Interviews

Interview: Ubisoft boss Yves Guillemot

CEO discusses the future of consoles, Wii U and more

From Wii U to Vita and beyond, no third-party publisher supports new platforms as aggressively as Ubisoft. So as the industry prepares for a whole new generation of games consoles, it's fair to say the Assassin's Creed maker has more insight to offer than most.

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At E3 last month the Paris-headquartered company showcased two of the most desirable next-gen launch titles in Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag and Watch Dogs.

But Ubisoft also set the bar high for the second wave of PS4 and Xbox One titles with ambitious racer The Crew and showpiece announcement Tom Clancy's The Division.

Ahead of its LA showcase, CVG secured time with Ubisoft chairman and CEO Yves Guillemot to get his thoughts on the coming transition and what it will offer for gamers.

In our interview Guillemot reiterates his stance that the current console generation has lasted too long, but says the industry could see an upside in increased consumer demand for new game experiences.

"If we can take advantage of the quality those machines bring... then I think we can make the business grow very fast," he said.

Ubisoft's E3 line-up: Watch Dogs | Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag | The Crew | The Division | Splinter Cell: Blacklist | South Park: The Stick of Truth | Trials Fusion


What features of the next-gen consoles most interest you as the CEO of Ubsioft?

Generally what next-gen consoles do is pick up everything that has been invented around them on telephone, PC or even on social networks like Facebook. What is fantastic again this time is that the consoles they are creating are really taking advantage of all those things that happen on those machines, on top of having more power.

So it's the combination of those two that will give us a chance to create experiences that are more immersive, shared with friends, and we expect that there will be more open-world types of games where you're not forced to do something - the game will adapt based on who you are, what you play and what you are doing with your friends.

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Watch Dogs was voted by CVG readers as Game of E3 2013

Do you think it will be challenging to market those new features to the public as a genuine step up?

You're right - it's extremely difficult to market those features. Players have to experience them.

What we see is that it works on PC, it works on mobile, so if we can have a new level of graphics, animation and AI, plus all those social features that we see on PC and in mobile games then there's no reason it can't be more interesting and create better experiences than what we have today.

But for sure, the first thing people will look at is graphics, animation and how the worlds are more alive and so on. But quickly when they play, if they recognise things that they had on PC with free-to-play games or something, then they will quickly understand what those games can bring.

How long do you think it will be before developers start taking full advantage of those features?

It will take us a little while to master those technologies. The first year you will have a certain level of quality, and what we see already for next year is very impressive. Because you have one more year for your engineers and creators to take advantage of all the possibilities. We need time, but what I can say is that the possibilities are immense. We don't know how fast we will be able to master everything that is possible today.

"The first year you will have a certain level of quality... 2014 is already very impressive."

We should also include Wii U in the next-gen conversation. How do you reflect on the decision to back the console so early on?

I would say that it didn't do as well as we expected. But if Nintendo comes with good brands this year and takes advantage of the yen, then maybe they have a chance to have a machine that has high quality games and at a reasonable price.

Because we believe a lot in the second screen and the touch possibilities, the fact that you have a different way to play. We learned a lot in doing that and we are already reusing that knowledge using companion apps on tablets, telephones and so on.

What I see is we will be able to use a lot more of those devices on the big games we will create. The companion is going to step-by-step become another device to play that will be adapted to a larger audience and still be very interesting to gamers.

You will be able to play with friends from outside of home and still have a big impact on what's happening in the game. We will see a big increase in terms of that possibility over the next few years.

Can the full Wii U experience be recreated on other platforms using those companion apps?

You can do a lot. What the Nintendo GamePad has is the speed of communication between the two devices, but if you manage to cope with higher latency [on other devices] you can still do many things. So you don't want players to have to react too fast... it's complementary to the experience.

So when we add all of those possibilities, plus graphics and AI, we think that the [next-gen] games will be of a fantastic quality and give us a chance to deliver something different from what you had in the old generation.

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Black Flag will utilise a companion app.

Why wait until PS4 and Xbox One to implement second screen companion apps? Was it not possible on current consoles?

It was possible, yes. But the problem you have when the machine is connected, or not connected and 80 per cent of the people have a machine that doesn't work with those elements is that you can't do it for everybody, so it can't be core gameplay.

This is changing, because there will be more and more machines connected, so we will be able to do games that work only for those connected machines. Just like on PC, lots of games are not possible to play if you're not connected.

We will see some games on Xbox One and PS4 that can be played without being connected, but also some games that will ask for a permanent connection like MMOs today.

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