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Interview
Jean de Rivières

Game on: the man heading up Ubisoft’s new theme park division reveals why the videogame developer is moving into the attractions sector and his hopes for designing the park of the future

By Tom Anstey | Published in Attractions Management 2015 issue 4

Ubisoft, the world’s third-largest independent videogame publisher – known for popular titles such as Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry and Splinter Cell – is planning to make its mark on the attractions industry with its own “next-gen” indoor theme park.

Ubisoft is partnering with developer, designer and operator R-Segari Group (RSG) on the 15,000sqm (161,500sq ft) theme park, which will be in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and feature cutting-edge Ubisoft-themed rides, attractions and shows.

“It’s still early days for the theme park plan,” says Jean de Rivières, who is senior vice president at Ubisoft Motion Pictures, which manages the company’s non-videogame ventures. As part of that, De Rivières is now heading up the company’s new theme park division.

“I have always been close to theme parks, but never in an executive or operator role,” says De Rivières, who spent 15 years in charge of Disney’s theatrical division. He’s been involved in the RSG-Ubisoft theme park project for the past three years.

VIDEO-GAMIFICATION
According to De Rivières the indoor attraction will be like nothing that’s ever been seen before, fully incorporating gamification into a theme park experience.

“We want to create a specific journey, a personalised journey. The idea is to make guests the heroes of their own life-sized game,” he says. “The intention is to immerse people in worlds where they can interact with each other.

“We are trying to apply what we’ve learned over the past 30 years at Ubisoft, which is to engage people, immerse them in our universe and bring them back. That’s the definition of a video game. If our gamers want to return to play Assassin’s Creed, for example, we win. The more time they spend with us, the more it means they love the brand and the happier we are because it means they will keep coming back to us.

“There are rules for creating a good video game – scientific and behavioural rules that we are looking at in detail in order to apply them to the theme park.”

BRAND STRENGTH
De Rivières says the idea for a Ubisoft immersive attraction “has always been there”. Finding the right time to do it was really a question of having enough brands and enough equity within those brands, as well as the will and determination to realise such a project.

“You need the strength of your brands,” he says. “You need the will to succeed – which we absolutely have. And, most importantly, you need to make sure you find the right partners to work with on these developments. The first two factors are up to us and we’re ready now. We’ve been looking for the right partners since the Asian Attractions Expo in China, two years ago. Discussions there helped us understand whether or not we were going in the right direction. It was about a year ago was when it became clear to us that Ubisoft as a brand has the strength to do a park based on its own IPs as opposed to rides at other visitor attractions, as we have done with projects such as the Raving Rabbids Time Machine 5D ride at Futuroscope in France.”

RIGHT PARTNERS
Next for Ubisoft is finding the right partners to develop more visitor attractions and to get the message Ubisoft is trying to portray across to the public, keeping the high standard it has set for its games and conveying that in a theme park.

“We count on our partners,” says De Rivières. “We need people who are very excited about our park, the park of the future, and the challenge is to do it well. It’s the same challenge we’re facing right now as we produce Assassin’s Creed, the motion picture – to bring the core value of our brand to a new medium while respecting the way these mediums work.”

For a film, you need a story, a hero and an immersive setting and it needs to be done in a way that respects and is consistent with the brand, which De Rivières says is the same process for the park, taking the essence of a Ubisoft IP and translating it into an attraction.

“A lot of times you put a name on a ride, but the ride doesn’t keep the essence of the IP it has been labelled with. We really don’t want to do that. This is the heart of our business, to keep the brands completely exciting and completely consistent,” De Rivières says.

To launch a multi-million-dollar venture such as this, the team at Ubisoft Motion Pictures had to weigh the risks against the potential rewards.

“The risks are big,” De Rivières says. “But we have our internal division developing the concept and in order to make sure we’re completely close to what’s being developed in the games, we talk daily with the game developers to make sure that the consistency is perfect. The idea is to continue the story in a new medium. It’s to keep the story going and you will find things in the game that echo in the theme park and vice versa.”

FIRST STEP
Ubisoft’s first park is coming to Kuala Lumpur in 2020 and De Rivières says the rapid expansion of the attractions industry in Asia was behind the company’s decision to make its theme park debut in Malaysia.

“The Asian market is growing and interest for the approach we’re taking was strongest in Asia,” he says. “In the Kuala Lumpur market we found a few great things which we think will be key to the park’s success. The first was spirit. The people we are working with are completely in tune with what we have in mind. They fell in love with the concept and our brand and they believe it’s a completely next-gen approach that fits with the character of Kuala Lumpur.”

Second was the location in the centre of Kuala Lumpur. The details are still under wraps, but De Rivières describes it as “the perfect urban destination.” And third was the fact that Malaysia has a stable business environment and is one of the top travel destinations in Southeast Asia.

