Alain Corre, executive director at Ubisoft, spent some time a few weeks back checking out the Tokyo Game Show, an event he personally attends each year. He's a lot more enthusiastic about the Japanese market than you'd think.
"Just walking inside the show floor, I felt that the game market is changing very rapidly," Corre told Famitsu magazine in an interview published this week. "The fact that the population of people playing games is going up in this environment is something we can be really happy about. I also saw fans lining up to play Assassin's Creed III and I was really excited to see what they thought of the game. It's the biggest title in Ubisoft history, and I'm looking forward to it being a big success in Japan as well."
The history of Western console games in Japan is not exactly rosy. During the PS1/PS2 heyday, the marketplace largely ignored non-Japanese games entirely, with only a few major exceptions — Crash Bandicoot and the assorted Rare-developed Nintendo titles. Only in recent years has this changed, with Grand Theft Auto leading the way, and now most of Ubisoft's big-name franchises sell at least into the six figures in Japan. (The French outfit has always been big in Asia, launching their Japanese offices way back in 1994.)
"Japan has a very big market," Corre said, "but at the same time, from the viewpoint of Western publishers, it's certainly one of the difficult ones. We've been fortunate enough to see our sales grow every year, but the hard part is that you really have to understand the tastes of Japanese users and what kind of play they're looking for. That's still something hard for Western makers to grasp. However, the quality on our titles is improving more and more with each year, and I think the Japanese market is starting to accept what we're doing. Japanese gamers love playing high-quality games, so I think keeping up that high quality is important."
In Japan, much like the rest of the world right now, Ubi is focused on launching Assassin's Creed III, which comes out mid-November over there. "We've continually evolved and distilled all the good things from previous games, from the first one to Revelations," Corre told Famitsu. "The characters and game setting are new, so I think both series fans and people new to the name can enjoy it. There's a lot of new gameplay involved, and it's a game we're all really proud of, so I hope people play it. Japan is a very important market for Ubisoft, and I'm hoping we can continue to earn more fans here."