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Interview: Yannis Mallat, part two

Focusing on the studio itself -- When the studio does opens later this year will it be made up of completely new hires or will the studio move in team members from other Ubisoft development houses to get a strong framework in Toronto?

It's a really good question. As you may probably know, we are well known for applying the step-by-step strategy with any endeavor we're doing. As a matter of fact, you're right we are opening in the second-half of this year and my main and first task is to put in place a strong management team and we will rely on all of groundwork that has been done by other studios from the group, with the help of people we have elsewhere in the group. Montreal, as well as other studios.

Once we have the framework, as you said, we will then add to the teams to gear up to full steam. But, after that we will definitely rely on the big and best of the talented population that already exists; and also relying on the training and educational programs that are here in Toronto.

Will the projects of the Toronto studio fall into a certain niche? Splinter Cell-esque action games? Rabbid-esque casual games? Will the studio be platform specific?

I think the studio will be modeled upon Montreal's studio. So, we're going to have to rely on our "Triple-A" franchises -- that is definitely the goal. We do not exclude anything else, such as other types of games. The goal is really to focus our energies on our big, "Triple-A" portfolio.

A personal question for yourself; are you moving from Ubisoft Montreal to Toronto or handling both?

I am handling both, but I agree it will involve a lot of travel.

Well, you can rack up your frequent flyer miles.

(laughs) Well, for sure we'll see that.

Today's announcement also reveals plans for Ubisoft to also lend its talents to the Toronto film industry, to "enhance video game production and extend Ubisoft's convergence strategy."


How does this factor into the announcement and the future of Ubisoft?

"Toronto is a cultural and artistic city. It gathers all of the elements for creativity and innovation, which are our main values."

Well, you know we've been talking a lot about our convergence strategy and I think that Toronto will have a role to play. As a city it is close to the film industry. I'm sure I don't need to mention that, after Cannes, the Toronto Film Festival is the biggest in the world. That's the kind of move that is really important for us because it gets us closer to those people, for the sake of our convergence strategy. So, yes it will have a big role to play in the future.

In 2005, Ubisoft announced plans to help the University of Montreal with game design programs, at the Ubisoft Campus and then in 2008, with a campus in Morocco. Are there plans to set up similar programs in Toronto?

In the short-term, I think that Toronto is very well positioned, regarding training programs and universities and other educational entities. Think about Seneca and the Waterloo University for computer science.

As a matter of fact, here at the press conference it was really impressive. There were students here and it was really thrilling to see them. When we made the announcement there was a lot of joy and pride for them to feel that, "Wow. Cool, we're going to be the ones who will fulfill these positions!" So, I think that Toronto -- at least in the short-term -- is already really well suited for this.

When the announcement hit our front page, some of our comments were Toronto gamers excited about the possibility -- I also spotted soem chatter on Twitter about people discussing the prospects of working for Ubisoft in Toronto. There does seem to be some excitement.

Yes. It's been great.

Do you have any plans on working with schools in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) to help mature the development community in Toronto? Or for recruitment, or is that part of a long-term plan?

We will -- for sure -- view working with those educational entities. Who know, maybe for tailoring programs or working with us on the convergence. Everything is on the table right now. We will definitely work with those people to see what we can do together, short-term or long-term. We'll see in time.

When can we expect to start seeing games from the new studio?

(laughs) That's a good question that everyone asks! Again, I have to go back to the usual Ubisoft "step-by-step" approach. First, my goal is to do these first steps well and after that, we'll see. Hopefully, sooner than later. The goal is really to accelerate development in Toronto.

Thank you Yannis and good luck with Ubisoft Toronto.

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