CANADA SPECIAL: Ubisoft Toronto

CANADA SPECIAL: Ubisoft Toronto
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

November 24th 2009 at 7:00AM

Develop catches up with Ubisoft's Ontario studio's CEO Yannis Mallat

Year founded: 2009
www.ubi.com

Ubisoft's Toronto base is one of the publisher’s newest studios, and was formerly unveiled earlier this year by the French firm and the Ontario government.
Currently, the plan is to open the new studio within the next few months.

The new base in the bustling Canadian city will create 800 new jobs within the Ontario province over the next ten years and the local government is investing CA$263 million in the business. Ubisoft plans to likewise significantly invest in the outfit, having earmarked a fund of over half a billion Canadian dollars.

“The decision for Ubisoft to open a studio in Toronto was based on a few different factors,” explains Ubisoft Montreal CEO Yannis Mallat who will oversee the studio, which is to be run on a day to day basis by Assassin’s Creed producer Jade Raymond.

“First of all, as it was the case in Montreal and Quebec, the government of the Province of Ontario was dedicated to develop the industry in the Toronto area. They have been central in the whole process with their willingness and proactivity. But it’s not all.

“Toronto also has some key universities and colleges that have been training video game experts over the last few years. We are convinced that Toronto represents a very strong potential of growth and to contribute to the Group’s global growth.”

So what will mark the two apart?

“Well, since the studio isn’t still open yet, it’s a bit early to answer the question, but the idea here is that the Ubisoft studios across the world are mostly built on the same model and operate similarly,” says Mallat. “So the goal is not to work differently but mostly to contribute to the Group’s global objectives, the same way that Montreal, Quebec and Vancouver are already doing.”

Toronto is relatively nascent as a games development city, and pales into comparison to the likes of Montreal – but it has plenty of potential, says Mallatt. He’s keen to make it clear that by entering an established region – which already hosts studios run by Rockstar, Silicon Knights and many others – it isn’t necessarily competing. Instead there is real potential for Ubisoft to help tempt former Ontario residents back into the region.

“We are convinced that there is already some very strong talent in Toronto. We also know that there are a lot of Ontarians that have decided to fly away and to work across the globe but a lot of them are interested in coming back to work closer to ther friends and family. So that’s one aspect.

“Like everywhere, we are developing some recruiting tactics and strategies. One that is dedicated to the Toronto studio is the Employee No.1 campaign on Facebook and Twitter which consists of documenting the creation of the studio and to give an unprecedented access to this phase that is quite unknown to the people out there.”

Likewise, Ubisoft will be flexing its muscle in the education space as it expands the Toronto team – it has already forged great ties with educators in Quebec, and is eyeing similar opportunities in Ontario.

“The goal is to develop strong relationships with universities and colleges to ensure that the programs are well adapted to the needs of the industry. We have the practical experience, they have the skills to teach. It’s a good match.”