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 Wolves Soldiers Exclu: WATCH DOGS 2, THE DIVISION 2 et FAR CRY4 deja annoncés

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MessageSujet: Wolves Soldiers Exclu: WATCH DOGS 2, THE DIVISION 2 et FAR CRY4 deja annoncés   Lun 15 Juil - 18:04

'Now We're in Blockbuster World'
By Steve Peterson
Posted July 10, 2013 9:48 am
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Source The A List Daily

Tony Key

The Ubisoft booth at E3 was crowded with attendees, and the noise level was high as software and demos were all around. We went behind the scenes at the Ubisoft booth to sit down with Ubisoft's senior vice president of sales and marketing, Tony Key. He provided some insight into how Ubisoft plans to deal with new consoles, new IP, new sequels, and a very busy holiday season ahead.

[a]list daily: Your CEO Yves Guillemot told me that Ubisoft will be increasing its marketing spend this year. What's driving that?

Tony Key: By increasing our marketing, our goal is actually to lower our risk. We spend so much time, energy and money creating these experiences like Watch_Dogs and Assassin's Creed, you need to match that now on the marketing side. You're making a huge bet on the development side, you've got to be all in. It became very clear to us about two years ago that this is a blockbuster world we live in now. That means we have to be able to match the resources our production teams are putting in on the marketing side. You saw that with Assassin's Creed III, that was our largest marketing campaign ever as a company. What's interesting now is it doesn't feel so big any more. This year we're looking at Assassin's Creed IV, and Watch_Dogs, and saying 'That's what it takes nowadays, that's what we're going to keep doing.'

[a]list daily: Is the budget for Assassin's Creed IV bigger than the budget for Assassin's Creed III?

Tony Key: It's not bigger, but it's probably smarter. I think we'll get more. With Assassin's Creed III, that was the first time we really tried to go to the next level on the marketing. You're talking double what we've ever spent before on marketing. When you suddenly double your marketing budget, you end up learning a lot of things about what works and what doesn't work. We're making smarter choices this year based on the experience. Each year we're going to get smarter about that. We'll get 20 percent more effectiveness out of the Assassin's Creed IV money just because we've learned so much.

[a]list daily: How is the marketing mix changing for Ubisoft?

Tony Key: The world seems to be moving towards these personalized experiences. That's why open-world gaming is one of the big must-haves for this next generation. People want to have their personal experience when they're playing the game, so it's the same in marketing. We want to try and create marketing content that allows people to customize how they receive it, how they consume it. It's so much broader now, we're all learning so much more every day about how we can utilize social media successfully. Assassin's Creed has 4 to 5 million people in their Facebook community right now, so for us it's how do you leverage that? How do we leverage our hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers, how do we leverage the fact that we're getting 50 million views on YouTube of Assassin videos? Those are things that just a few years ago we didn't even have access to, but they do take resources. As much as everyone likes to thing they're completely additional, they still cost money.

Our media mix has evolved over time. TV plays a different role than it did five years ago, but our research shows that it still matters. We have a lot more opportunities in the digital space. What we like about the digital and social space is the ability to measure the effectiveness of what we're doing. But just because you can measure it doesn't mean you have the ability to measure it in-house. You have to develop those tools, you have to develop that experience, you have to manage those big data questions, which data matters, which data doesn't matter and what is it really telling me? That's many jobs at a company like ours now, and I actually have a hard time finding people to do it.

It's a relatively new skill set to analyze that data and make it actionable for the marketing team. For us, that's the next frontier. We thought we had business intelligence, and every day we find out how much less we have than what we want. The more we learn, the more we realize there's so much more that we can do to understand what our customer wants, how they want to consume our content, which vehicles are effective and which are not. I spend a lot of my time doing that.

[a]list daily: Watch_Dogs is a new IP without the years of audience building that Assassin's Creed has. How does that alter the marketing challenge?

Tony Key: That's part of the reason why it's so hard to bust out a new IP. There's no proven DNA for people to latch onto for people to say 'I understand what that brand is about.' Especially when you're annualizing something like Just Dance or an Assassin's Creed, you understand that experience and you either want to be part of that community or you don't. We can tap into that and get a faster start. With Assassin's Creed IV, we start with those 4 million users on our Facebook page. With Watch_Dogs, we're in acquisition mode – we're trying to find people who are intrigued by the concept of what Watch_Dogs is all about, about the surveillance and the hacking. It's a whole different strategy in the social space – we're trying to acquire people, where with Assassin's Creed we're trying to get more engagement.

