Ubisoft is by far one of the most successful publishers in the gaming industry today, and one of the reasons behind that is the fact that they have extremely popular franchises, and franchises that span across all varieties of gaming.
One of the the titles that has helped propel Ubisoft into the current level of success they are enjoying is Just Dance. Since its inception, Just Dance has sold over 41.25 million copies, since it was debuted back in 2009.
This year, the Just Dance franchise will takes its show onto the next-generation platforms of Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but before then, we were able to take sometime to speak with Ubisoft's senior vice president of marketing and sales, Tony Key.
We wanted to know how the game has gained such popularity with gaming consumers, as well as what the point was when Ubisoft really looked at the franchise as an established, successful brand.
Key said the Nintendo Wii was instrumental in Just Dance really digging its feet into the ground and that the second iteration of the franchise was when Ubisoft saw it really take off.
"It’s interesting the game design mechanic was originally created inside of another game, Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party. So, when Just Dance launched on the Wii, the people that loved that part of the Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party jumped on-board and it just exploded.
"Just Dance has evolved to become one of top-selling video game franchises in the entire industry and is the No. 1 dance game. It’s easy to pick-up-and-play which lends itself to being one of the few titles that really brings together family and friends whether you are a good dancer or not, it’s just fun – like having a cross between a karaoke machine and a dance party in the living room.
"The Just Dance 2 really caught fire and brought the franchise to the mainstream audience and brought people into the market who wouldn’t otherwise consider themselves gamers," Key said.
The Wii has been an instrumental system for Just Dance, with all of its iteration selling over 70% of its total units on the console. The note that Just Dance 2 was when Ubisoft saw the franchise gaining momentum, it ended up selling over 9 million units on the Nintendo Wii.
Going from how Just Dance really started to catch hold with consumers, we shifted toward discussing how the game has made improvements over the years and what those have tended to look like.
Key mentioned that the biggest factor in advancing the franchise and making improvements to it has certainly been gradually adding the latest tracks that are topping the charts in the music industry.
"I’d have to say that some of the biggest improvements have been continuing to add the hottest songs each year and also the new features. The first Just Dance had a few current chart-topping hits but there were also a lot of oldies, quirky and random tracks as well.
"Now, with Just Dance 2014 for example, the title has a strong bevy of chart-topping hits, such as “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk and previous big hits, like “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry.
"The development team does a great job of monitoring player feedback, trying out new modes and improving ones that people like. For example, the Just Sweat Mode has continued to improve with each iteration and everything from the graphics, the choreography and this year with World Dance Floor mode, where you can play online with other players across the globe for the very first time," Key said.
The elephant in the room for all games coming to next-gen hardware is how exactly these titles will leverage the various, new capabilities consoles like the Xbox One and PS4 will bring to developers this November.
Key acknowledged there are going to be improvements to graphical elements as well as modes in Just Dance 2014, and he also mentioned the possibility of exclusive tracks for certain consoles.
"Just Dance 2014 will certainly take advantage of each new next-generation console and their respective capabilities, whether it’s via graphical improvements, features or modes.
"We have had an occasional exclusive track for DLC or as part of a retail or consumer packaged goods initiative but the core tracks will be on all versions of the game," Key said.
Reaching new audiences and breaking into new markets is something that every publisher wants to do, and Ubisoft has clearly done that with Just Dance. To further this, they were at New York's Fall Fashion week and did some work with designer Stacy Igel.
Tony talked about why Ubisoft was out at Fashion Week as well as why they were working with Stacy Igel to promote both her clothing and Just Dance 2014.
"For the past few years, Just Dance has been a mainstay in the pop culture consciousness. The combination of the hottest songs and trend-shaping outfits makes New York Fashion Week an obvious platform for our brand and not every game can be part of pop culture so it’s a chance for us to reach new audiences.
"You don’t have to know anything about video games but the minute people try out Just Dance they fall in love with it and we want to continue to extend that brand experience where it makes sense.
"With each new version of the Just Dance, the fashion has evolved to reflect pop culture – what’s in style and how it reflect the artist’s personalities or the theme/context of the track. Ubisoft actually has a fashion designer on the development team and it’s an important part of the overall design and aesthetic of the game.
"Certainly the avatars the players follow along to and the environments therein are very inspired by fashion and pop culture – much like the music and the dance moves themselves, if you’re not on the cutting edge and trying new things, you’re probably behind – which is not what players/fans are looking for when they buy a Just Dance game," Key said.
Finally, some games define innovation through the amount of changes they make to gameplay, while others define that through the different modes they can provide players with.
Key said Just Dance defines them in a number of ways and will surely continue to do that with two next-generation consoles hitting later this year.
"We want Just Dance to continue to captivate the millions of loyal players and bring in new audiences. We define innovation through different perspectives compared with other titles, for example, is playing with up to six people simultaneously on Xbox One innovative or perhaps the expanded Just Sweat mode?
"Ultimately, we want to continue to find new ways to grow the brand in other avenues that is bigger than the game itself. From the Just Dance Auto Dance mobile app to the World Dance Floor, the franchise still has plenty of room to spread its proverbial wings. The next-generation of systems provides yet another palette for the development team to work from and expand the Just Dance franchise in new and exciting ways," Key said.
Just Dance 2014 will be launching on Oct. 8th for current generation systems and later in November for all next-generation consoles. For all of our latest exclusives, previews, reviews and features, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Game On.