MediaFile

Exclusive: After leaving Ubisoft, Patrice Désilets is back in the game at THQ

MONTREAL–Game designer Patrice Désilets stunned the video game world with his high-profile departure from Ubisoft in 2010. Désilets’s contract prohibited him from working for the past year but now the creative director behind “Prince of Persia: Sands of Time” and “Assassin’s Creed”  franchise is back in the game, having joined THQ’s new development studio in Montreal. In his first interview in the new digs in Montreal, Désilets opens up about the new job, the time off and what it’s like to be an underdog again in the gaming world.

Reuters: You’ve been at THQ for about a month, how do you find it?

Désilets: I’m not used to it (laughs). You can see in the industry that a lot of people change jobs often and then there’s me. I spent 13 years in the same company. I started July 2, 1997 and I quit May 28, 2010. In between, I did six games with roughly the same people, so I’m really excited. I like where we physically are in the city. I spent my professional years back in the Mile End and it’s nice to change the scenery. I walk to work and I like this district with these nice restaurants around.

The real thing for me is just to meet a bunch of new people. There’s 100 plus people to meet and I’m bad with names, but the energy is the same as when I started at Ubisoft. It’s a smaller place with less people but also, there’s the feeling that we’re the underdogs. So it’s all about the need to prove ourselves and do something great, instead of at a bigger company where you’re making sure you are still good and making sure that you’re growing.

Back then (at Ubisoft), nobody knew what they were doing. We didn’t have a lot of expertise back then. Now Ubisoft does. Here (at THQ), right away, I’m in meetings with people who know how to make a game, so that’s a lot easier than it was back then. But the energy of, “rah!  Let’s do something together and its going to be great,” is there and it’s less so at other companies.

Reuters: Do you feel pressure or extra responsibility because you are helping build a new studio in Montreal?

E3: Strauss Zelnick dishes on Wii U, Zynga and why foie gras tastes better than chewing gum

Take-Two Interactive occupies a massive booth at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where it’s showing off its new games and serving beer at the elaborate sports bar it constructed on the show floor.  Under its CEO, Strauss Zelnick, Take-Two has been showing renewed financial health in recent quarters. In February, it posted its first profitable year in nearly a decade without a new release of its blockbuster video game franchise “Grand Theft Auto.”  Zelnick sat down with Reuters for an in depth chat touching on everything from Nintendo’s new console to Zynga’s business model, and the difference between foie gras and chewing gum.

Reuters: Are publishers on board more than ever before with Nintendo on the Wii U?

Zelnick: Well, It’s hard to know, right? At E3, there’s always a great deal of enthusiasm, as there should be. It remains to be seen what the releases schedules look like. We do think it’s pretty interesting. What they are doing with one display in your hands and the other display that’s wireless in front of you and the ability to have them work independently as well as together, creates a lot of interesting creative opportunities and that’s what we’re looking for. We’ll see how our creative teams feel but right now it looks pretty interesting.

Activision’s brainy toys take over

At E3, the huge video game trade show that kicks off in LA on Tuesday, the main attention usually falls on first-person shooter titles aimed at teens or young male gamers. Games targeted at children can easily get lost under the bright lights.

Activision Blizzard, known for “Call of Duty” and ”World of Warcraft” is trying to change this by backing its new kids game, “Skylanders” with a hefty marketing push at E3.

“It’s getting the full triple-A treatment,” said Laird Malamed, a senior vice president of development at Activision.

EA cuts out middleman, launches video game download service

It might be a few days before a stampede of people will storm into the LA convention center to catch the video game industry’s latest wares but EA wasted no time in getting out the word about its new digital download service, dubbed “Origin.”

“Origin”, which EA announced on Friday, lets consumers buy and download PC games directly from the publisher online, as well as track all of their games across different platforms.

Publishers like digital delivery of games to consumers because they offer higher margins than games sold in brick and mortar stores like GameStop.  EA has been pushing its digital strategy hard to investors and its digital business is now growing faster than the company’s overall business.

Sony not out of the woods

Sony cranked up its video game networks over the weekend starting with the Americas after an unprecedented breach led to the theft of personal information from more than 100 million user accounts.  But experts continued to  criticize the Japanese electronics giant for failing to plug other potential holes in its vast global network.

