"a mistake" to go after companies to get their brands under control, as it's the people who created them that matter.
Ubisoft has learnt this the hard way claims Francois. Mandating smaller acquired studios is not the right approach - it's better to build over time to get the most out of people.
The Ubisoft executive says there's a log of 'collaboration and transparency' inherent in the studio's culture, which lets new teams flourish. They're by no means without mistakes.
"Maybe sometimes companies buy other companies just for brands. I think that's a mistake, brands get created by people. If you don't have these people, the brand doesn't exist," said Tommy Francois. Ubisoft has snapped up TrackMania studio Nadeo, Trials HD's RedLynx and free-to-play devs Owlient in recent years.
"I think anyone who is in management or the head of a company, especially when you're talking about publishers, you have a lot of pressure from your own internal productions," he continued.
"I use the analogy, shifting a creative culture is like teaching a company to quit smoking. It'll always go back to what it's done easily. So I think when you're acquiring a new studio you're asking people to do things that they don't usually do, so maybe part of that is they will go back to what they know, versus going into something they don't know how to do."
"With RedLynx and Massive we have an understanding, they makes games, we make games, so it's easier for us, we have the same vocabulary, we can meet somewhere and understand each other."
Ubisoft acquired Hunger Games visual effects studio Hybride in 2008 but it took time to understand it. The whole process is still difficult when sailing those transmedia waters, he points out. Square peg, round hole.
"We go to get famous authors because we like big names and we admire these guys we've read and these guys took us on emotional journeys," he gave as an example. "Where we make a mistake is we take this guy, and this guy's about writing books, and our stories are interactive, they branch out, they're different, they have to deal with a number of constraints that a book doesn't have to deal with. And I think we're sorely mistaken because we're not respecting the reason we went to get this guy in the first place. We are trying to make him fit into what we would like him to do."
Transparency and honesty with development teams is the key, he says, even to the point of openly pointing out a project's flaws as its better to leave no secrets between you. "These people are not dumb, they made games before you guys, they'll find out," he tells his people.
"Let's try to have a more transparent approach and even if it's a weakness in the game, the mere fact that you say it brings that trusts level up. And don't just bring it up, try to come with an action plan."
Ubisoft's next biggest major release will be Assassin's Creed 3 later this year.
Ubisoft: Buying companies for brands "a mistake," they "get created by people"
27 March 2012 | By Simon Priest