Why Ubisoft’s investor call this morning was heartening


You think internet commenters put Ubisoft through the wringer for delaying Watch Dogs? You should’ve heard the phone voices that pay their bills. Investors hounded the French publisher this morning to account for drops in their income prediction – and one did his level best to persuade CEO Yves Guillemot to cut funding to Ubi’s new ideas squads for the next year.

But to their credit, Ubi stood strong.

Ubisoft have been rightfully called out for aggressive sequelisation in the past, and it’s perhaps this proclivity that led to confusion for one caller. He asked if R&D expenditure had peaked this year ahead of the release of Watch Dogs and The Crew, and wondered if cutbacks there could help reduce company spending in 2014.

In his reply, Guillemot made it clear that Ubisoft was taking a longer-sighted approach to profit – creating entirely new games to later turn into franchises.

“Our goal is to make sure we can have enough brand pillars, and for that we are taking advantage of the next generation to create them,” he explained.

“As you know we have a few on the way – we have Watch Dogs and The Crew that are two new brands – and we also have the Division coming on top of the Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry brands that we have.

“We have a brand to create, and once it is created it will create the revenue and the profit and cash flow that we need to have to continue to have good growth without investing too much in R&D,” he concluded.

Ubisoft CFO Alain Martinez went on to defend the extra investment the company had made in Watch Dogs and The Crew, to ensure they could compete with fellow “blockbusters” due to arrive next year.

“If we want to fight for having the right position we want with our games, we need to defend those games and make the right investment,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean that we are going to change our games – that they are going to cost over the $60-70 million that we were expecting for the big games – of course maybe Watch Dogs will be in excess. But that means that we have to carefully invest what we think is worth [it] for the potential of the game.”

It’s cheering to hear Ubisoft defend so vehemently their decision to pour money into new ideas. Realistically, it’s not likely to stay this way for too long beyond the launches of the new consoles – but we can reasonably expect a palatable balance of brave new and cozy old ideas in Ubi’s future.

“Our long term goal is to win the next generation,” said Guillemot. “To do so we are making bold moves by developing creations either original or based on existing franchises that fulfil huge ambitions and deliver the deepest innovation to our fans. This we believe is key for establishing strong profitable long term pillars and delivering future financial successes.”

A couple fewer Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and Rainbow Six: Vegas 2s, a couple more Watch Dogs and The Crews, and a couple more grumpy investors. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it?