GamesBeat: Are you optimistic about how valuable AI can be for gaming?
Seys: Obviously all of these technologies are very interesting — AI, blockchain, and others. Our goal is to explore all of them.
GamesBeat: Do you have any predictions yet on where this startup technology could first be used in Ubisoft’s games?
Seys: At Station F, the program is set up around the fact that we’re exploring new topics. We don’t have any operational constraints when we’re working with startups, to foster credibility on both sides. The objective of the program is not to make sure that we can industrialize these startup solutions inside Ubisoft afterward.
That said, of course, after the program, if our relationships continue because there’s interest on both sides, we’re open to that. But that’s not something that we’re absolutely looking into. That’s why our setup is so light. We don’t want to get any equity at the beginning, because we want to make sure we explore a wide variety of technologies and business models. We want to make sure we have a win-win collaboration.
GamesBeat: When you’re looking for startups to work with, are you focused on France for now? Do you plan to expand this internationally and look all over the world? How do you go through the process of finding them, as opposed to having them apply?
Seys: Station F is an international campus, so we’re not only looking for French startups. One of the startups we’re currently working with is American, based in San Francisco. We’re looking for the best startups in the fields we’re exploring, regardless of where they come from. We’re absolutely not restricted to France.
When we’re looking for startups, we first publish our call for projects, but we also connect through a lot of different people. We’re connected to other startup ecosystems around the world thanks to our studios. That’s how we’re also trying to figure out what startups could benefit from this program. For season three, we’re going to open applications at the end of September. We’re focused on blockchain in gaming and on AI in gaming.
We’re also partnering with the Blockchain Game Summit. B2Expand, the organizer of the event, is one of the startups that we supported here at Station F in season one. Working with them at Station F, their approach on blockchain seemed very interesting for us. It wasn’t hard for us to continue to create links and provide support for their work.
GamesBeat: As far as cases of where startups with technology from outside of games have been successful in the past, do you admire any in particular as examples of how startups can benefit gaming?
Seys: I admire all entrepreneurs. They’re all very brave. Entrepreneurship is something we value at Ubisoft, as well as creativity. I wouldn’t say that there’s a particular startup I admire, but many entrepreneurs.
GamesBeat: Can you give advice or recommendations for startups on how to work with the bigger game companies?
Seys: Not only for entertainment companies, but just generally speaking, the objective of any collaboration needs to be clear on both sides. That’s very important to me, and it was key in the process of designing this program. I respect the entrepreneurs and I don’t want them to feel like the program isn’t bringing anything to them.
You have to be very clear on what you’re looking for as an entrepreneur working with a corporate. Are you looking for financial support? Are you looking for institutional support? Do you need creativity or expertise? My advice is to be very clear on what you expect and make sure you know the right level of people to talk with, depending on your objective.
GamesBeat: Universal recently had an interesting competition where they had startup developers pitch game concepts for Universal IPs. They got 500 applications, and they’re going to fund the winning startup. I thought that was an interesting way to encourage small companies to interact with a huge Hollywood studio.
Seys: There are many interesting ways to encourage the startup ecosystem. What we’ve created here at Station F isn’t the only interesting model. At Ubisoft we have other startup initiatives in other startup ecosystems.
What’s interesting in what you describe is the way you can engage other people, whether they’re game developers or just fans of a franchise, in creating the kind of content they like. That’s some we also do at Ubisoft. We did that with Might and Magic 10 Legacy. We recently announced a new initiative with Beyond Good and Evil 2 at E3, allowing gamers to create content for the franchise. It’s interesting to involve different creators of different sizes.