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Ubisoft, Ghost Recon Online and gamers' "day parts"

Published 2 years ago by Prima Games

Once upon a time gaming required a single disc, or cartridge, or, going back further, a cassette tape, and a gamer.

Now, the biggest game companies in the world are dreaming up ways for you to play their biggest franchises wherever you are, on whatever device you might have to hand. These disparate experiences, on a mobile, on a PC, on a home console, are different, but they connect to each other, fuelling each other and the progress you make in one, all encompassing, resource gathering profile.

One of the companies at the forefront of this sea change in the way we play games is Ubisoft, which, with the upcoming release of Ghost Recon Online on the PC (and, later this year, on Wii U), hopes to tap into the modern way we play on a much deeper level.

To coincide with the launch of the free to play shooter, Ubisoft will release a companion experience, as it calls it, called Ghost Recon Commander, on Facebook and mobile. This game connects and contributes to the core Ghost Recon Online experience.

This, Ubisoft's digital boss Chris Early tells Eurogamer, is the latest fruit of the French company's analysis of core gamer "day parts" - that is, how and when they game throughout the day.

Ubisoft's "experiement", as Early puts it, with this was Assassin's Creed Brotherhood companion Facebook game Project Legacy, which let players unlock items in the console game.

"The Project Legacy is an example of how you can, only at lunch, but whatever, play a Facebook game that's going to give you some benefits to your gameplay in the evening," Early explains.

Face it, at lunch I'm not going to sit down in front of my console at that big screen TV, nor am I necessarily going to want to sit on my phone at night.

"Face it, at lunch I'm not going to sit down in front of my console at that big screen TV, nor am I necessarily going to want to sit on my phone at night. It's about creating compelling experiences for the platform."

More and more publishers are investing in providing an experience across multiple platforms so gamers can stay engaged in universes and brands throughout the day, and the emphasis is on social.

One high profile recent example was EA's Mass Effect 3-related app Mass Effect Data Pad. Not only did this contain codex entries and a feed of the BioWare Twitter page, but it allowed you to gather resources by deploying ships to conflict zones across the galaxy. These resources would then contribute to your Galactic Readiness in the main game. But it was a two-way street: characters in the main game would send you text messages, commenting on the story and the decisions you made as Commander Shepard on console or PC.

This was a single-player experience. For Ubisoft, the future of gaming is having all your friends involved in your game, working together, whether they're core gamers or not, to fuel your progress.

This is what Early hopes Ghost Recon Commander will achieve. "One of the concepts we're looking at with Ghost Recon Online and Ghost Recon Commander is, how do we change that companion gaming emphasis to not just be about you and your different day parts, but how do we let multiple people contribute to the same gameplay experience?" he says.

"How do I let multiple people play Ghost Recon Commander and be part of my support team for Ghost Recon Online, where my play in Ghost Recon Online now actually benefits their Facebook play and their Facebook play benefits me?

How do we create a play environment that lets many play with a few and still have a meaningful relationship?

"The Facebook game reach is a broader, larger number of people than a core game reach. So with that ratio in mind, how do we create a play environment that lets many play with a few and still have a meaningful relationship?"

This is just the beginning: expect all Ubisoft's big franchises to employ a similar strategy to the one used for Ghost Recon. That means a Facebook and mobile experience for Assassin's Creed 3, due out later this year, and Splinter Cell 6, whenever that's released, although Early isn't saying how they will work yet.

Core gamers may baulk at the idea of playing a Facebook game, but according to Ubisoft's research, you're perfectly happy playing on the gargantuan social platform if it benefits your core game.

"I've heard the same thing. There are no gamers on Facebook. Gamers don't really play on Facebook. Maybe they'll use it to talk to their friends but that's it," Early says, before highlighting the success he saw with Assassin's Creed Project Legacy.

"It was a very good companion gaming strategy where you saw benefits flowing in both directions. The experiment side was, we only promoted it through Brotherhood. So the question was, would we get gamers who were either on Facebook or to adopt Facebook, to go play there? The answer was a resounding yes.

"We had a strong number of players, into the seven digits of people who connected their games together through uPlay so they could receive the benefits back and forth. That was all the answer they needed. Gamers, given the right content, would play on Facebook."

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