Business

French Ubisoft drops anchor in Latin America

Investments in culture and local content made Latam one of the most important markets for the game developer

It has been some time now since the gaming industry has been considered as one of the biggest in entertainment worldwide. With a gradually expanding penetration due to smartphones and other devices that allow gaming on the go and access to social networks, gaming has become something common in the life of many people, regardless of age. Success in this industry, however, largely depends on an understanding of the culture and behavior of the gamers in different countries. One of the companies that managed to implement this understanding, besides having accompanied the various stages of development in the continent, has been the French developer Ubisoft.

Globally known as the creator of games such as Assassin’s Creed, Rainbow Six, and Just Dance, the game developer has numerous branches spread throughout the globe with different responsibilities. Today, the Brazilian branch represents one of the biggest yields of the company and has a promising future ahead, according to Bertrand Chaverot, director of the company. The investment here, according to him, has to be planned carefully.

Bertrand Chaverot, director of the Ubisoft
Bertrand Chaverot, director of the Ubisoft

“Although we have been here for some time now, I think this is still the beginning of something with much potential. Investments in local culture, in the localization of games, of the content and events is super important – and that is what made us evolve so much since we arrived here only to distribute games,” says the executive in an exclusive interview with LABS.

The beginning of an evolution in regional content

The period of game distribution to which Bertrand refers to is at the beginning of the 1990s, when the French collaborated with Gradiente to slowly enter the Brazilian market. “At that time, we saw many problems concerning taxes and the value that accrued for the user, which was very high […] There is still much to improve, yet the public here is passionate about games and benefits from that industry, buys and plays a lot,” he says.

In fact, the sector achieved US$ 1.5 billion in Brazil alone – which made the country position itself as the leader in the Latin American market and as 13th globally, according to the 19th Global Entertainment and Media Outlook by PricewaterhousCoopers (PwC).

Within that framework, Ubisoft represents a significant player, since it is one of the most important companies in the sector for some time now. Even though it began its operations in partnerships during the early 1990s, it was only at the end of that decade that the company arrived in the country with a physical branch and local professionals. 2019 marks 20 years since the arrival of Bertrand and his team in Brazil, which in those first years was mostly focused on marketing its brand – back then their big products were based on Rayman and other smaller games, which gave way to Prince of Persia, Splinter Cell, Assassin’s Creed, and other big franchises.

It is very important to work in localization, and I believe that much of our success here is due to that.

Bertrand Chaverot, director of the Ubisoft

“It’s no use to only invest money in the country without understanding your public there or without adapting the content, which is exactly what we do here with our events, Youtube channel, and other initiatives,” says Chaverot, who also remembers of the dubbing and translation of games, something that Ubisoft lead in the country and which gave a lot of visibility to their brand in the market – that was a step that led to the opening of the studio here in Brazil, which closed their operations in 2010, after developing projects for gaming platforms such as the Nintendo DS.

The evolution of that localization is tied to the company’s investment in the content channels linked to businesses in Latin America. Today, Ubisoft has a channel on YouTube with more than one million followers, a fixed set of programs, social networks with millions of users and multimedia coverage of global events such as E3, GameXP, and Brazil Game Show. “We look for more partnerships and a global reach, so as to expand the market to its potential size. Nowadays we have the structure of the Internet and the technology to accomplish this,” says Bertrand.

Events and eSports

When he refers to a region with this much potential, Chaverot uses expressive numbers as a means to persuade, mainly those numbers that are linked to Ubisoft’s current large project: Rainbow Six: Siege. A first person shooter that has Brazil as its biggest audience worldwide with tournaments broadcast online. “We are among the biggest in terms of the number of players and we have the biggest audience. Rainbow Six and eSports in general are nowadays responsible for almost a third of our investment in Brazil,” explains the director.

Beyond the R6, as the game is known in the community, Ubisoft has in Brazil its biggest community in Just Dance, a dance game that is celebrating its 10 year anniversary in 2019 and has a Brazilian two-time champion, Dhiego San, and a strong competitive scene in the country, with players always reaching the finals in the global stages of championships.

The strong presence of the company in the eSports local market yields its fruit not only in the community, with the content created by the Ubisoft platforms in Brazil, but also within their own games.

Rainbow Six has a map and characters that are Brazilian for the past three years, and Just Dance includes Latino artists, such as Anitta, Maluma, Ivete Sangalo, MC Fioti, J Balvin, among others. In 2019, the French developers announced the presence of Lexa, a Brazilian singer that would include the song “Only after Carnaval” (“Só Depois do Carnaval“) in the playlists of the game the world over, sharing spaces with names like Cardi B and Ariana Grande.

For Bertrand, this is just one more example of how the investment in the region brings returns and how the world already understands the value of Latin America as a place for business. “There is a potential here to transform it into one of the three largest markets in the world of gaming.”