Ubisoft Mobile executive director Jean-Michel Detoc on 2020, staying connected, and the evolution of mobile

Part of the PGbiz 2020 year in review series

Ubisoft Mobile executive director Jean-Michel Detoc on 2020, staying connected, and the evolution of mobile

2020 will be a year that lives long in many people's memories, for better and for worse. Thankfully, there have been some fantastic experiences on mobile to help us all through these particularly trying times.

The games industry is thriving despite the devastating effects of COVID, and the mobile sector has also seen extraordinary growth this year. Games have undeniably been a force for good under unprecedented circumstances.

With that, we've reached out to several members of the industry for their insight, thoughts and personal experiences throughout 2020. We're on a mission to discover favourite mobile games, how has the industry coped under the pandemic, and what we could see in 2021 and beyond.

This time, we're catching up with Jean-Michel Detoc, executive director at Ubisoft Mobile.

Which mobile game do you think had the biggest impact on the industry this year?

Jean-Michel Detoc: The mobile games industry is a vibrant one, with new trends regularly booming, demonstrating how creative and dynamic it is, and 2020 was no exception.

In my opinion, Genshin Impact, developed and published by miHoYo, is one of the most exciting new titles of the year. On top of its cross-play functions, Genshin Impact is an AAA, high-end quality game, that illustrates perfectly the concretisation of the high-definition rising trend on mobile.

This is not the first time a cross-platform AAA with top-notch execution has dominated the F2P mobile market, but it shows that it becomes more and more important in some segments. Genshin Impact is a huge success and represents a shiny worldwide event on mobile.

On another segment with as well the cross-play angle, I’d also like to point Among Us as a bright game that has marked 2020. Among Us is a blast in terms of downloads and I find it very exciting to see that multiplayer is more and more popular for mobile players.

This year also marked great highlights and milestones for Ubisoft. Earlier this summer, we brought Brawlhalla, the most played fighting game on Steam, onto mobile as one of our first F2P cross-play games coming from consoles and PC platforms.

The team at Ubisoft Blue Mammoth studio has made an impressive job in designing a user experience tailored for mobile usage, now enabling players to enjoy the game anytime and anywhere. 2020 was special for our Hungry Shark franchise that reached the key 10-year anniversary milestone and totalising over 800 million downloads Ltd worldwide.

This is not exhaustive and as a whole, I am delighted that the mobile games industry keeps expanding and providing players worldwide with diverse and compelling experiences.

Hungry Shark celebrated its 10th anniversary this year

Do you think the mobile games industry has reacted well to the many challenges presented in 2020?

2020 was a challenging year indeed, and gaming – for many – has been a welcome escape and a way to keep laughing, learning, and connecting with one another. We feel fortunate in this unprecedented situation if our games have even played a small part in that, and when we look back, I think the mobile gaming industry has managed to adapt pretty well overall.

Fact is, on the production side of things, lots of teams were already used to work from home and coordinate remotely as well, so they have been able to adapt quite quickly. On our side, we were able to stay on track and our Kolibri studio fully developed our latest idle game, Idle Restaurant Tycoon, during the COVID pandemic.

We also saw a genuine, collective effort from the industry, which stuck together and showed solidarity at different levels, with companies sharing free advertising space for NGO’s fighting the virus or its consequences.

What do you think will be the biggest trend over the next 12 months?

I think we can expect several trends that all go towards the direction of a more qualitative and connected experience.

As shown during the COVID period, with players connecting more and more with one another, multiplayer games will continue to rise, and in line with that, cross-play should continue to expand significantly.

On the quality side of things, the next 12 months should see continuous efforts made on creating free-to-play mobile experiences with high production values, or “triple-A mobile games”.

2020 was a challenging year indeed, and gaming – for many – has been a welcome escape and a way to keep laughing, learning, and connecting with one another.

In the longer term, it’s worth mentioning that cloud and streaming technologies applied to mobile gaming, although still in their very beginning, will bring innovations that will prove very interesting in the future and that we are actually already following very closely. We recently partnered with Facebook on the launch of their mobile Cloud gaming service and help make our games available to even more players.

In terms of your company, what's the thing you're most proud of during 2020?

We are very proud of how our teams have adapted to new ways of working, in such a short period of time, while delivering great experiences on both last and new generations of consoles.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla in particular, as it is the biggest Assassin’s Creed game launch in history. On the Ubisoft Mobile side specifically, we’re happy and proud of how we continued to deliver great production quality as well as fun and entertaining in-game events on our live games, that we welcomed new colleagues with the opening of our new Da Nang studio in Vietnam and the addition of the leading mobile gaming studio Kolibri to the Ubisoft family.

What are you most looking forward to in 2021?

On top of keeping a sustained live portfolio and bringing new titles across several segments and genres, we’re also looking forward to continuing to develop high-end mobile gaming experiences that are getting ever closer to the level of gameplay or visual quality you enjoy in HD games.

This actually is going to be supported by more and more convergence in how game engines are evolving to include some mobile component “by-design”, making it easier to develop more qualitative and cross-platform experiences and again, removing some barriers between platforms. As a matter of fact, one thing that may come out of this in the mobile gaming industry is the growing number of mobile-first games that get ported to HD, which is a kind of shift in paradigm compared to how things are done nowadays.

In addition to looking at richer experiences, we of course have exciting new projects for the coming year that we can’t wait to tell you more about. In the meantime, we intend to continue to reinforce our presence in Asia, delivering a tailormade experience for our audience there.


Danielle Partis is editor of PocketGamer.biz and former editor of InfluencerUpdate.biz. She was named Journalist of the Year at the MCV Women in Games Awards 2019, as well as in the MCV 30 under 30 2020. Prior to Steel Media, she wrote about music and games at Team Rock.