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Ubisoft poised to make big play on persistent games
Ubisoft poised to make big play on persistent games
April 15, 2013 | By Kris Ligman

April 15, 2013 | By Kris Ligman
More: Console/PC, Social/Online, Design, Business/Marketing

"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."

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Rodolfo Rosini
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"No plan survives contact with the enemy."

-Helmuth von Moltke the Elder

Todd Boyd
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Offline play isn't truly going to exist anymore, anyway, right? :P

Ron Dippold
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It's always two steps forward two steps back with Ubisoft.

Kyle Redd
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"As soon as players don't have to worry [about connectivity], then they will only take into account the benefits that those services bring."

There is not one single consumer benefit to always-online gaming. No one has ever been able to name one, and no one ever will.

Mike Griffin
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I understand the nature of the beast when it's implicit, such as playing a MMO or other inherently always-online multiplayer gaming. What I don't agree with is attempts to shoehorn a required layer of online persistence into genres or forms that should obviously also allow reasonably full-featured offline play.

Kyle Redd
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Right. "Implicit" meaning that there's a clear understanding for a specific genre (like MMOs) that are designed to be always-online, and for which there is no single-player mode. That I understand.

However, despite all the publishers and pundits crowing about the supposed "benefits" of such a structure in genres for which it is not implicit, none of them have ever been able to actually identify one. They have never been able to point to any feature and say "This could not exist if our game had an offline mode." And editors at sites like Gamasutra and The Guardian should not simply let these claims slide by without calling them into question.

Shea Rutsatz
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I agree! This is one of those things they seem to be trying to convince us is good. But unlike FtP (which there are SOME arguments for) I can't really see what reason they're giving us to remotely want this. The ability to post crap to Facebook? Not really an integral part of the gaming experience, in my opinion.

Joachim Tresoor
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Wow. After Ubisoft's pointless save game lock made it impossible for me to continue my 80% complete Assassin's Creed 2 game on a replacement PS3 I swore off Ubisoft for a while. Watch Dogs was interesting enough for me to give them a second chance, but if it's not going to work offline I'll pass. I'm in my second uplink outage this year, and my ISP can't drop by until thursday. Add to that possible technical issues in the server, their ISP, DDOS, killing the server to save costs... Nothing is forever 100% online, so at least make it work offline.

Chris Proctor
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I love the tactic of saying "I agree", and then going on to say the opposite of what the person you're talking to said. Clever, when executed well.

Jim Perry
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"I'm pretty sure you watch TV with a second screen on, be it a tablet or a smartphone"

And I'm entirely sure you would be wrong. :\ How many people really do this?