The global gaming market has been dominated by the Asia Pacific region for years. Though Vietnam’s share of the $72.2 billion generated by the Asian game market in 2019 is modest, the country’s young and digitally-savvy population is as hooked on puzzles, arcade and bingo-like games played on smartphones as their peers in China and Japan.
While providing a much-needed diversion to the masses, gaming is also one of the entertainment industry’s leading employers offering career opportunities to IT graduates and creatives of all stripes. Last month, France’s Ubisoft cut the ribbon on a new location in Danang – a recent addition to its global network of development studios. The gaming giant’s arrival marks a turning point in the coastal city’s ambitious plan to become Vietnam’s IT hub.
We asked Aurélien Palasse, Ubisoft Managing Director in Vietnam, what it takes to build a game development studio from scratch and why Ubisoft Danang should be on every fresh IT graduate’s wish list.
Why did Ubisoft choose Danang and not, say, Saigon as its Vietnam base? When did the studio officially open?
We visited several places in Vietnam including Hanoi and Saigon last summer. Both are offering a larger pool of developers, but we’ve decided to establish our first game studio in Danang because the city appears to be the right fit for our editorial strategy.
Our focus is on creating new mobile games for a global audience and we wanted to build an office on a human scale where a team of about 100 developers and creatives could meet, share and collaborate productively. We found the right conditions in Danang, not to mention the fantastic lifestyle and life-work balance the city offers.
Its central location, halfway between Hanoi and Saigon, gives us access to a big pool of talent to draw from, and the city is easily accessible from all the major regional hubs thanks to its international airport.
The region is also home to some of the country’s top universities, including the University of Danang, and the local government is committed to making IT one of the main pillars of the city’s economy. We are honored to be part of the local community and to be contributing to the government’s development efforts.
Ubisoft Danang welcomed its first employees on 13 April 2020. On June 8th, at the official opening ceremony, the team celebrated alongside government officials from France and Vietnam (including the French Consul in Ho Chi Minh City Vincent Floreani and Huynh Lien Phuong with Danang Investment Agency), directors of leading universities, business partners and journalists.
Your team in Danang is quite multinational. What are some of the pros and cons of fusing varying cultures and management styles?
The overwhelming majority of our talent are Vietnamese but we indeed have eight different nationalities working together at our Danang studio. Communication barriers do exist of course, but at Ubisoft we see diversity and cultural blending as a creative advantage. At our global studios we are used to collaborating internationally to create games that will resonate with players of all cultures. This is an essential component of the company’s DNA.
Many multinationals cite recruitment as their biggest challenge when setting up shop in Vietnam. How does Vietnam, and Danang specifically, compare in terms of talent to Shanghai, where you spent 10 years with Ubisoft?
We have been open for only three months, so it’s a bit early for us to draw conclusions. Let’s keep this question for next year!
What makes the culture at Ubisoft's Vietnam studio an interesting place for a new employee considering to work with your team?
Our newly built office, situated in the heart of the city in Tran Phu street, is a bright space on the banks of the Han River, just a short distance from the beautiful My Khe beach, with a terrace overlooking the city and the ocean that offers a place to relax and take in the view.
We’ve created a studio on a human scale which allows our flat organization to execute the vision while encouraging the exchange of ideas. To that end, we designed an amphitheater with enough room to accommodate the entire team. It’s where we hold the weekly studio-sharing time. The office also has areas for the team to relax, play, eat, chill and socialize. We wanted our collaborative culture to shine through in design and I think we succeeded: it truly is a world-class office on par with other Ubisoft studios worldwide.
And of course, there are great projects to work on. We are offering an opportunity to take part in creating the unknown, to work on new mobile games based on Ubisoft Franchises that will be published globally!
What does success look like for the Ubisoft Danang studio?
Our short-term goal is to release ‘made in Vietnam’ games that will be played and enjoyed by players across the world. The long-term one is to become a strong player in the development of the gaming sector in Danang, working with both local universities and the authorities.
Any words of wisdom for an aspiring game developer in Vietnam? What are some of the biggest pitfalls to watch out for?
Our core values at Ubisoft Danang are Care-Dare-Win. I truly believe this is the formula to succeed in this industry. Care about your product, your work, your team. Dare to have crazy ideas, to be creative, to share your thoughts and to outperform yourself. Only then will a chance to win arise.
On the other hand, I think that some of the biggest pitfalls in this industry are isolation and the temptation of plagiarism. Never stop being creative, as this skill needs constant sharpening. Always stay informed, talk to other gamers, look at what others are doing right, and most importantly – play! At the end of the day, the best way to understand players is to be one. Also, don’t forget to protect your work, as plagiarism works both ways.
From the game creation’s point of view, it is highly important to adapt the product strategy based on the production capacity. Be humble, do not go for games you do not have the resources to focus on.
Make your strategic decisions based on data. Refine wisely. If it means canceling a project, don’t see it as a failure, but as part of the process. Reiterate, build your expertise and advance progressively.
Learn more about Ubisoft at www.ubisoft.com