Ubisoft: Taking Risks to Expand the Market

Ubisoft had the most star-studded E3 event, featuring Aisha Tyler as the emcee, and bringing out at various times Matt Stone and Trey Parker (for the new South Park game, Fractured But Whole), Angela Bassett (appearing in Rainbow Six: Siege) and singer Jason Derulo to get the crowd excited for Just Dance 2016. But the newest entry in the Just Dance franchise didn’t really need someone on stage to be big news, because Ubisoft had some really big news to announce about Just Dance: You don’t need to have a camera accessory or motion detection on your console to play it any more, just a smartphone. That’s really big news, because it opens up the already successful franchise to millions more potential players.

Opening up new market possibilities requires taking risks, though. In some ways it makes marketing both harder and easier. It’s nice to be able to say you have new features or even a whole new product because people like things that are new. However, marketing new things means you may have to find ways to reach new market segments or convince people that they really need this new thing. The convergence of smartphones and consoles is an interesting area for innovation, and it’s certainly a risky one.

Ubisoft’s vice president of digital Chris Early spoke with [a]listdaily about Ubisoft’s risk-taking and where it can lead.

Ubisoft’s announcement that Just Dance 2016 won’t require a Kinect on your Xbox One or Move controllers on your PS4 seems like a huge thing, but it doesn’t seem to have gotten much attention yet. What does it mean to you?

It is a huge announcement, and you’re right, I don’t think many people got it. It really harkens back to two things. You know us as a company, we take risks. Making a smartphone work with a console is a hardware risk, and it’s something that we dug around in for a while. It took a while to get it to a place where it worked well and it synchronized well. As we were working on Just Dance Now, which is the fully mobile version of Just Dance, that’s when we perfected using the smartphone as a controller. Then we realized we could take that back to the console as well. That type of risk on the hardware side is something we’ve done with Kinect, with Wii and Wii U, and we’ve done that along the way. That risk is also there for much of our IP. I think we break more new IP than any other company. At some level, that’s kind of a dangerous position to be in as a publisher. You’re making a huge investment each time you develop an IP, and we’re thinking ‘How do we make an IP that’s a franchise ‘ It’s not just a one-time thing. It’s not lightly that we go into creating Watch Dogs or Assassins or Just Dance or anything. Maybe it works, and maybe it doesn’t along the way.

Isn’t the biggest risk for a game publisher, though, to take no risks If you just create sequels to the same game on the same platform in the same way year after year, eventually you will get caught out by a transition to a new game or a new platform, won’t you?

You’re right, it’s far riskier to just sit still and rest on your laurels. That said, I don’t think there are other companies that are taking the kind of risks that Ubisoft takes. You’ve looked at some of the things we’re doing with some of our franchises to extend them, like with Rabbids the combination of a theme park and VR. Trackmania has a Morpheus connection. We’re trying to figure out how we make games in this space. We’re not waiting.

Of course, you’re still moving forward with your big franchises, though.

We’re not going to stop making Assassin’s Creed while we experiment with VR. We have Yves [Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft] to thank for this. He’s always encouraging the creative aspect of the dev teams. Not just the game creativity, but the freedom to try new things as well. Hardware, mechanics, engines… That’s what led to the Just Dance franchise, which sprang from a mini-game on Rayman. Now it’s the #1 music franchise in the world.

E3: A Virtual Return To The ‘Battlezone’

Seeing older games resurface at E3 is nothing new, especially when it comes to this year’s show. Nintendo brought back an old favorite in a new light with StarFox Zero for the Wii U, and Microsoft announced a celebration of older releases from Rare Ltd. with the forthcoming Rare Legacy, which will release for Xbox One this August.

However, the developers at Rebellion may have the most attention-getting revival at Sony’s booth this week, as the developer has announced that it’s bringing back Atari’s classic tank arcade game Battlezone for the Project Morpheus.

It’s a curious announcement, mainly because many didn’t believe that a new virtual reality-based game could be inspired by an 80’s classic like Battlezone. Alas, it seems virtually perfect for the headset, as players can immerse themselves in a futuristic landscape, blasting away at foes using the sheer firepower of an armored tank.

