Ubisoft is ready to take advantage of Nintendo's Wii U digital strategy - and will use the lessons learned from the PS Vita to do so.
Ubisoft supported Sony with a number of PS Vita launch games, including Lumines and Rayman Origins. But with Vita being the first console to offer every game digitally as well as boxed, Ubisoft was required by Sony to make digital versions of its titles.
Now, with Nintendo set to reveal the inner workings of its Wii successor at E3 in June before a launch in time for Christmas, Ubisoft is once again sorting out its digital strategy for new hardware, and preparing for the possibility of making its games available to download as well as buy in shops.
"We'll absolutely take advantage of whatever the policies will let us do with the platform from the standpoint of providing digital content," Ubisoft's digital boss Chris Early told Eurogamer.
"Nintendo has not announced a lot of their digital programs at this point of time. Our key is, as you see from us from a content perspective in supporting the platform, is we're going to be there like we were with the Vita, and support the policy side of it as well. With the Vita all of our games are available digitally, and they're even optimised from that standpoint because that was a policy in place we were able to design to.
"So from the same standpoint, I expect when the Wii U comes out and there are digital policies that are there, we will be in support of them as well."
While Nintendo has remained quiet on its digital strategy for Wii U, it has revealed snippets of information on the matter.
In June last year Nintendo told Eurogamer the Wii U will offer a significantly improved online experience to that of its predecessor, pointing to the 3DS's refined online set-up as an indication of where Nintendo's aspirations lie for Wii U.
Then, in January this year, Nintendo unveiled its Nintendo Network, which covers both the Wii U and 3DS. This includes a number of features Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 gamers will be familiar with, including add-on content sales, the digital distribution of boxed games, and the introduction of personal accounts.
On the digital distribution of boxed games, Nintendo boss Satoru Iwata said: "This concept was built into the design of the Nintendo 3DS, and we already have the necessary infrastructure. We will prepare the same infrastructure for the Wii U. However, we have not decided the concrete timing of when we will start it. The decision must be made by taking into consideration such factors as the relationship with the wholesalers and retailers, and the best way to be embraced by consumers, as well as the environment surrounding the market and consumers, such as the required memory capacity on consumers' SD memory cards.
"However, as an option for the future, the significance of this business field will increase."
Ubisoft has a number of Wii U titles in the works, including Assassin's Creed 3 and Ghost Recon Online, and Early said Ubisoft's goal was to make sure gamers can buy content wherever and however they wish.
"I just want you as a player to be able to get our content however you want to," he said. "I don't really want to penalise you for wanting to get it digitally, or penalise you for wanting to get it physically. Whatever your choice happens to be. Because I know retailers will get a certain type of customer that maybe can't pay online. So there's always going to be a reason there, right?
"And the discoverability process is one we're still struggling with on the digital market. You have a long tail where there are all kinds of products you can get to, if you can figure out which one you want. But the flip side is the problem with the retail level, which is, you can walk in and see all kinds of products for a brief period of time, because then shelf space has to change and turnover and the product I wanted from last month might not be there anymore.
"So each channel has its challenge. Our challenge as a publisher of content is, how do we make sure you as a player can get it wherever. We will see an on-going evolution of content available digitally. I don't think that will be to the exclusion of other ways of giving the content."
Earlier this month Microsoft was reported to be working on a disc-less next Xbox. Early said Ubisoft would adapt should Microsoft go down such a route, using its experience gained making all its Vita games downloadable to help.
"Well, as you can see with the Vita, we're also subject to the policies and constraints of the manufacturers," he said. "So if somebody makes a disc-less console, then we're going to be adapting to what that is.
"In the case of the Vita, it was not difficult to adapt to having the content available day and date. It was just a policy decision on Sony's part to do that. And then understanding that we have to think about who has what size of memory card added in there, how are we going to fit within that, what's the ease of download/re-download acquisition? So there are other things we have to consider based on the hardware platform itself and the policies around it."
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