CANADA SPECIAL: Ubisoft Vancouver

CANADA SPECIAL: Ubisoft Vancouver
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

November 25th 2009 at 7:30AM

Today's profile takes Develop to Yaletown to visit the Academy of Champions team

Number of staff: 115
Year founded:
2006
Location: Yaletown, Vancouver, British Columbia
Current project: Academy of Champions: Soccer
www.ubi.com

Like Ubisoft Toronto, the publisher’s Vancouver studio is a relatively new team which joined this year – but was added to the French firm’s family through acquisition rather expansion.

Established as Action Pants in 2006, Ubisoft signalled its interest in the studio early on, signing the team’s first publishing deal. The firm was attracted by the mandate to build innovative IP from a proprietary game engine on a boutique-style studio format.

Three years later and Ubisoft stepped up to fully acquire the studio in February this year – at the same time, the studio announced its debut title, Academy of Champions: Soccer, which launches this month.

“Ubisoft’s presence in Canada represents the type of growth that can be expected in such a young industry and highlights the quality of talent that is based in Canada – capable of supporting four studios,” explains MD Bertrand Helias.
“Being part of what is known as the West coast creative corridor, Vancouver enjoyed double-digit growth in this industry, earlier in the decade, well above the global rate of growth – only now, as other jurisdictions have added growth incentives to attract business, creating a competitive-disadvantage in BC, have we seen the growth here stop and start to climb significantly in Eastern Canada.”
That doesn’t mean slow down for the Canadian games industry overall, Helias adds.

“Canada has always been well-positioned to drive digital innovation – Canadians are considered the Type As of North America.  Given that 80 per cent of Canadians live in an urban centre, access to all things digital has made Canadians very tech-savvy and many new technological advances are tested in Canada first such as interac bank machines, eBay and so on.  This adaptable, early adopter attitude creates an environment where innovation is demanded and this in turn, draws out endless creativity and initiative.  In the world of easily-jaded gamers, Ubisoft has recognised the insatiable appetite Canadians have for the next amazing innovation so it is no surprise that Ubisoft is tapping into Canadian talent.”

Ubisoft Vancouver’s team pride themselves on the motto ‘It’s About the People You Work With’ – so in-house training is as widely available as the raft of extra-curricular activities and out-of-hours clubs that are open for non-games interests, including an external art space that allows team members to explore their diverse artistic skills and once a year can participate in a city-wide Art Crawl to interact with the general public.

“As a team, we know it is easier to learn in an environment of trust and support while the fun factor adds to the team spirit which resonates in the product being created,” says Bertrand Helias.

All of this excitement and energy has fed back into debut game Academy of Champions, he says.

“It is a sports title created exclusively for the Wii and supports Nintendo’s latest peripheral, Wii Motion Plus but it is the attention to detail within the gameplay and environments – as well as the pleasure of watching the media and the world’s best-known soccer legend, Pele, thoroughly enjoy playing the game – that really makes all the efforts put into an innovative new game, well worth it.”