The Struggle To Release "Indie" Games Inside Ubisoft
Yoan Fanise has created games for the last 14 years at Ubisoft. Throughout the years he spent most of his time on the blockbuster series the company is famous for. Ubisoft's major game series are Assassin's Creed and Far Cry.
It's not often that a big player like Ubisoft will make a small 'indie' game, but Yoan was able to work on and help release one of the smallest, bravest games I've ever seen from a major publisher.
That game, Valiant Hearts, is not your typical war game as it is fiercely anti-war at the same time. It has this duality as it incorporates both heroic battles and tragedy and ultimate futility. Obviously, Valiant Hearts is a stark contrast to series like Assassin's Creed in terms of scale and funding. Assassin's Creed is made by hundreds of people worldwide, while Valiant Hearts was developed by a tiny team working with relatively few resources.
So how did Yoan and his colleagues successful launch such a small 'indie' project like Valiant Hearts?
"You can easily see how, business-wise, games like Valiant Hearts were nothing compared to the revenue earned from AAA franchises", says Fanise, Content Director on Valiant Hearts. "Add in the fact the the game's themes and its artistic approach weren't necessarily 'sexy' for marketing and financial types and you can understand why it's rare to see those kind of games reaching the public."
"For example, the First World War itself is not a theme with a very wide appeal. It's even less appealing in 2D, and even less again with no gun in your hands, so we had to constantly be knocking on doors to even exist alongside Ubisoft's blockbusters."
"Our luck was that Yves Guillemot, the CEO of Ubisoft himself, was emotionally touched by the story. He was a constant support for us."
"Don't get me wrong, it is not a general rule that there's opposition to smaller games within Ubisoft, and each studio has is own political approach to this. I think it's time for our industry to grew up and be less scary about original ideas, or trying new things. Every genre has a potential audience, and not everything has to always be about jumping or killing."
The project's obscurity was ultimately to the developer's benefit, though, as well as its ultimate goal of making an important statement.