Using little more than a web browser, a search engine and a basic understanding of security systems, one researcher found more than five entryways into Sony’s systems in the United States and elsewhere shortly after the story went to press. ”"Sony still has several external security issues that need to be addressed,” John Bumgarner, chief technology officer for the U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit, tells Reuters’ Jim Finkle.

Bloomberg weighed in on Monday to lay out how hackers of Sony’s networks and others have Amazon.com’s cloud computing services to launch attacks, citing unnamed sources.

“Jackass 3D” tops “Avatar” on Viacom Chief’s movie list

Viacom Chief: Favorite 3D movie not Avatar

“My favorite 3D movie of all time is Jackass 3D,” Viacom’s Chief Executive Philippe Dauman said on Wednesday at  Reuters Global Media Summit. The movie, which grossed $116 million in the United States, according to Box Office Mojo was  “relatively low cost” and “significantly profitable,” Dauman said.  “You’ll see more of that coming.” 

What else might the future hold for Viacom in 3D? Possibly Snooki.

Reuters Breakingviews columnist Rob Cox asked Dauman if audiences can  soon expect a Jersey Shore in the third dimension.

“I’d love to see that,” Dauman said, “Gym, tan and laundry in 3D.”

Earlier this month, Viacom said it is selling Harmonix, the video game publisher behind Rock Band and this year’s  Microsoft Kinect hit “Dance Central.”  Dauman said the sale is proceeding swifty but declined to divulge details prospective buyers.  Media Summit  guest chief executives Bobby Kotick and Strauss Zelnick  from Activision Blizzard and Take-Two  respectively, said they’re not interested.

GlobalMedia: EA nabs triple word Scrabble score from Oprah

oprah Forget sports tournaments or new movie releases as boosters for game demand. Electronic Arts’ latest hero is America’s most famous chat show host.

Chief Executive John Riccitiello,  at the Reuters Media summit, went out of his way to praise Oprah Winfrey, whose recent shout-out of Scrabble  gave a new lease of life to the not-so-new word game.

“We’re very thankful to Oprah for mentioning Scrabble on iPad as one of her ultimate favorite gifts. There was a 400 percent pop … on her word.” He said. “I think there’s different grades of favorite so we were happy to be among her ultimate favorites.”

Saints over Colts, says EA’s “Madden”

maddenIf Electronic Arts’ recent track record on Super Bowl predictions is any guide, it looks like New Orleans may well bring home the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday.

EA ran a simulation of the Super Bowl XLIV matchup through its popular “Madden NFL 10” game on the Xbox 360, and the Saints edged the Indianapolis Colts 35-31.

A little taste of play-by-play from the world of make-believe sports:

“With the game hanging in the balance, Drew Brees hits David Thomas for an 11-yard touchdown and the game winning score. Drew Brees takes home MVP honors as the Saints earn their first Super Bowl Championship title in the franchise’s 46 year history.”

Investing in the Internet… literally.

One of the Crystal Palace Space Station domes

The headlines were salacious, the scandal was set. This was going to be the water-cooler story of the week.

27 year-old Erik Novak from British Columbia paid out a record-breaking $330,000 (USD) for a digital space station. Let that sink in for a moment.

A digital space station.

In a video game.

Perhaps even better than all the jokes you and I could write all day was the argument from the company that this was a sound investment.

THQ CEO: Don’t bet against the Wii

Remember how you couldn’t get a Nintendo Wii? Remember the long lines at retailers, and “No WIIs” signs in store windows. The Wii is still very popular, but the momentum has slowed a bit, leading some to wonder if it has lost its mojo.

And even though games like “Wii Fit Plus” and “Wii Sports Resort” are top sellers, adult action titles like Activision’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2″ and Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed” have been getting all of the fanfare.

But Brian Farrell, long-time CEO of THQ, which publishes games on the Wii including “All Star Cheer Squad”  and “World of Zoo” said that its the short-sighted game publisher who thinks the Wii is dead, if only because, you know, those things are everywhere, Farrell said at the Reuters Media Summit.