The first thing name “Ubisoft” conjures up is probably very different depending on who you ask. For many, the Prince of Persia franchise is the first thing that comes to mind given how well established and beloved it is. For others, the various Tom Clancy games are their first though, and when you talk about their largest franchises, surely some people surely think of Just Dance and Assassin’s Creed. There would not of been any of that, however, without Rayman — a cheerful cartoony mascot character that helped put Ubisoft (and designer Michel Ancel) on the map with 19 million in sales over the lifetime of the franchise. We talked with Ubisoft senior VP of sales and marketing Tony Key about the refresh of the Rayman franchise in Rayman Origins.
How much of marketing Rayman Origins has been focused on conveying the changes (the new control method and such)?
It’s a really interesting concept in this world of fancy features and stereoscopic 3D, we’re bringing out this 2D product that takes advantage of all the things the new tech can do, including HD graphics. We have a very old school perspective with Rayman Origins, because it takes Rayman back to its roots. It has a graphical style that I think is very colorful and arresting. It’s all about the UbiArt Framework development tools that the Ubisoft Montpellier team made that lets you drop images in the game. Using that they’ve been able to put a lot of time into the development of the gameplay and worry less about integrating assets. The game is really big from a content perspective.
It’s certainly a unique sort of release these days, with a 2D game seeing a retail release around the holidays for $60 . . .
It’s a big retail game for us, it’s got a lot of content and I think it’s going to be highly appreciated from the press side. We’ve gotten some high early reviews we think its going to be one of the best of the year and we hope the retro gamers are brought in and we hope that this sort of game appeals to younger gamers as well. There’s a good chance if they’re under 12, they may not even know who Rayman is!
It comes off as a very artistic and unlikely game — meaning a perfect Michel Ancel project.
He’s very particular about this game, and if you saw him during the E3 2011 Ubisoft press conference, he was having a lot of fun showing off his game on stage. He’s one of biggest pure artists in the gaming industry. I don’t think he thinks about success and money the way other people do; what’s important to him is if people can appreciate [this games]. He wonders, “will people like it “ rather than will it see X millions of sales. He never wants to come across as overselling the product — it has to be genuine.
So is Michel Ancel actively involved with the marketing as it relates to the presentation of the game?
Oh yeah! All the ads that are made for Rayman Origins come from his studio or we send it to him and ask, “how do you make this better “ We try to include him in the process to marketing the game.
Ancel’s works are wonderful. Incidentally, Beyond Good & Evil was a super game and it would be great to see more of that too . . .
Ultimately, Rayman is [Ancel ‘s] original creation, and if all the people that love Beyond Good & Evil understand he is more than a one trick pony . . . and that if Rayman does well, it gives him more leeway for other opportunities because he has to build up his studio. Just like how Beyond Good & Evil had a whimsical style but included gameplay for adults, Rayman will appeal to more than just younger gamers.
Beyond Good & Evil HD is doing very well on PSN and Xbox Live and there’s a lot of people coming back, and if they choose to do a sequel the audience is bigger than before.
With four-players able to play simultaneously, it seems like the sort of things that kids can play with their parents or older siblings with younger siblings . . .
That’s the way he designed it, that’s what they created. We took that tack in marketing, that a kid could play with their parents. We have an ad where Kal Penn is playing the game with a kid, and he’s totally trash talking with him. But that’s the model we see is that any age group can play it.
Ancel seems to be the master of reaching across generations, having a very Sesame Street like appeal where he reaches across generations with this games.
He’s like the Dr. Seuss of gaming. [Rayman Origins] might be the most highly rated game he’s ever made. It’s a top quality product and it’s counter-programing from what everyone wants to talk about this time of year, which is shooters and military games. We believe that platforming games can be successful; it’s beautiful and fun and it’s a very social four player game.
Keep an eye out for the second part of our interview with Tony Key focusing on Assassin’s Creed: Revelations!
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