We're rolling the boulder up the hill, and eventually you get to the top and you have that momentum. Even with all the great press and all that excitement around Watch_Dogs, there's still less awareness outside of the core gaming community than we need to have when we finally launch that game. Because now we're in blockbuster world, and Watch_Dogs needs to be a blockbuster because it deserves to be and as a company that's what we need it to be. It's the most ambitious production in the history of Ubisoft, and we need to make sure that everybody who likes videogames has a chance to decide that this game is going to be hot. That's the hard part about a new brand, that awareness outside the core needs to be created.

[a]list daily: Watch_Dogs is ambitious in the sense that the budget is higher, or the design is more ambitious, or both?

Tony Key: I will say that Watch_Dogs cost more than Assassin's Creed I, that was in 2007. The point is games have been getting more and more expensive. With Assassin's Creed, it was an established brand when we went to make Assassin's Creed II. We had a technology baseline, we know what the game is about and what things work. What we're doing at that point is looking for innovation to add on top. The ambition on Assassin's Creed is to make a great game every year; we know we have fans. With Watch_Dogs we went straight to expensive. We've spent four years by the time this thing launches building this product. We didn't even know what next-gen specs would be when we started. For us, we have ambitions beyond any new brand that we've ever introduced as far as sales. We want it to be the biggest new brand ever introduced in the video game space.

[a]list daily: You want Watch_Dogs to be the foundation of a big franchise, then?

Tony Key: Absolutely. That's what all our games are about; we won't even start if we don't think we can build a franchise out of it. There's no more fire and forget – it's too expensive.

We feel like we're in a really good place with Watch_Dogs, but until we're the biggest game of the year we're not going to be satisfied.

[a]list daily: This fall there's going to be tremendous attention focused on games for new consoles, but the majority of revenue will come from games for current-gen systems. Simultaneously you want to say how great your games are for new consoles, but also how the games you have for existing consoles are the best ever. That's a difficult line to walk, isn't it?

Tony Key: With Assassin's Creed IV and Watch_Dogs, we're shipping those games also on next-gen. We do understand that the most likely the majority of sales will occur on the current generation because people just won't be able to get the hardware, either Xbox One or PS 4, the minute they want it because they won't be able to make them fast enough. Those machines are going to sell well, and just like most hardware launches they're going to be constrained for a while. The key is, when you're making a truly next-gen experience like Watch_Dogs, it's that the DNA of what makes that game special still exists in the current gen.

That's what I think they've changed with Watch_Dogs; next-generation absolutely adds more power, more density in the environment, more immersion. But what's cool about the game, the core cool thing, needs to translate to current-gen and it does. We haven't actually shown those versions of the game off yet. What I like about the brand is it's really next-gen game design, and that's not hardware dependent. Watch_Dogs is a game that transcends hardware in my opinion. It's really what the game is about that's special, not that it's on a PS 4 or a PC or an Xbox One. It's going to be a great game on PS3, it's going to be a great game on Wii U, it's going to be a great game on Xbox 360.

Last we cleaned up at E3 because we were pretty much the only next-gen game around. Watch_Dogs for us is really a franchise because we're tapping into something people really care about, never more than last week than when the NSA PRISM scandal broke.[a]list daily: You mentioned how the NSA scandal broke and it really tied into the theme of Watch_Dogs. Do you change your marketing when a current event happens that ties into your game?

Tony Key

Tony Key: Absolutely. At one point in Watch_Dogs, Aidan taps into the surveillance system of an apartment building and he's looking at what everyone is doing. We had a screen shot of this guy sitting in his apartment with a department store female mannequin sitting with him and he's talking to it. When the PRISM story broke on Wednesday, we had that screen shot out on Friday on social media and said 'You never know who's watching.' We were able to react very quickly, and that's what social media brings. You're not going to run that on television, you couldn't even get it on the air. That's the beauty of the speed of information now – if we're good we can react almost instantly and get something out there. The bigger the community that exists, the faster you can penetrate more people with that message.

Marketing used to be about managing the message. It's evolved a lot. I've been at Ubisoft for eleven years, and I've never seen as much change in how we market things than I have in just the last twelve months. I think we've changed more in the last two years than we have in the ten before. What works and what doesn't work is really evolving quickly.

[a]list daily: Do you think marketing will continue to evolve rapidly over the next few years, or is it reaching some new stability?

