Ubisoft Winnipeg at five: a beacon of innovation and pride

Since its inception in 2019, Ubisoft Winnipeg has consistently placed its bets on technology and innovation, but it’s this commitment to uniqueness that truly sets it apart. As it marks its fifth anniversary, the studio continues to proudly blaze its own trail.





It’s remarkable to think that in just five years, Ubisoft Winnipeg has left an indelible mark on flagship franchises like Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Watch Dogs, Rainbow Six, and the latest addition, XDefiant. Moreover, the studio has also played a pivotal role in the development of Ubisoft’s premier game engines, Anvil and Snowdrop.

The strides made by Ubisoft Winnipeg are nothing short of extraordinary, even to the longest-serving team members.

“We’ve come so long in five years. When we started, we had hardly anyone at our studio who had worked in video games. Now, some of the people working on our teams are seen as experts in their field. We’re growing and creating those experts in video games here locally. Other studios like working with us and, more importantly, are choosing to work with us,” shares Ashley Smith, the interim managing director of Ubisoft Winnipeg and a founding member of the studio.

This journey of success was fueled by a simple yet powerful aspiration: to stand out.


Charting the course: defining its mission

“It was a very interesting reflection at the time: how could a little studio like Winnipeg stand out?” reminisces Darryl Long, the first managing director and co-founder of Ubisoft Winnipeg.

With over 21 years at Ubisoft, Long was involved in the production of Far Cry 5 in Montreal when he embarked on the mission to establish a new studio in Winnipeg in 2018. Despite the city’s vibrant energy and strong educational programs, it wasn’t recognized for its gaming industry presence.

“My thought process was, what are the strengths of Winnipeg? What does Winnipeg already do well?” Long, who now serves as the managing director of Ubisoft Toronto, recalls. After numerous visits to the University of Manitoba and other local institutions, it dawned on him that Winnipeg may not have been a hub for game studios, but it was brimming with cutting-edge technological expertise.

“I realized that there was a really strong computer science program at the University of Manitoba, focusing on machine learning, computer vision, and advanced AI topics. They were producing great students, great graduates that had tons of potential, and that if we could harness that, it would be a great benefit for Ubisoft to have a studio with all this experience in tech and in programming.”

Darryl LongDarryl Long


It was this very passion for new technologies that led the former programmer to spot a golden opportunity: to gather a team dedicated to the creation of tools and technological advancements. This team would support Ubisoft studios globally in developing top-tier games.

A few months later, on January 10, 2019, Long’s vision came to fruition in Winnipeg’s Exchange District. The studio’s doors opened within the Merchants Building, which remains the home of Ubisoft’s Manitoban outpost to this day.

Initially, the fledgling studio welcomed around 25 employees, predominately from Winnipeg’s local talent pool, supplemented by transfers from Ubisoft Montréal and Toronto. It was a small group, but one brimming with enthusiasm and big ideas.



Building a team, tools, and a reputation

Ubisoft Winnipeg wasted no time shifting into high gear.

By harnessing the local creative tech talent and repatriating Manitobans who had ventured afar, the team expanded to nearly 40 members within just two months of opening. This growth necessitated a quadrupling of the production floor space—a wise decision as the workforce burgeoned to 60 by the next fall.

Simultaneously, both founding members and new recruits worked hand in hand to establish innovation processes within the studio.

This collaboration gave rise to Ubisoft Winnipeg’s signature Innovation Jams, inspired by the industry’s celebrated game jams. Five years later, these sessions are still a regular fixture at the studio.

The premise of Innovation Jams is simple: set aside dedicated time for the entire studio to brainstorm, work on new projects, and potentially develop prototypes of groundbreaking tools.


“No Ubisoft studio had done this at this scale, where the entire studio is spending time on R&D,” emphasizes Darryl Long.

Initially designed to boost team spirit and strengthen co-development partnerships, the initiative quickly bore fruit. Tools and technologies conceived during Innovation Jams have since been integrated into Ubisoft’s productions.

Another positive outcome: these gatherings allowed teams to learn through experimentation and rapidly gain experience, enabling the studio to contribute over the years to an increasing array of group games, including Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Far Cry 6, Roller Champions, Watch Dogs: Legion, Rainbow Six Mobile, and the recent XDefiant.

Ubisoft Winnipeg’s members also shared their tech prowess with the Canadian divisions of Ubisoft’s primary game engines, Anvil and Snowdrop, as well as Scalar, Ubisoft’s cloud computing technology.

These partnerships have led to the creation of a multitude of tools and technologies, cementing trustful relationships with other Ubisoft studios worldwide.

Ashley Smith

For Ashley Smith, who has been part of the journey from the start, witnessing the studio’s artisans and women thrive and become integral to Ubisoft’s ecosystem over the past five years is a profound source of pride.


Encouraging and celebrating diversity

Innovation at Ubisoft Winnipeg transcends technology; it also involves establishing a studio grounded in human and inclusive values. From the outset, diversity and equal opportunity have been central pillars, especially in forming the initial team.

Today, nearly 30% of the Winnipeg team members are women, aligning with the percentage of women in the STEM field.

The studio promptly established the Women’s Advisory Board, which was soon followed by three more employee resource groups: Our Identities (LGBT2SQ+ community), Beyond Colour and Race (BIPOC community), and Neurodiversity (neurodivergent community).


Ubisoft Winnipeg also played a key role in launching the Nova: Women in Tech Summit, bringing together studio members, researchers, and educators to discuss equal opportunities and the empowerment of women in Manitoba’s STEM sector.

The studio’s commitment to education in Winnipeg doesn’t stop there. It offers scholarships to female computer science students at the University of Manitoba, mentors students in Sisler High School’s CREATE program, collaborates with the Women in Computer Science association and computer science student associations, and annually hosts the internal Develop at Ubisoft program, aimed at women and non-binary individuals pursuing careers in game design or programming.

A forthcoming partnership with New Media Manitoba for the GameBiz Lab will further highlight Ubisoft Winnipeg’s commitment to education and the commercialization of video games within the Manitoban gaming community.


Since 2018, Ubisoft Winnipeg members have mentored over 800 students through workshops and conferences. That speaks volumes!


Growing and evolving the Ubisoft Winnipeg way

Five years later, one thing remains clear: Ubisoft Winnipeg continues to flourish while staying true to its roots. Technology and innovation are still the bedrock of the team’s success, but the studio is also broadening its horizons and establishing itself as a comprehensive co-development partner.

“Over the past few years, we’ve been laying these foundations, and now we can finally build on top of them,” visualizes Ashley Smith.

This forward momentum is especially apparent in the XDefiant project, entrusted to the studio by Ubisoft San Francisco. Over the months, the project has grown significantly, with over a quarter of Ubisoft Winnipeg’s members now contributing to the online shooter game, set for release on May 21.

The Winnipeg team’s involvement goes beyond tool support; they’re pivotal in optimizing game performance, enhancing online services, and providing technical art assistance.

“We have a really positive relationship with Ubisoft San Francisco and, quite often, when they want to grow the mandate, they are looking to us to partner with and take on more. It started as a small assignment for us that gradually turned into a very successful mandate. There’s a really good atmosphere here on that team.” shares Smith, hopeful that the XDefiant project will lead to more such collaborations for Ubisoft Winnipeg.


Darryl Long shares this sentiment, envisioning his former team’s continued growth in the years ahead and their emergence as a “powerhouse within the company for technology.”

“I think Ubisoft Winnipeg will be the go-to choice for lead teams that are looking for new technology to power their game,” he assesses candidly.

A vision that is very likely to become reality if the studio continues to innovate and venture into unchartered territory.


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