Speaking with the Canadian Financial Post’s Post Arcade column, Ubisoft Montreal boss Yannis Mallat says that the company is “thrilled” to welcome the now ex-THQ Montreal to the Ubisoft family, but that they are only just entering the “analysis phase” where they will look at everything from the team’s office space, to their in-development projects, and even speak to previous Ubisoft escapee Patrice Desilets.
“This is the very first time in my life that I have come to a studio that was just newly acquired, given a speech to everyone, and then have everyone applaud,” says Mallat in the quote that is grabbing headlines this morning. “It was a very sincere reaction.” Mallat goes on to say that “maybe it was due to the fact that we at Ubisoft are a very humane company” and that the company is “talking to the people in a very fair way and are very approachable”, but I think there’s gotta be something said for knowing your job and work is at least temporarily safe after a long month of public (and many months before of behind-the-scenes) turmoil.
South Park: The Stick of Truth, previously pegged for a March release, is now simply due in "2013".
What seems as-yet unclear is whether THQ Montreal will continue as their own entity within Ubisoft’s Canadian arm, or be absorbed by the already extensive Ubisoft Montreal. “Right now our goal is to keep the existing studio and to keep the possibility for people who are working here to stay in this studio,” says Mallat, but during the interview he also refers more to the members of the team than the studio themselves, noting that they are ”170 experienced and talented game makers who will join our creative forces at the Ubisoft family”. What is perhaps surprising is that Ubisoft seems keen to keep THQ Montreal working on their own projects for now, even if they later move on to more core brands for the French publishing giant: “the projects that are going on here at THQ [Montreal] are a perfect strategic fit with what we are doing,” says Mallat. “Of course you have to understand that this is very, very, very fresh. This is very early. But indeed, some of the staff were actually working on projects that are now property of other publishers. So of course they will not be working on those projects anymore, but we are welcoming those guys to work on our existing brands.”
Patrice Desilets has an awkward homecoming ahead of him, after leaving Ubisoft in 2010.
When asked about the status of 1666 (which after almost two years is still apparently only in pre-production) and other unannounced projects inside THQ Montreal, Mallat refused to comment: “It doesn’t make any difference if it’s part of the acquisition or not, as it’s the exact same thing with our own unannounced projects: we don’t talk about that.”
Of course, we’re talking about things as they stand barely days after the break-up of a massive publisher, with projects and teams being split up to many recipients, so much is still up in the air. If nothing else, it’s been a fascinating insight into the early stages of game development and the running of a major multinational corporation, not something we normally get to see. Says Mallat about the future of THQ Montreal: “What I can tell you right now is that we’re entering a phase where we’re going into a more thorough analysis of everything here and in the coming weeks we’ll make up a plan for continuing operations with this new studio.”