As a 22-year Ubisoft veteran, Stéphanie Perotti has been with the company through four console generations, including the leap to high-definition graphics and the proliferation of online gaming. As the VP of Online Services, she oversees all Ubisoft online services, as well as the production of Ubisoft's family titles. She's also played a pivotal role in Ubisoft's ongoing partnership with Google, which has resulted in the Project Stream collaboration between Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Google, as well as Ubisoft's ongoing involvement with Google Stadia.
Recently, we spoke with Perotti about Ubisoft's role in the future of videogame streaming, why cloud computing is helping developers push past old limitations, and why all players will be able to benefit from cloud gaming.
What was Ubisoft's impression of Project Stream, and why did the company feel it was important to be a part of that test?
Stéphanie Perotti: It was a great experience for us as a company. We always like to take on new challenges, and with a partner like Google, it was a great opportunity for us to see what was required for us to embrace streaming, and to see what kind of performance we could achieve with a game that was just released on other platforms, to see if we could bring it to all devices. It was a great collaboration. We learned a lot, and I think as Ubisoft, what we really want to do is learn and understand what the key requirements are for a streaming future.
Was there anything surprising or challenging that Ubisoft learned coming out of the partnership?
SP: I think what I would consider a surprise was the reception of the community and quality of the experience. One of the key aspects is making sure that players, and internal teams, believe that it can work. In the past, there have been many attempts to bring our games to a streaming environment, and obviously there are huge technical challenges. But the first step was to make sure that Google was building something to address those challenges, and I think they did a good job explaining that during their Stadia conference. We've seen the experience getting better with lower latency, high-quality graphics, and some players enjoying the game the way they would enjoy it on any other device.
Why does Ubisoft like to be at the forefront of challenging new technologies?
SP: At the core, we are always looking for technical innovation that will allow us to make better games. When we see a partner that is bringing an innovation, as Google is doing with Stadia, we're looking at it as, ‘How can this new partnership help us make better games?'
Does Ubisoft have a sense of how streaming will change the way we develop games?
SP: When it comes to cloud gaming, there are two parts to it. There's the streaming aspect, which allows you to access your content anywhere, and there's the cloud computing part that enables our developers to access unlimited machine power in the cloud to make better experiences. So, the streaming part is not necessarily the biggest challenge for us. Our games have been streamed on many platforms over the years. In addition to partnering with Google, we partnered with Nintendo to bring Assassin's Creed Odyssey to the Nintendo Switch via streaming in Japan.
Down the line, there will be interesting challenges we will have to face. How do you play a console or a PC game on mobile? How do our games adapt to the device you're playing on? There are a lot of design and UX challenges that we'll have to solve.
Do you think cloud development and streaming are intertwined?
SP: I think they're coming to a meeting point now where we have an interest in bringing better tools to our development teams to leverage better production of our games. At the same time, we're also examining the way we're creating our games today. We need our engines and production pipelines to adapt to a new way of developing with cloud computing.
Is streaming good for the industry?
SP: It's good for two main reasons. Streaming allows us to reach more players, and reach them wherever they are, anytime they want. We believe it'll bring value to our existing customers as well. For example, I'm playing The Division 2 right now, but I'm in San Francisco for GDC all week; I wish I could still play it while I'm on the go. Having accessibility across multiple devices is going to allow us to learn more and create better user experiences that players can even be a part of, and we might create things that don't even exist yet. That's what I'm really excited about.
Do you think that lowering the barrier of entry for videogames will change the way Ubisoft introduces people to games?
SP: Absolutely. I think onboarding new players and the player experience in general will need to adapt. We need to adapt to every type of player. We had a discussion of that exact point. How do we welcome these new players? How do we manage their expectations? How do we encourage them to play in their own way?
How does that complicate things, in terms of how Ubisoft supports other platforms?
SP: We'll always want to be wherever our players are. I don't think we're in a situation where we're going to go to be entirely streaming platforms and forget about the traditional consoles. I think we want to continue to allow choice for our players. It creates additional challenges for us. How do we create these experiences across a wide variety of platforms? But it's something we've always done in the past. It makes us think differently about our engines and tools. The intention is to go into more mircoservices, so we can develop our games more efficiently.
What do you think the videogame industry will look like in five years?
SP: I think the accessibility of being able to always have your game with you, and additional services of value we can create within the game experience, will fuel our vision of games as a platform. Making sure that games are deep, huge experiences where players can spend a lot of valuable time. I think in five years, we'll all be creating better games with better graphics, better AI, and most importantly, better experiences. I think the community will be much more involved; they'll be active participants in the development of our games.
For more with Stéphanie Perotti, check out our previous Women of Ubisoft interview.