E3 2012: Ubisoft's Chris Early on what's next for its social games

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House M.D. Critical Cases
Many proclaim Ubisoft as the "winner" of this year's E3, as far as press conferences are concerned. (Hell, the Assassin's Creed creator even killed it in Microsoft and Nintendo's pre-E3 events.) But when it comes to social, Ubisoft was nowhere to be found in the Los Angeles Convention Center last week. But that's not to say the company has forgotten about Facebook and mobile.

Not according to Chris Early, Ubisoft VP of Digital Publishing, who took the time to chat up high in Ubisoft's booth on the show floor. "We look at three general areas for our growth on Facebook and none of them are damaged by one another. It kind of depends on the ideas we see," Early tells us. "One is strong brand re-licensing, right? And we do that because they're recognizable, and we do a great job of delivering entertainment that's true to the IP."
The Smurfs & Co
Of course, that approach shines through in Ubisoft-published games like The Smurfs & Co, House M.D: Critical Cases and CSI: Crime City. But what about new properties, new worlds to explore that can grow into new franchises? Save for games like Horse Haven on Facebook, it might be a while before we see another original franchise from Ubisoft on Facebook.

"I don't know if there's going to be a [horse] IP for years and years to come. We're probably not going to make a console game on it. Now, this is the second horse game in that sequence that we've seen. I think what's key for us, though, is finding a good play mechanic that resonates with the player, with a brand or an experience that people like," Early admits. "Sometimes that's a recognizable TV brand, one of our brands or something that lots of people love, [like] horses."
CSI Crime City
This French publisher doesn't seem satisfied with banging out, say, a CSI simulation game and being with it, so to speak. Ubisoft looks to craft layered game experiences. While other companies focus on one or the other--simulator versus action--Ubisoft wants to make that social games that incorporate the best of both worlds. Based on how games like House M.D: Critical Cases and The Smurfs & Co. are doing, that approach seems to be working out so far.

"I think as we continue to explore the broader genres of things like procedural drama, there's room for lots of types of play mechanics. You can argue that hidden in the mini games of House and CSI are some actual, smaller, more twitch-oriented mechanics already. I think what we're trying to do is deliver a varied set of play experiences to the player. There are moments of high anxiety and there's moments of more calm enjoyment."
Ghost Recon Commander
Despite a potential lack of original games, Ubisoft won't give up on social and mobile. In fact, we're told that a mobile version of Ghost Recon Commander (GRC), Loot Drop's Facebook iteration of the hit shooter series, is in the works. Mobile games and apps that are extensions of core experiences on Facebook or consoles is where Ubisoft is focused, it seems. (So, if GRC on Facebook is an extension of Ghost Recon Future Soldier, will be GRC on mobile be an extension of that extension?)

"As a fan, we are giving you opportunities to engage in this IP that you enjoy, in the fiction that you like. And your play matters wherever you happen to be, whatever platform you happen to play on," Early says. "So that's a big direction you'll see us continue to do more in."

Are you a fan of Ubisoft's games on Facebook? What do you hope to see from the publisher next? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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