“Project Morpheus and virtual reality gaming marks a new and exciting shift in gaming tech. E3 is a celebration of incredible artistry and creativity so it’s only natural that VR plays an important part at this year’s show,” said creative director and co-founder Jason Kingsley in a PlayStation Blog post. “But E3 is also mainly about the future of games, and sometimes we just need to take stock and look at gaming’s past. The industry may not be as old as film, theatre, and other arts, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t respect our cultural heritage!”

He went on to explain how the original Battlezone created an ideal playfield for virtual reality, since it created a 3D space that, at the time, was unheard of for most arcade games. (After all, it comes from an era where the likes of Pac-Man and Asteroids managed to dominate on a clear 2D level.)

“Players looked into the game world from the perspective of a tank commander by using a periscope viewfinder built into the unit. Combined with the game’s pseudo 3D graphics, Battlezone is now considered by many as the first ever virtual reality game,” said Kingsley. “It was both rudimentary and revolutionary. The isolation from the world around you, the perception of depth and “being” in that world — even a simple one — was like nothing else at the time. And without Battlezone and that sense of wonder and unlimited possibility, Chris and I might never have started making our own games, or formed Rebellion.”

The game will feature plenty of unique battle tactics, while at the same time paying tribute to the arcade classic that started it all. “If we can capture the same revolutionary thrill of the original Battlezone for a whole new generation of gamers, then we’ll have done gaming history proud,” added Kingsley.

For those in attendance at E3, the game is available for a “heads on” test drive. As for everyone else, it should make its debut at the same time as the Project Morpheus headset, although a release date hasn’t been given just yet.

E3: Mobile Mayhem Emerges With ‘Minions Paradise’

Electronic Arts had no problem showing its might on the Electronic Entertainment Expo show floor this week, with a variety of titles set for release over the next year, including the incredibly popular Star Wars Battlefront and upcoming sequels like Mirror’s Edge Catalyst and Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2.

However, tucked away in a small corner of the company’s booth was its mobile division, where it showcased upcoming sports games like Madden Mobile and FIFA. The real highlight, though, came with the debut of a new free-to-play game that’s sure to be a hit with kids and casual audiences alike – Minions Paradise.

This release ties in with the forthcoming animated film Minions from Universal, which will make its debut in theaters next month. The prequel follows the adventures of the gibberish-talking assistants who find themselves supporting a new client, a female villain voiced by Sandra Bullock.

For their game debut, Minions Paradise introduces an open-world dynamic where players can unlock new activities on a tropical island, bringing in new minions to help out with menial tasks, such as resourcing materials like bamboo and breeding piranha (with the help of a turkey on a fishing lure, of course).

The game is set up on a very fair structure, with the option to buy secondary items with real money, but also opens up a number of fun activities, such as taking part in a water skiing mini-game or watching the minions react to any given task, such as one causing an accident with another when he accidentally harvests one of his bamboo walking stilts.

Mike Rasmussen, the general manager on the project, explained to us how Minions Paradise came into fruition. “This is a really close partnership with Universal and Illumination Entertainment, and what we did is we just came to them and said what we think our players want to do is have close interactions with the Minions,” he said. “We think they want to have the ability to see the Minions’ animations in almost everything that they do. So they really liked that idea and worked very closely with us to see all the animations in the game. They were very involved.”

“It’s a very close partnership, for sure,” he added.

Rasmussen also touched upon the open world, which gets even larger depending on what progress players put into the game. “That was part of the game from the very beginning,” he said. “It was about immersion. In fact, we talked about how one of our core points was Minions, Minions, Minions. They are coming to this game to play with their Minions, so we must deliver on that, or we fail. It’s about immersion into this amazing universe that Universal and Illumination have created.

The Minions have already begun taking over the world, as Paradise is already out in some foreign markets. It will release in other markets soon, which gives fans plenty of time to finish up that tiki bar before they take over.


E3: For Ubisoft, A New ‘South Park’ Game and ‘Ghost Recon’ Reveal

Next in a day chock-full of press conferences and palpable excitement, Ubisoft’s event kicked things off at Los Angeles’ historic Orpheum Theatre. Ushering things along was the hilarious Aisha Tyler, lending the conference more levity than usual.

Ubisoft opens with a cinematic trailer for South Park: Fractured, But Whole and brings South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone to the stage. The game is a sequel to last year’s popular Stick of Truth.


