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Ubisoft's Guillemot Talks Driver Delay, Studio Restructuring

Higher R&D costs, studio restructuring and delays happen because games "are more difficult to create now," says Ubisoft's Yves Guillemot, discussing Driver San Francisco's delay and more.
The challenge to compete in the AAA space continues to get steeper, Ubisoft says. In the first half of its fiscal year, an increased investment into R&D -- €98.4 million ($133.8 million) total -- claimed 37.8 of the company's total sales, and it restructured its studios with top-level quality in mind. Although CEO Yves Guillemot was tight-lipped with specifics on the company's Gamasutra-attended call to investors, he described the restructuring as the cancellation of one studio's project so that its staff could support a key project at a larger studio. "It is a big shift that is going to allow us to create better games," he explained. According to Guillemot, the ever-higher quality bar for AAA -- and the increasing essential nature of a strong, deep multiplayer component -- necessitates an all-hands approach. Electronic Arts called in the multiplayer expertise of its DICE studio to support EALA's Danger Close team, and Guillemot alluded to a team approach to an undisclosed new title that seems similar. "Games offline and online... are more difficult to create now," he said simply. With a higher quality bar in mind, Ubisoft also delayed two titles, Ghost Recon Future Soldier and Driver San Francisco into its fiscal 2012 (April 2011-March 2012). The latest Driver title already has four years behind it; on Ubisoft's call, one analyst bluntly asked why one more year was needed. "It's not one more year; it's we are taking the time to create an outstanding game," replied Guillemot. "Seeing the competition, it's very important to bring all the fine touches to the game so that it can become a good racing game that helps us to establish Ubisoft in the racing genre." By competition, Guillemot could be referring to Polyphony Digital's highly-anticipated Gran Turismo 5, which just a few days ago received a firm release date at last after over five years in development. Creator Kazunori Yamauchi suggested that the long development time for the simulator, which bridged the console transition, was "the amount of time it takes to get it right." That franchise is reputed for its legacy in setting the bar for vehicle realism.

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