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Yves Guillemot has a big ambition for gaming, and he talked update his latest vision and strategy at the Ubisoft’s annual event this week.
Guillemot predicted the game industry will hit $300 billion in revenues by 2030 (compared to close to $200 billion this year) and 530,000 “talents,” or game industry professionals. He expects gaming to hit an audience of five billion people by 2028, thanks in no small part to the “increasing democratization of games” on mobile devices and other platforms.
I’m sure Guillemot believes this with all his heart, and I would be happy if it comes true. But it is his pitch for getting people to see that Ubisoft is a good investment. Tencent believes Guillemot too, as it recently decided to get closer to the company by buying a 49.9% stake in Guillemot Brothers Ltd., which is the founding brotherhood behind Ubisoft.
Guillemot said that Ubisoft will embrace a variety of business models and platforms, such as subscription (Ubisoft+), free-to-play, premium, and cloud. The aim is to make games accessible to all people. He said that Web3 will grow as a way to reach new people through decentralization, and he foresees people finding games through virtual worlds as well as movement between virtual and physical worlds.
“I can see games soon surpassing all other leisure industries in terms of impact and engagement. I can see games becoming the ultimate form of social, artistic, and innovative entertainment. Most importantly,
I can see games continue to enrich people’s lives. And I am convinced Ubisoft has all it takes to write this new chapter and to shape the future of the industry.”
He said esports would making gaming stronger in communities on a local, regional, and national level. And he said that Ubisoft aims to spread its franchises to new audiences through three upcoming mobile games being published on Netflix. And through other media, such as the Assassin’s Creed video series being developed for Netflix. Ubisoft refers to this as one of its franchise “products,” as it’s an expansion beyond games, though one that is done with respect for the gaming property.
Guillemot said the strategy is to create powerful brands with the company’s 21,000 employees — including 17,0000 developers — and then bring those brands to ever larger audiences. By my calculation, Ubisoft would have about 3.2% of all of the game developers in the world.
Guillemot said that the company’s pillar brands — Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed, and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six — generated more than 300 million euros, or $304 million, for the first time in history. And Assassin’s Creed Valhalla reached more than $1 billion in revenue. The goal is to get each of those brands to hit $2 billion in annual revenue in five years.
Guillemot said that the company would adopt a variety of business models and distribution, such as multiplayer, free to play, mobile, subscriptions, and more. Ubisoft has always had the reputation of moving first onto new platforms, and Guillemot said there would be a strong focus on mobile. He cited new mobile games coming for The Division and Just Dance.
“We are always first on disruptive technologies,” Guillemot said.
He pointed to the upcoming pirate ship game Skull & Bones as a new franchise, as well as the success of games with live operations such as The Crew, Anno, and Rocksmith. He noted that Ubisoft still believes it can differentiate its games with its own custom game engines such as Snowdrop, and he believes that the i3D.net performance hosting infrastructure, which has servers in 40 locations on six continents, will help Ubisoft and other companies that use it deliver better multiplayer service to people in more locations.
Ubisoft Scalar will enable news kinds of cloud-enabled games (perhaps akin to vastness of Microsoft Flight Simulator’s cloud-induced landscapes).
“You will be blown away by what we will create (with Ubisoft Scalar),” Guillemot said.
He noted that Ubisoft+ has easy access to a subscription for more than 100 games, and that it is available on Stadia, Amazon Luna, GeForce Now, and soon on Xbox and PlayStation. Ubisoft+ will also start picking up third-party and indie games. The goal is to reach 300 million active users in three years.
Guillemot acknowledged the company “stumbled” when it was exposed that the company failed to restrain sexual harassment across the company. But he said the company has put better safeguards in place and he noted the copany was able to hire more than 4,000 people in the last fiscal year, including 600 people who were hired. These people are key for the company’s DNA in creating new brands.
Sandrine Caloiaro, chief portfolio officer, talked about Ubisoft’s move to take its brands like Assassin’s Creed into media such as books and movies. She noted Ubisoft has 35 established brands. And she suggested that Ubisoft will enable more user-generated content, enabling players to build meaningful experiences for players to socialize their love for brands and create things to express that love.
In more than 15 years, Assassin’s Creed has had 13 titles and more than 200 million copies sold.
Each trilogy of games has reflected a different period in the franchise history, with period one focusing on single-player stories and period two expanding into open world role-playing games such as Valhalla.
With each period, sales have been doubling. And with the new period, dubbed Infinity, the company is creating an everlasting hub, where players can choose which experience they want to have, whether that takes them into the franchise’s past or into the future. The hub is like taking the Animus DNA machine and putting it on your desktop, said Marc-Alexis Cote, executive producer for Assassin’s Creed.
The next experiences plugging into this hub will be an Assassin’s Creed game dubbed Code Red, set in feudal Japan where you play as a Shinobi. Another title is code-named Hexe, being developed by Ubisoft Quebec. Still another is Invictus. Code name Jade will be a mobile game, set in China.
While Assassin’s Creed titles have typically taken three years to develop, the company will now invest the same budgets over a longer amount of time in the hopes of creating games that have higher quality and are more sustainable.
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