Xbox Delivers Exclusive Content To E3 Fans Right To Their Phones

E3 is where all the greats of gaming come together to see the latest and greatest in the industry. But even with three days, it can be tough to visit every booth, wait in line, and play every game that catches your eye. So how can Xbox, who is offering some of the hottest titles of 2015 and 2016, allow everyone who comes to their booth walk away with a totally unique and special experience

Deliver it right to their phones for consumption at their leisure.

Fans visiting the Xbox booth or following Xbox on Twitter saw the call to action to text a keyword: XboxE3, Halo, ROTTR (for Rise of the Tomb Raider), or Forza, to 55755 to get a text leading them to all the latest content and some exclusive goodies, too. No waiting in lines, no elbowing your way over to get a poster — just great content on your phone that you won’t see anywhere else.

The program, created and managed by Ayzenberg, Xbox’s social agency, is powered by Waterfall and This Moment technology.

Acquisitions, Programmatic, Interactive: What’s Next For Video Advertising?

by VideoInk Staff

During a recent panel moderated by VideoInk and featuring panelists from advertising and technology companies like VideologyViewbix, andInneractive, the group discussed the latest trends, opportunities, and challenges facing the growing digital video advertising business. A wide range of topics were covered, from the NewFronts to measurement and even the value and potential for interactive advertising in an ecosystem that allows for interactive advertising.

As a follow-up we reached out to two of the panelists, Jonathan Stefansky, CEO and co-founder of Viewbix, and Aleck Schleider, VP of data and analytics at Videology, about the current state of video advertising and where it’s all going. Here’s a selection of their responses below:

What are some of the major trends that caught your eye on the advertising and technology side during the most recent NewFronts cycle?

Jonathan Stefansky: I think the biggest take away was from the IAB’s video-ad spend study, which highlighted how more than two-thirds of marketers and digital agencies are expecting to increase their digital video-ad spend in the next 12 months and that, over the past two years, media buyers have increased video-ad spend by 90%. This underscores how budget dollars are continuing to shift to digital video where advertisers can effectively track ROI from their spend.

Aleck Schleider: From our perspective, since we’ve built our technology around the convergence of TV and video, what is most interesting is that the NewFronts and TV Upfronts are becoming one united front. Several “TV” companies hosted NewFront events, and many of the networks now negotiate both TV and digital during the upfront. As content providers are increasingly distributing their programming across multiple devices, the lines between the two “fronts” are going to continue to blur, which will be more reflective of the way advertisers are thinking about cross-screen advertising. The silos are breaking down—and that’s good news for advertisers as we know that cross-screen advertising produces stronger results.

Keep reading…

This article was originally posted on VideoInk and is reposted on [a]listdaily via a partnership with the news publication, which is the online video industry’s go-to source for breaking news, features, and industry analysis. Follow VideoInk on Twitter @VideoInkNews, or subscribe via thevideoink.com for the latest news and stories, delivered right to your inbox.

E3: Microsoft’s Xbox Showcase Brings The Games

Microsoft’s E3 press conference earlier in the day had left gamers pleased with a number of announcements, but that didn’t stop the publisher from throwing a party later that evening in Los Angeles at the Majestic, where various members of the press and fans got to go hands-on with several of the company’s forthcoming titles.

Taking precedence in the basement was Halo 5: Guardians, as the company put a heavy emphasis on 343 Studios’ forthcoming adventure with multiplayer kiosks. The game was well received, and should be a big hit when it launches this fall for the Xbox One.

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Meanwhile, the upper level had a photo booth, where users could get pictures made with Xbox motif in mind.

However, the action was really on the main floor, as several games let users play to their heart’s content, provided that they wait a few minutes for a spot to open up on the floor.

One of the main games was Forza Motorsport 6, Turn 10 Studios’ upcoming racing game, which will debut later this year. A full-blown racing simulation studio was set up, where users could sit behind a force feedback-driven wheel and feel as if they were really driving a car. Regular kiosks were available for play as well.

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Fable Legends and Gigantic, Microsoft’s forthcoming free-to-play games for Xbox One, were also featured, enabling gamers to play with (or against) one another in combat.

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The compilation Retro Replay was also featured, with 30 of the company’s best games gathered in one reasonably priced $30 package, set for release on August 4. In the photo below, a player enjoys himself as he rampages through Battletoads Arcade.

And, of course, we couldn’t resist getting a photo of a Battletoad. Just look at him!

