Q&A: Ubisoft on Live Arcade

Director of new business development James Regan talks about the publisher's plans for downloadable games beyond Ninja Turtles and beyond the Xbox 360.

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Earlier today, Ubisoft officially announced that it will be bringing Konami's 1989 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game to Xbox Live later this month. While Ubisoft has offered downloadable maps and extra content for its games before, this marks the publisher's first foray into the growing field of digitally distributed console games.

Ubisoft director of new business development James Regan took some time to answer questions about why the publisher waited until now to get into the field, where it looks to go from here, and teaming up with Konami to bring the Ninja Turtles arcade game back to consoles.

GameSpot: Earlier this year, EA announced its first two digitally distributed console titles. Activision still hasn't announced any. And TMNT will be Ubisoft's first foray into that particular market. Why are some of the biggest traditional publishers seemingly late to the party?

James Regan: Right now the timing is perfect to bring back the classic TMNT game. The game is one of the most requested games on Xbox Live Arcade, Ubisoft's new game is coming out on March 20, and the new TMNT movie is in theaters March 23. We're really excited to be able to make TMNT our first Arcade title and we're committed to coming out with more games for the platform, both Ubisoft intellectual properties and some classics as well... We wanted to make an impact with our first game and make sure it was a big success. We've been on the periphery for a while now, observing and doing our own investigating to see what people responded well to and what they were most interested in playing.

GS: What approach can we expect Ubisoft to take in regards to downloadable games? Are you focusing on retro titles, smaller-scope original releases, remakes, and the like?

JR: We've been a leader in distributing our PC games online and we've also been releasing downloadable content for Xbox Live Marketplace like Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter and the upcoming content for Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas in March. We've had a lot of success in making entire games and additional content available online in the past and we're excited about this new way of getting people interested in new or existing properties. We're looking for the right content and the right time to introduce them to the market.

GS: How did the partnership with Konami come about? Can we expect to see more cross-publisher cooperation from Ubisoft in the future?

JR: Publishing this title now is really a huge tribute to Konami and their original game. It says a ton that the gameplay is still entertaining and so sought after. We were really excited that they agreed to partner with us to publish the game.

GS: Will Ubisoft's efforts be targeted more at the traditional gamer market or a more casual crowd?

JR: TMNT probably has more of a hardcore following but for future releases from Ubisoft I think you'll see that it will be a nice mix of both traditional and casual. We see Live Arcade as well as PCs as being a great way to get more people interested in games. They can both help broaden the market. We plan to bring more downloadable PCs games to consumers as well.

GS: What was the attraction in choosing Xbox Live Arcade for Ubisoft's debut downloadable title?

JR: The timing was right and there was huge demand for the classic TMNT game. It was the number one requested game for Live Arcade so the opportunity just fell into place for Ubisoft.

GS: Does Ubisoft have plans to produce content for the Wii's Virtual Console and the PS3's PlayStation Store?

JR: Yes, we're always looking to grow our online presence and we're working on ways we can support both Nintendo's Virtual Console and the PS3's PlayStation Store.

GS: Any chance of seeing the original Myst, Prince of Persia, or Rayman make their ways to these downloadable game services?

JR: We can't reveal anything quite yet but we can say that Ubisoft will be bringing some of its popular franchises and some completely new content to Live Arcade in the future. We'll keep you posted.

GS: Right now it seems the downloadable game services are dominated by retro offerings. Has the digital download space become a secondary release window for the game industry like DVDs are for the movie industry, or is this just a trend while development on original titles ramps up?

JR: I think it is somewhat of a trend that we're seeing with the retro titles because it was a really good way to gauge what the market was like. Now, it's clear that there is a big audience for these games and we have the justification to invest to bring consumers more content.

GS: Thanks for the time.

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