MONTREAL, Quebec – Video game publisher Ubisoft is touting the beginning of its entertainment convergence strategy with the unveiling of the first of three short films based on its popular Assassin’s Creed game series.
Assassin’s Creed: Lineage, created by acclaimed Hollywood special effects studio Hybride Technologies (which Ubisoft acquired last year) and Ubisoft Montreal’s Ubisoft Digital Arts (UDA), will make its global debut on Oct. 27 on the front page of YouTube in eight countries.
The films serve as a prequel to the upcoming Assassin’s Creed II game, which debuts on Nov. 17 and is expected to be one of the blockbuster games of the holiday season. They show that Ubisoft is serious about becoming a player in Hollywood by converting its game properties into films.
Last month, Ubisoft Montreal CEO Yannis Mallat and Hybride Technologies President and Head of Operations Pierre Raymond held a small press event to showcase what went into making the films, which utilize cutting-edge green screen effects that go beyond what Hybride accomplished with the Warner Bros. hit movie, 300.
The movies, which total about 38 minutes in length, feature live actors working in front of green screens. The same actors did voice work on Assassin’s Creed II. Their faces were digitzed and used in the game. The films tee up game, which takes place in Florence and Venice during the Italian Renaissance.
Over the years, Ubisoft has made acclaimed and blockbuster games like the Tom Clancy titles, Shaun White Snowboarding games and also movie tie-ins like King Kong and the upcoming Avatar. But usually the content flows in one direction, from Hollywood to the game company. With Assassin’s Creed: Lineage, the intellectual property flows in the reverse direction.
“We are a content creator and a content provider,” Mallat said. “We’re making games. We are now making movies. And with the Assassin’s Creed: Lineage film series, the production value that went into these shorts is exactly the same should we have decided to go with a long feature. And I think that that says it all.”
Moving forward, Mallat said Ubisoft is not at a point where it can break down how big a part of its overall business will come from the Hollywood side of things.
“So to commit ourselves to a percentage of our future business is not where we are at right now, but one thing is for sure is that when we look down the road, however you look at it, we’ll gain from this strategy,” said Mallat. “Whether it’s by expanding our audience or by developing one single asset that could be used both in a game and in a movie, we are convinced that this will benefit Ubisoft as a company.”
Ubisoft’s film division will total 500 people by 2013, located mostly in Montreal, but with some in the new Toronto Studio. Mallat said Ubisoft may one day create games and related films simultaneously.
“Why not? I think that when you see the movie series we’ll be releasing this fall, you won’t doubt that it could be a close possibility,” explained Mallat.
Last year, Ubisoft bought the rights to the Tom Clancy brand, allowing the studio to not just make its best-selling games, but also movies, TV shows and comic books.
“I think that Ubisoft sees countless opportunities to transpose these brands to other mediums or platforms for our audience to experience them,” said Mallat. “That is basically the idea behind our move to acquire the rights to the Clancy brands.”
While Hollywood studios like Warner Bros. and Disney have become serious about game development in recent years, Ubisoft remains at the forefront in convergence with its Hybride acquisition and UDA. .
“We have developed our convergence strategy over the years and we are just about to see some great results,” said Mallat. “We know that Ubisoft will benefit through the expansion of its brands from this strategy.”
In July, Ubisoft announced that it would open a new game studio in Toronto, which will employ 500 people over the next decade. Mallat will run operations there. And he believes that studio will also have a role in this convergence of Hollywood and games.
“We totally believe that the Toronto studio will be involved in one way or another in this process but it is too early to tell,” said Mallat. “We are building this studio from the ground up and the primary focus initially will be on developing the game production team for the first few years and then we’ll see how this evolves.”
For now, Hollywood and the rest of the world will get the first look at the potential when Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Lineage debuts October 27 on Youtube.