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition was also on the show floor, with players shooting at and cutting up one another with Lancer weaponry. The game is currently in open beta on Xbox One, and will release on August 25.


Other games were on the show floor as well, including Harmonix’s music simulation game Rock Band 4 (complete with its own light-up stage), a 1930’s styled side-scrolling game called Cuphead, and various other titles from the ID@Xbox independent game label. The trailer for Cuphead can be seen below.

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Finally, Crystal Dynamics’ Rise of the Tomb Raider was front and center at the event, with players getting a good look at the latest adventures of Lara Croft. This Xbox exclusive will make its debut on November 10, and some breathtaking new footage can be found below.

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For good measure, there was also a frozen shot-pouring station featuring a pair of axes from the Tomb Raider game.

Overall, it was a great event — a bit crowded, but a key opportunity for players to check out some of their favorites before they release later this year.

E3: Sony Wins With ‘Uncharted 4’ And Older Favorites

With Microsoft already delivering a powerhouse presentation during its press conference earlier in the day, the pressure was on Sony to match or exceed expectations with its own presentation, which took place at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Although it didn’t address the company’s intentions to make the Xbox One backwards compatible, it delivered in a completely different area – it brought plenty of games.

The first thing that took the crowd by surprise was the return of The Last Guardian, a game that was announced years ago, but then quietly went into obscurity for some time. This announcement, however, assured that it would finally arrive in 2016 for PlayStation 4. The game focuses on a heroic young boy, teaming up with a large, majestic creature as they attempt to make their way through a troubled world.

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The fighting game Street Fighter V, which is exclusive to PC and PlayStation 4, also returned, bringing with it a pair of new fighter announcements – Birdie and Cammy, both veterans of the popular series.

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Square Enix took huge precedence at the Sony event, taking the opportunity to announce the return of the Hitman franchise to consoles. The self-titled Hitman continues the journey of Agent 47, a seemingly unstoppable killer who’s got new targets in his sights.

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Square wasn’t done, however. It also introduced an entirely new Final Fantasy game to the PS4, World of Final Fantasy, which features a unique, kid-friendly visual approach, combined with plenty of action and role-playing tactics. The game should make its debut next year.


The original Final Fantasy VII, a popular hit in the 90’s, also made a return, as Square Enix finally confirmed that it would be remade with the PlayStation 4 in mind.

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Sony then debuted the latest game from Media Molecule, the developers of favorites like LittleBigPlanet and Tearaway. In Dreams, players can actually build their own scenarios using a number of paint styles and techniques, with the PlayStation 4 DualShock 4 controller working as their paintbrush. An example of this work can be seen in the trailer below.

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Campo Santo’s Firewatch also got a debut trailer, with Sony confirming that it will release for PlayStation 4, as well as PC, when it’s finished sometime next year. The game tells the story of a firefighter in the mountains, and the various adventures he faces.

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In rather unusual fashion, the show was also home to a special KickStarter project announcement, as legendary producer Yu Suzuki came out and confirmed that he wants to make the long-awaited adventure sequel Shenmue III. The move has been a bit of a success, as the project has already earned $2.5 million – thus guaranteeing that it will be produced.

Third-party companies also teamed with Sony for a variety of exclusives on PlayStation 4. The forthcoming add-on for the science fiction shooter Destiny, The Taken King, will feature new missions exclusive to PS3 and PS4 when it arrives this fall.

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Disney Interactive also scored an exclusive deal with Sony, with one of Disney Infinity 3.0’s playsets making its debut on PlayStation 3 and 4 a month early. In addition, a special Boba Fett toy will be introduced exclusively with this version of the game, as you can see in the trailer below.

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Finally, after spending years in an exclusive partnership with Microsoft that saw Call of Duty content hit Xbox consoles first, Activision announced that, starting with Call of Duty: Black Ops III, content will now be exclusive to PlayStation systems for a few weeks, before becoming available for Xbox and PC. Multiplayer footage can be seen below. 

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Last – but certainly not least – Sony debuted some brand new footage from next year’s forthcoming blockbuster, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. In this final go-around for Nathan Drake, the adventurer and his allies find themselves in deep trouble in a remote village, where an exciting car chase ensues.

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There’s no question that Sony brought an energetic presentation during its E3 showcase, and its show floor should have no shortage of great games to play. Keep an eye open for more reports over the week.