Ubisoft expects quick transition, reinvigorated market and boom in new ideas as next-gen arrives

Ubisoft expects players to be more open to new propositions like The Division on PS4 and Xbox One, and also expects fellow original titles Watch Dogs and The Crew to benefit from a revived market.

Following the cross-gen release of its two biggest series Assassin’s Creed and Just Dance, Ubisoft EMEA executive director Alain Corre carved out a few spare moments in his schedule to answer four quick questions over email. Here, we ask why Ubisoft invests so heavily in new hardware launches, how quickly the French publisher believes players will switch to new hardware, how PS4 and Xbox One sales have performed and when we’ll see a defining next-gen game.

Ubisoft is known for its support of new platforms at launch, but considering that the playerbase is relatively small and the returns can’t be that great, why do you do it? 

The Xbox One and PS4 mark a pivotal moment for our industry, and it’s important for both players and our internal teams that we strongly support these new consoles right from the start. For our teams, the earlier they start experimenting with and mastering the consoles’ new technologies, the sooner they’ll be able to deliver breakthrough brands and gaming experiences. We’ve seen that the start of a new console cycle is when players typically are more open to discovering and trying new things. This is a bonus for new brands, and means there’s a better chance for new concepts to succeed.

Luckily for us, our creative teams love nothing more than creating new gameplay, new environments and new heroes; it’s something we’re recognized for as a company. For the fans it’s about pent up demand. They’ve been waiting years for these new consoles, and ultimately it’s the quality and creativity of the games that determine whether they were worth the wait. We’ve got three huge new brands coming to next-gen – Watch Dogs, The Crew and Tom Clancy’s The Division – and we hope that these will please the gamers and our fans.

Ubisoft released Black Flag on 360, PS3, Xbox One and PS4 (among others). Cross-gen titles might be prominent right now but that trend won’t last too long, says Corre.

There were a lot of cross-gen games at launch and there are more to come. When do you think developers will leave 360 and PS3 behind? 

The latest console cycle was a long one. That means the Xbox 360 and PS4 install bases are huge, and a lot of people will continue buying and playing games made for these consoles. It’s important that we keep offering these players titles and give them time to make the transition when it’s best for them.

However, the long wait also means that gamers are really excited about the arrival of the new consoles, and we think that there will be a faster overall transition than in the past. The number of next-gen games we’re releasing in the coming months, like Watch Dogs and The Crew, should help convince players to make the switch and ensure that the vast majority of gamers have moved to the new consoles within a few years.

Have the new consoles’ sales met your expectations? Will you get decent returns from investing in next-gen development?

Both Sony and Microsoft have communicated on impressive sales – both sold more than a million in the first 24 hours, and are performing more strongly in comparison with previous new console releases. There’s a resurgence in the enthusiasm and excitement we’re seeing from gamers and in retail thanks to these consoles. Also, we’re getting good feedback on Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag from gamers, and we thank them for their confidence.

Cross-gen title Watch Dogs will now be released between April and June 2014, having originally been slated for release this year.

We’ve been laying the foundations for next-gen development for a while. We have multiple studios working on our big games, meaning that we can push quality to another level and which will translate to a better return on investment. Any investment in next-gen development will also be offset by the fact that the new consoles will reinvigorate the video game market, attracting current gamers, bringing back lapsed gamers, and appealing to new audiences.

We’re yet to see a game which really defines the leap from 360 and PS3 to Xbox One and PS4. Now we’re past the rush to get games shipped for launchday, how quickly do you think the performance gap between the old and new generation consoles will widen?

We know that these machines have enormous potential and that there’s a lot more to be done with this technology. There are already some fantastic games available on next-gen and a lot more games to look forward to in the coming months. When it comes to mastering new technology, there’s always a learning curve. Nevertheless the level of quality of our next-gen games at launch is really high. It’s proof that developers like Ubisoft have already been working toward this technology for a long time.

As we become more familiar with the machines and listen to players’ feedback, we’ll see the truly next-gen games start to stand out. With the bar already placed so high, we can only imagine how much richer, more immersive, more social, more interactive and more beautiful the next crop of games on PS4 and Xbox will be.