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Ubisoft's Blue Byte pushing into mobile, 'now's the right time'

Ubisoft's Blue Byte studio is making a huge push into mobile game development after gaining experience with online and free-to-play titles, managing director Odile Limpach told Polygon.

Limpach said Blue Byte made an attempt to break into the mobile space several years ago, but didn't gain as much traction as the studio had hoped.

"At that time I think the market wasn't far enough [ahead], and we were too early," she said. "But now I think it's the right time to do that, especially now that we have an expertise in the realm of free-to-play games and in marketing free-to-play games. So we think it's the right time now.

"Mobile is also a great way to get our games to where the people play," she added. "We know our players do play on iPad and on mobile, on tablets, so we want to be there also."

Blue Byte's mobile strategy is to test out different methods and systems, though it's a lot more complicated than just throwing everything to the wall and seeing what sticks. Limpach said the studio is thinking carefully about current market trends and is even considering mobile ports of its games.

"We're trying different things," Limpach said. "We know that the market is very big, but we know it is also very competitive. So we will try different ways.

"We have [strategy] games players have to think and prepare, it's not just all action," she added. "We're going to port free-to-play games directly to mobile, one to one. We think also that now the market is mature enough to accept such high-quality titles, AAA quality for tablets. We think there's a market there."

Limpach said Blue Byte will continue to focus on PC games with online communities and offline components. She noted that in the current market, the studio will need to "compare to big publishers," which is why they adopted the free-to-play model quickly.

"We are positioning ourselves as the online experts at Ubisoft," she said. "We see ourselves as a studio with a lot of [that] experience and helping to open the online market for the company and exchanging knowledge with other [Ubisoft] studios."

When asked to clarify her statement about emphasizing online games but being careful to not neglect offline features, Limpach noted that the rapid pace with which the industry moves makes it necessary for studios to branch out.

"In this industry, it's dangerous to do only one thing," she said. "It can be obsolete very fast. I want the studio to do other things and try new things [like mobile].

"You have to always be able to iterate, otherwise you stay and you die."

As for the company's Anno series, Limpach said that game used to be especially popular in Germany but has since become a successful series worldwide.

"It used to be popular [only in Germany] but that has drastically changed with the last version of Anno, Anno 2070," she said. "We have sold more than 1 million units on PC and that includes outside of Germany. It's no longer a traditionally German game, it's now an international IP.

"[These sales are] attributed to digital distribution, which lets us get the game right to the gamers," she added. "So that's where we see Anno."

Limpach believes that as the industry rockets forward into next-gen, developers should remind themselves who they make games for: gamers.

"We have to be very careful that we do not forget that we make games for people, and we have to put that at the center of everything," she said. "I think Ubisoft is doing that very well, to really listen to the gamers and be close to them."

"We create passion. We should always be passionate."