Ubisoft Doubles Down in Southeast Asia

March 29, 2016, 3:00 AM UTC
A screenshot from Assassin's Creed Unity, by Ubisoft.
A screenshot from Assassin's Creed Unity, by Ubisoft.
Courtesy: Ubisoft

Ubisoft is not letting a fight for its independence hamper its growth plans. The video game developer, which is currently locked in a battle with Vivendi over control of the company, unveiled plans to open a new studio in the Philippines, marking its second location in Southeast Asia.

The latest opening is part of the company’s ongoing focus on emerging markets in the gaming space.

“The idea here for us is it’s a very important opportunity,” Olivier de Rotalier, managing director of Ubisoft Philippines tells Fortune exclusively. “It’s a country with young people who are very, very connected. They’re social media experienced, and that’s very important for us. They’re very connected and tech savvy. For the game we’re building, to be able to incorporate that innovation is very important.”

However, the publisher has not revealed which title the studio will develop.

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De Rotalier, a 16-year veteran of the company, has helped oversee Ubisoft’s Asia-Pacific growth. Beyond his duties at the new division in the Philippines, de Rotalier also runs Ubisoft Singapore and Ubisoft Chengdu in China.

The gaming executive adds the new studio, which will open its doors during the second quarter of this year, expects to hire 50 people by the end of December. The studio will be situated in Santa Rosa, a fairly short distance from Manila’s international airport. Within three years, Ubisoft expects the new location to grow to a staff of 200 strong.

Ubisoft and other game developers have increasingly been interested in the Asia-Pacific region as a whole as it’s one of the fastest growing markets in the gaming world today. China, alone, saw overall gaming revenues of $22 billion last year, according to NewZoo. That’s $265 million more than the U.S. market.

By the end of 2016, Niko Partners predicts that China will have grown into a $26 billion market for the video game industry.

Other markets of interest include Brazil and Russia. Approximately 80% of the players in Russia, for example, are expected to have high-speed Internet connections in the coming years, and interest in new gaming technology there has been observed to be rampant.

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“I think when you’re thinking about emerging markets, it’s all going to come down to culture and how people think about buying gadgets,” said Julia Ognieva, strategic partnerships manager at Facebook while speaking on a panel at South by Southwest this month. “From my point of view, Russia will be very interesting, because … even though incomes may be nowhere near to the U.S., if you travel to Moscow, everyone has the latest tech.”

For Ubisoft, the appeal of the Philippines was a combination of things, explains de Rotalier. Geographically, it was in the company’s target area of interest. There is a large English speaking population there, which is helpful as teams from different countries collaborate, and the company can help shape the game developer culture there.

“I think we are using the same approach that we had when we started in Canada, Romania or Singapore,” reflects de Rotalier. “The industry is not big [in the Philippines] at the moment. We are…working very closely with schools [including Manila’s De La Salle University] here. We’ll be involved in shaping the curriculum and working with the university to train people.”

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