a unique “people-first” culture and a team composed of innovators, team players, and executors. “A game is a team production. You just can’t be working on your own,” she said.
“We knew that there were talents here that’s why we came, and we did well,” Bahr added.
De Rotalier said Asia was a “very important” market for Ubisoft to reach out to new talents, especially that they were always open and looking for new opportunities in every region.
“We respect a lot about what each brings. It tells a lot about the richness of the talent core. It’s easy to work together and that’s very important,” he said.
No new Assassin’s Creed game will be produced this year, but a film starring Michael Fassbender is set to be released in December.
A 10,000-square-meter Ubisoft theme park is also slated to open in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2020. TVJ
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