SEPT. 8, 2015 • In partnership with local developer R. Segari Group (RSG), Ubisoft Motion Pictures has committed to a 10,000 square meter indoor Malaysian theme park in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. The development is expected to start construction in 2017 with completion in 2020. Ubisoft is committing both the intellectual property as well as entertainment expertise while RSG will provide funding and development. Virtual reality gaming experiences, plus traditional rides, attractions and shows are expected. Ubisoft Motion Pictures senior vice president, Jean de Rivières said, “Together, we are creating a place where every guest is a player, every ride is a playground, every visit is a game.” Both Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry have been mentioned as franchises that will see exploitation at the park, although intellectual property has yet to be finalized. At a press conference RSG chairman Ramelle Ramli said Ubisoft was the anchor tenant for the park, which would include other non-game brands. Development costs for the project have yet to be set since the size of attractions, in addition to what content will be featured, are still in discussion. RSG is co-developing the Movie Animation Park Studios in Ipoh, Perak, which is set to open next summer. That project has been budgeted at MYR 450 million ($103.6 million).
Impact: Although the partners estimate that 80% of annual visitors to their proposed park will be local, they also are banking Malaysia as the second most visited country in Asia. Another positive factor is that the Malaysian Tourism Ministry has pledged support to the development, according to RSG’s Ramli. We have seen game-themed attractions and retail establishments in China, but those establishments were neither officially sanctioned or theme parks. What Ubisoft and RSG are planning sounds ambitious. Sega Holdings Co., Ltd. probably came closest with its Joypolis parks that played up the company’s IP. Some of the larger SegaWorld arcades also had rides. For a time Namco Ltd. had its Wonder Eggs theme park, which has since closed down. The publisher’s Namco Namja Town park does not play up its IP at all, and the WonderParks tend to be supersized arcades. Otherwise, there are video game-inspired rides featured at different parks around the world. Still, Asia is an intriguing choice for Ubisoft IP. As of last March, the Asia Pacific group generated all of 3% of global sales as reported by Ubisoft Entertainment SA. North America accounted for 49%, and Europe 46%. Despite the low percentage of sales, Ubisoft does have a strong presence in Asia. The publisher has studios in Shanghai and Chengdu in China, Singapore, Pune in India, and Osaka in Japan. There are also business offices in Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong.
Perhaps Malaysians and tourists visiting the country will be drawn to the quality of the attractions, but we have questions regarding the transmedia merchandizing opportunity here for Ubisoft. Granted, the Assassin’s Creed motion picture is arriving in December of next year and will definitely boost awareness of the franchise globally. Regardless, we are not talking Disney, which possesses its own recognizable characters, as well as those it controls such as those from Marvel and Star Wars. So what we are looking at is a game company that has high transmedia aspirations for its IP, and the chutzpa to roll the dice. On the plus side, RSG is responsible for funding the project, and if the developer’s current park is any indication, construction costs in Malaysia are low. Ubisoft aside, Asia is the perfect location for an interactive and virtual reality theme park given how enthralled consumers there are with technology. The true test is whether Ubisoft’s transmedia prowess is as compelling outside the publisher’s Montreuil headquarters near Paris as inside the building.