“It’s also the right size,” he says. “It’s not like the big outdoor parks where you need massive investment in terms of land. We’ve got everything we’d want in a location and we’re very happy with that.”

GLOBAL VENTURE
Ubisoft’s ambitions for the attractions industry don’t stop in Kuala Lumpur though, with plans to eventually take the concept worldwide. With the initial theme park plan now in place, De Rivières and his team are looking at ways to expand this new venture for Ubisoft.

“The big picture is for worldwide expansion, but in a natural way,” says De Rivières. “If we don’t find the right partners then we won’t do it.”

So as it develops the Kuala Lumpur theme park concept, Ubisoft says it’s also keen to find new partners and opportunities in other regions of the world.

”We really want to become a strong player in this industry and we think we have everything to achieve that,” De Rivières says. “We have the brands, we have the concept of the Ubisoft theme park and the strategy, confidence and trust of the company to go in the direction we want. We also have a strong alternative vision to what’s been done previously. It’s fresh and different and the audience will love it.”


WINNING RELATIONSHIPS
Ubisoft isn’t the only videogame company delving into the theme park market. Nintendo kicked things off in a big way in May, announcing a partnership with Universal that will bring the brand’s popular IPs, such as Mario and Zelda, to Universal parks. Electronic Arts is also looking to get in on the action, unveiling a pair of theme park collaborations based around Mass Effect and Plants vs Zombies. Six Flags has recently seen the appeal of video games too, temporarily incorporating Street Fighter V and Monster Hunter into its parks.
Good translation: Ubisoft’s Raving Rabbids IP has already been adapted for the theme park market Credit: PHOTO: JL AUDY / FUTUROSCOPE
Good translation: Ubisoft’s Raving Rabbids IP has already been adapted for the theme park market Credit: PHOTO: JL AUDY / FUTUROSCOPE
Assassin’s Creed: Unity is a popular release from Ubisoft Credit: PHOTO: 20TH CENTURY FOX
Michael Fassbender is playing Aguilar in the film Assassin’s Creed, which comes out in 2016 simus. Credit: PHOTO: 20TH CENTURY FOX
Futuroscope boosted attendance by adding a Raving Rabbids 5D attraction in 2014.
R-Segari Group chairman Ramelle Ramli and Ubisoft’s Jean de Rivières Credit: PHOTO: JEFFREY ONG KIM HOOI
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Interview
Jean de Rivières

Game on: the man heading up Ubisoft’s new theme park division reveals why the videogame developer is moving into the attractions sector and his hopes for designing the park of the future

By Tom Anstey | Published in Attractions Management 2015 issue 4

Ubisoft, the world’s third-largest independent videogame publisher – known for popular titles such as Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry and Splinter Cell – is planning to make its mark on the attractions industry with its own “next-gen” indoor theme park.

Ubisoft is partnering with developer, designer and operator R-Segari Group (RSG) on the 15,000sqm (161,500sq ft) theme park, which will be in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and feature cutting-edge Ubisoft-themed rides, attractions and shows.

“It’s still early days for the theme park plan,” says Jean de Rivières, who is senior vice president at Ubisoft Motion Pictures, which manages the company’s non-videogame ventures. As part of that, De Rivières is now heading up the company’s new theme park division.

“I have always been close to theme parks, but never in an executive or operator role,” says De Rivières, who spent 15 years in charge of Disney’s theatrical division. He’s been involved in the RSG-Ubisoft theme park project for the past three years.

VIDEO-GAMIFICATION
According to De Rivières the indoor attraction will be like nothing that’s ever been seen before, fully incorporating gamification into a theme park experience.

“We want to create a specific journey, a personalised journey. The idea is to make guests the heroes of their own life-sized game,” he says. “The intention is to immerse people in worlds where they can interact with each other.

“We are trying to apply what we’ve learned over the past 30 years at Ubisoft, which is to engage people, immerse them in our universe and bring them back. That’s the definition of a video game. If our gamers want to return to play Assassin’s Creed, for example, we win. The more time they spend with us, the more it means they love the brand and the happier we are because it means they will keep coming back to us.

“There are rules for creating a good video game – scientific and behavioural rules that we are looking at in detail in order to apply them to the theme park.”

BRAND STRENGTH
De Rivières says the idea for a Ubisoft immersive attraction “has always been there”. Finding the right time to do it was really a question of having enough brands and enough equity within those brands, as well as the will and determination to realise such a project.

“You need the strength of your brands,” he says. “You need the will to succeed – which we absolutely have. And, most importantly, you need to make sure you find the right partners to work with on these developments. The first two factors are up to us and we’re ready now. We’ve been looking for the right partners since the Asian Attractions Expo in China, two years ago. Discussions there helped us understand whether or not we were going in the right direction. It was about a year ago was when it became clear to us that Ubisoft as a brand has the strength to do a park based on its own IPs as opposed to rides at other visitor attractions, as we have done with projects such as the Raving Rabbids Time Machine 5D ride at Futuroscope in France.”

