Xavier Poix, managing director of Ubisoft's Annecy, Montpellier, and Paris studios, has spoken out about the challenges of developing launch titles for next-generation hardware, using Nintendo's Wii U as an example.
Speaking with GameSpot at the annual D.I.C.E. summit in Las Vegas this week, Poix said the Wii U message is hard to convey, something he believes has greatly contributed to the console's slow start in the market.
"The depth of what you can do with that console is really hard to get across unless you play with it," Poix said. "It's different from the Wii, where seeing was believing. With the Wii U, people really need to experience it."
Poix and his team have been developing titles for the Wii U for the last two years, including survival horror title ZombiU. The game was released to a generally lukewarm critical reception, something which was noted by the game's developers.
Poix said looking back, he can see where Ubisoft went wrong.
"The whole idea of the asymmetrical gameplay and using two screens to do two very different things is not simple to explain to people. ZombiU was designed to be a game for core players launching with a new Nintendo console. We should have communicated better in this respect to let people know what kind of experience to expect. It wasn't obvious enough that there would be a new controller and new gameplay and a new skill set to develop."
According to Poix, the fact that the Wii U may have started slower than Nintendo expected is not indicative of its future success, especially as more players adapt to the multiscreen trend.
"We are at a new start in the industry, a moment where gaming is no longer just for geeks. We have consoles like the Wii to thank for that, and the rise in mobile gaming. It's all leading towards interconnectivity. What you do on your phone in the future will impact what you do on your console back home, and so on. There will be different applications for different devices."
Responding to earlier comments by Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot that the lack of new hardware is stifling creativity in the game development industry, Poix said this isn't necessarily true; he believes that creativity is simply at its best around a new console launch, when developers have the chance to deal with both new opportunities and constraints.
"You've got a new toy to play with, and for the first time you need to think differently. It's hard to achieve, but it's the best moment."
Looking forward, Poix pointed to technology like Microsoft's SmartGlass application as leading the way in the area of interconnectivity and multiscreen experiences.
Poix's team is currently working on the upcoming Wii U title Rayman Legends, due out on February 26, 2013.