Ubisoft will announce plans to restructure the influential creative team which steers the direction of all its games, following a difficult year for the publisher, VGC understands.
For two decades the creative direction of Ubisoft’s games and IPs has been overseen by the editorial team, a Paris-based group of around 100 designers and producers who advise on everything from game design to script writing.
While they don’t create games themselves, the team has a huge impact on development teams across the company. Historically, editorial’s influence has resulted in a cohesive vision across all Ubisoft titles, with learnings from one project feeding into the next.
It was the editorial team that drove the company towards open-world and systemic games, pushed online elements and insisted that its narratives had a thematic basis in the real world, but avoided taking a political stance.
However, following the disappointing sales performance of 2019 titles The Division 2 and Ghost Recon Breakpoint – which resulted in the delay of several games to ensure quality – Ubisoft announced it would implement “significant changes” to its production processes across the company.
For the editorial team, these changes will see the group expanded and reorganised, Ubisoft told VGC in a statement on Friday.
“We are reinforcing our editorial team to be more agile and better accompany our development teams around the world as they create the best gaming experiences for players,” it said.
A key goal of the editorial team’s restructuring is to make Ubisoft’s software line-up more varied, sources told VGC. In the past Ubisoft has been accused of including similar features in too many of its games and CEO Yves Guillemot said in October it would make more of an effort to differentiate them.
“We are reinforcing our editorial team to be more agile and better accompany our development teams around the world as they create the best gaming experiences for players.”
Ubisoft’s chief creative officer Serge Hascoet will continue to lead editorial, VGC understands. However, sources indicate that the number of vice presidents who report into him will be expanded and given more autonomy, allowing Hascoet to take a broader overview of projects instead of directly following them.
The seven vice presidents will each be assigned their own franchises to lead, with the authority to make their own independent decisions on future directions. Hascoet will check in on projects’ progress at key milestones, similar to CEO Yves Guillemot, VGC understands.
It’s believed that by spreading editorial’s responsibilities across a group of leaders, the team can help bring a more distinct identity to their respective games. VGC was also told that simply expanding the group’s resources and giving it some presence outside of Paris could have just as much of a positive impact.
Previously, every game would be assigned to at least one line designer and line producer, who would oversee the project from Paris and provide editorial guidelines. However, they wouldn’t have autonomy to offer their own guidelines and ultimately followed CCO Hascoet’s direction.
One anonymous source told VGC: “In the previous system that editorial had, there were often the ideas of just one or two people getting put into every game. That’s why you tended to see such similarity, because it’s the same taste and opinion being replicated.”
The vice presidents will be made up of existing personnel such as editorial VP Tommy Francois, while creative directors from Canada will also be integrated such as Child of Light’s Patrick Plourde and Splinter Cell’s Maxime Béland, who has returned following a year at Epic Games especially for the role.
In October Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot acknowledged three key learnings the company would take from the underperformance of The Division 2 and Ghost Recon Breakpoint.
First, he said the company needed to make sure there was more time between each iteration of “live” games in order to generate interest.
Secondly, Guillemot acknowledged that the company needed to allow more development time for games introducing unique gameplay innovations, in order to guarantee an optimal experience.
Finally, the CEO said that Ubisoft needed to ensure that each of its titles were strongly differentiated.
Generally, there’s been a change in the types of games Ubisoft wants to make in the last few months, VGC was told.
At least one Montreal game – said to have been “very far” in development – has been canned due to the reevaluation of the company’s production processes, while some in-development games as service titles are said to have been “reworked” with the intention of making them more distinct.