RIGHT PARTNERS
Next for Ubisoft is finding the right partners to develop more visitor attractions and to get the message Ubisoft is trying to portray across to the public, keeping the high standard it has set for its games and conveying that in a theme park.

“We count on our partners,” says De Rivières. “We need people who are very excited about our park, the park of the future, and the challenge is to do it well. It’s the same challenge we’re facing right now as we produce Assassin’s Creed, the motion picture – to bring the core value of our brand to a new medium while respecting the way these mediums work.”

For a film, you need a story, a hero and an immersive setting and it needs to be done in a way that respects and is consistent with the brand, which De Rivières says is the same process for the park, taking the essence of a Ubisoft IP and translating it into an attraction.

“A lot of times you put a name on a ride, but the ride doesn’t keep the essence of the IP it has been labelled with. We really don’t want to do that. This is the heart of our business, to keep the brands completely exciting and completely consistent,” De Rivières says.

To launch a multi-million-dollar venture such as this, the team at Ubisoft Motion Pictures had to weigh the risks against the potential rewards.

“The risks are big,” De Rivières says. “But we have our internal division developing the concept and in order to make sure we’re completely close to what’s being developed in the games, we talk daily with the game developers to make sure that the consistency is perfect. The idea is to continue the story in a new medium. It’s to keep the story going and you will find things in the game that echo in the theme park and vice versa.”

FIRST STEP
Ubisoft’s first park is coming to Kuala Lumpur in 2020 and De Rivières says the rapid expansion of the attractions industry in Asia was behind the company’s decision to make its theme park debut in Malaysia.

“The Asian market is growing and interest for the approach we’re taking was strongest in Asia,” he says. “In the Kuala Lumpur market we found a few great things which we think will be key to the park’s success. The first was spirit. The people we are working with are completely in tune with what we have in mind. They fell in love with the concept and our brand and they believe it’s a completely next-gen approach that fits with the character of Kuala Lumpur.”

Second was the location in the centre of Kuala Lumpur. The details are still under wraps, but De Rivières describes it as “the perfect urban destination.” And third was the fact that Malaysia has a stable business environment and is one of the top travel destinations in Southeast Asia.

“It’s also the right size,” he says. “It’s not like the big outdoor parks where you need massive investment in terms of land. We’ve got everything we’d want in a location and we’re very happy with that.”

GLOBAL VENTURE
Ubisoft’s ambitions for the attractions industry don’t stop in Kuala Lumpur though, with plans to eventually take the concept worldwide. With the initial theme park plan now in place, De Rivières and his team are looking at ways to expand this new venture for Ubisoft.

“The big picture is for worldwide expansion, but in a natural way,” says De Rivières. “If we don’t find the right partners then we won’t do it.”

So as it develops the Kuala Lumpur theme park concept, Ubisoft says it’s also keen to find new partners and opportunities in other regions of the world.

”We really want to become a strong player in this industry and we think we have everything to achieve that,” De Rivières says. “We have the brands, we have the concept of the Ubisoft theme park and the strategy, confidence and trust of the company to go in the direction we want. We also have a strong alternative vision to what’s been done previously. It’s fresh and different and the audience will love it.”


WINNING RELATIONSHIPS
Ubisoft isn’t the only videogame company delving into the theme park market. Nintendo kicked things off in a big way in May, announcing a partnership with Universal that will bring the brand’s popular IPs, such as Mario and Zelda, to Universal parks. Electronic Arts is also looking to get in on the action, unveiling a pair of theme park collaborations based around Mass Effect and Plants vs Zombies. Six Flags has recently seen the appeal of video games too, temporarily incorporating Street Fighter V and Monster Hunter into its parks.
Good translation: Ubisoft’s Raving Rabbids IP has already been adapted for the theme park market Credit: PHOTO: JL AUDY / FUTUROSCOPE
Good translation: Ubisoft’s Raving Rabbids IP has already been adapted for the theme park market Credit: PHOTO: JL AUDY / FUTUROSCOPE
Assassin’s Creed: Unity is a popular release from Ubisoft Credit: PHOTO: 20TH CENTURY FOX
Michael Fassbender is playing Aguilar in the film Assassin’s Creed, which comes out in 2016 simus. Credit: PHOTO: 20TH CENTURY FOX
Futuroscope boosted attendance by adding a Raving Rabbids 5D attraction in 2014.
R-Segari Group chairman Ramelle Ramli and Ubisoft’s Jean de Rivières Credit: PHOTO: JEFFREY ONG KIM HOOI
 


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ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
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