Tony Key: You don't know what's going to be big; what's the next Instagram or Tumblr or Facebook? How can I use them effectively? You just don't know what the next 19-year-old college dropout is creating in his garage right now that could change the world in the digital space. I have to be open-minded and aware enough to find that and figure out how to use it to reach people, if that's their preferred method of communication. I don't understand how that could suddenly stop. I just think the pace of innovation is speeding up. As soon as you get comfortable with something, somebody busts it out in a disruptive way and makes you rethink all your assumptions. Some of these things like Facebook and YouTube, I don't see them becoming any less effective in the foreseeable future. I think we're constantly going to be adding new tools to our arsenal as we go. It's making our jobs a bit harder because we can't rely on last year's marketing plan as a template.

What I really like about it is that it's forcing us as marketers to be just as innovative as the guys making the games. We look for very, very creative and savvy people in marketing who don't necessarily have to have the traditional training we may have been looking for five years ago or ten years ago.

[a]list daily: With new business models like free-to-play, doesn't marketing need to be involved early on because the best games have monetization well integrated with the design?

Tony Key: It's part of the product. There will be a lot of people that will swing all the way and say that's the future of marketing. I don't think that branding is going to go away, but I do think it's becoming more and more apparent that integrated marketing that's part of the product is a really strong way to engage and acquire customers. It's a skill set that's still blooming out in the marketplace – customer acquisition and utilizing all the tools at your disposal to do that. We're constantly looking for people who are good at that.

There's a lot of game designers who are even good at that. When you're in that mode of acquiring customers inside the game, or monetizing customers inside the game, the guys that are best at that are the game designers who are good at marketing. It's becoming sort of a hybrid position. From a branding perspective, you still need that too, especially with new products. Until Watch_Dogs is a free-to-play product, we have to get people feeling confident that they're making a good investment up front.

[a]list daily: Is this changing how you're structuring your department?

Tony Key: We're integrating much earlier with production on games. We discuss monetization strategies, we talk about the best way to do branding, we talk about the best way to launch the games - we do all that probably a year earlier than we used to. In the marketing group we've been hiring people to supplement what we already do who have skill sets we didn't have before. All of our brand managers have to understand the acquisition side of the equation, because you're doing both now. Our digital marketing team is two times bigger than it was two years ago, probably four times bigger than it was four years ago, and it's still growing. We have had to evolve our structure and how we're organized. I think that's true of all the big game companies.

It's pretty rare that somebody can come out nowhere without at least a couple of decent hooks to build on, even if the game is good. You can't phone it in. The better educated consumers are what we have to address as marketers. There have been studies around this – how many pieces of research somebody does before they buy something. What we saw is that video games are at the top of almost every product. The only thing higher than video games in the recent study I saw was cars. People would do something like 20 pieces of research before they bought a video game. People research everything now because the information is available. For us as marketers and as a game company we have to make sure we're providing value, because we can't put something mediocre in a box and expect it to sell any more.

[a]list daily: There are so many other ways to spend your time, people feel like they're making a commitment of time as well as money, and the game needs to be worthy of that, doesn't it?

Tony Key: We're competing for their time as much as anything now. It has to be a rewarding experience. It has to provide the value. The blockbuster games will continue to be a game that people are willing to pay for because the value is there. As a publisher, our challenge is to be providing that value.

[a]list daily: Changing topics: Are collector's editions a profit center or a marketing tool? It seems that to be considered a AAA title you have to have a collector's edition.

Tony Key: When you're creating a limited edition you're doing it because you know there's some segment of the consumer base that actually loves to collect and get more stuff. So you provide stuff they can't get anywhere else. Outside of that equation, as a publisher your goal is to at least not lose some of your margin by doing that. If you're lucky, maybe get a little bit more. It's our experience at Ubisoft that we have not made a killing on margin on collector's editions. It's something we do for the superfans. It does create good PR, so it sees some value there that justifies some of the effort.

It's a lot of effort to create these things. There has to be a financial bonus to put in all that effort. We have to feel like we're going to get good PR, we have to feel that we're going to sell all the ones we make, that we're making enough money to justify its existence. I've had experiences at Ubisoft in both directions, where we've actually made less on collector's editions because things turned out to be more costly than we expected, or we had to rush shipments from China. I've had situations where I made more on a limited edition because I got lucky and I was able to get really good pricing on something. I've had situations where I got way more PR than I thought I would. They're all so unique there's no blanket answer.

[a]list daily: Is there going to be a special edition of Watch_Dogs?

Tony Key: Yes, there will be. There's your exclusive news!


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