It’s been a whirlwind two years building Ubisoft’s first studio in Vietnam. The company cut the ribbon on its Da Nang Studio in June 2020, just as the true gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic was emerging in Vietnam.
The mission back then, as detailed by Managing Director Aurelien Palasse when we last chatted with him, was to tap into the impressive IT talent that Vietnam has to offer – in a city that aims to become an innovation hub for startups and major international companies alike. It was an exciting opportunity to make games in Vietnam that would be played and enjoyed by players across the world.
As Ubisoft gears up to mark the anniversary of launching its Da Nang studio on the banks of the Han River – a VMMARK Award winner for Best Office Design in Vietnam with a near 100 strong, diverse team of local and international talents – Vietcetera sat down again with Aurelien Palasse to hear all about the company’s wins, trials, and future plans to keep bringing Ubisoft Worlds to an untapped audience.
2020 couldn’t have been an easy time to launch in Vietnam. What would you say were the biggest challenges in the last two years?
Our first challenge was not specific to us, COVID-19 and our studio launch happened at almost the same time, and we encountered pandemic-related challenges like most companies across the world. However, because we were a new studio focusing on creative projects, our need for industry experts was greater than what local outsourcing studios usually require.
Another big element for us was to address the short-term goal of getting the studio up and running while focusing on the long-term objective of building a strong team that creates great games. We wanted to show what Da Nang is capable of by hiring incredible talent, setting ambitious goals, and creating an assertive product roadmap. Throughout the building of the studio, we did not compromise on our high recruitment standards or fail to integrate our core values – Dare, Care, Win.
On the plus side, could you tell us about the achievements that you’re proudest of during this period?
The first thing that comes to mind is the creation of Ubisoft Nano. It’s an innovative catalog of instant party games, which allows new players to jump into our world directly from their web browser or across thousands of web game portals and telco operators.
Using Ubisoft's most beloved worlds, from Assassin’s Creed to Hungry Shark – in total twenty-three brands are featured on Ubisoft Nano. It is the first time all Ubisoft brands have been reunited. It’s such a huge achievement. Two years later, there are more than sixteen million users playing Ubisoft Nano games on new devices – this was made possible by H5 technology.
Alongside Ubisoft Nano, we built a new team called “Biz Ops'' for Business Opportunities, that supports the Ubisoft Mobile business team.
In two years, the team managed to lead mobile business opportunities, that brought Ubisoft titles to more players. Just to name a few, Assassin’s Creed Rebellion is now available on Amazon Kindle devices, Hungry Shark Evolution on several major Telco Operators, and more recently, Facebook audiences can discover Idle Miner Tycoon directly on the Cloud, powered by Facebook Cloud Gaming.
I am very proud of the incredible talents we gathered and the work they have achieved. Our teams are really showcasing the studio’s values and allowing Ubisoft to grow sustainably in Vietnam. Recently, our workspace won the VMARK Award for the Best Office in Vietnam, recognizing Ubisoft Da Nang as one of the best places to work in Vietnam.
When we spoke in 2020, you detailed what success would look like to you – namely, rolling out great products for the gaming world. How does the future now look for Ubisoft Da Nang?
First of all, our main goal is to keep the momentum of bringing Ubisoft worlds to new players. For Ubisoft Nano, this means using the versatile formats of our game collections to expand our reach. We recently partnered with Azerion to exclusively distribute Ubisoft Nano games over 1,000 websites. This strategic partnership allows us to forecast reaching over 50 million players in 2022!
We’re also working hand-in-hand with Thales, a leading aerospace, and In-Flight Entertainment company, through a new global strategic partnership to define the future of In-Flight gaming for airline passengers.
From the Business Operation side, we were mainly focused on bringing mobile titles to new stores, but today we’re extending our services to our PC catalog by working closely with the Ubisoft Connect team. There’s an exciting challenge in this as it entails shifting our studio’s design focus from mobile-only to hybrid (mobile & HD). We’ve made a great start, and we’re already working on some premium projects, which will really boost the growth of our Direct-To-Player strategy.
When Ubisoft Da Nang opened, you mentioned your desire to have a social impact by developing the gaming sector as a whole in Da Nang. How is that going?
We’ve made some great progress on this front despite the challenges of the last two years, but we strive to be more active regarding our local community's impact. We want to promote gaming as a creative and technological medium of the future, to show that it can be a fantastic career path, rather than a passion project, and empower people to enter the field.
To achieve this, we’re working on a number of initiatives with universities, startups, and local NGOs. We’re frequently at university job fairs and organizing workshops to show not just what Ubisoft Da Nang has to offer but to demonstrate that the video game industry can give wonderful career opportunities. We’ve also been working with the Ubisoft Entrepreneur Lab – an international initiative that looks for promising startups every year to support and spotlight. This year focused on Web3 startups, and Vietnam arrived second in terms of the volume of applications.
We have partnered with Da Nang-based NGO Passerelle Numerique Vietnam (PNV) – an initiative that offers to work alongside PNV, we’re aiming to support young Vietnamese talents who want to pursue careers in the video game industry, but would not otherwise have the chance to.
Finally, your studio space and the team have received a lot of high praise. Tell us about life at Ubisoft Da Nang.
It’s an incredible place to work. Living in Da Nang gives you access to so much! From the beach to the mountains, clean air, no traffic, and proximity to every big city in South- East Asia.
As I already mentioned we are considered one of the best workplaces in Vietnam. Our studio has so much potential and possibilities and the future of Ubisoft Da Nang is being shaped by our talented teams. We are a very ambitious studio and are always looking for new talents to help us bring Ubisoft worlds to new audiences, check out opportunities at danang.ubisoft.com