Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon Aiming to Bring Hardcore Gaming to Facebook

Ubisoft is releasing a free version of its popular Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon franchise on Facebook today, with the goal of attracting the same hardcore audience that will pay $60 for the console version coming out tomorrow.

In a teaser video, posted on YouTube, Ubisoft’s tagline is: “Finally, a gamer’s game on Facebook.”

Not many publishers have dared to release hardcore games on Facebook because of the technical limitations of Adobe Flash, but also because the platform is largely assumed to attract an audience of 40-year-old women — not exactly the hardcore demographic.

To date, companies such as San Francisco-based Kabam and Kixeye have carved out a niche serving these fanatics, who are small in numbers but tend to get pulled into the game and spend a lot in the free-to-play model.

Now Ubisoft is experimenting with the genre on the platform with the launch of Ghost Recon Commander, a companion title to Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Future Soldier, which comes out tomorrow for Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation.

Creators of the Facebook version are promising to offer a multiplayer gaming experience that is similar to console play, while still being easy enough for a casual gamer to be interested.

“I wanted a place where you felt you could vacation and also blow it up,” said Brenda Garno Brathwaite, the co-founder of Loot Drop, which developed the game on Ubisoft’s behalf.

In practical terms, that means the Facebook game will have explosions and gunfire, but realistically, it will look and behave very differently from the console version, which will have superior game mechanics and graphics (benefiting from a much bigger budget).

The game is free to play and allows users to pay for additional virtual goods using Facebook Credits.

Still, if there’s anyone who can pull off a stunt like this, it’s Garno Brathwaite. Prior to founding Loot Drop, she worked as a creative director for two social media companies, Slide (acquired by Google) and Lolapps. Before that, she worked at a variety of companies, including Atari, Sir-Tech Software and Electronic Arts. What’s more, she’s a hardcore Ghost Recon fan, having racked up 170 hours of game play in the latest version of the console game.

Drawing from her experiences as a player and game maker, she believes that Ubisoft avoided aspects of social games that hardcore players hate while making it accessible to a large audience, including moms.

“I consider myself a hardcore player. I’m a 45-year-old mom that likes to blow my friends up,” she said.

Garno Brathwaite says the multiplayer social game uses traditional console play experiences by including true combat, including blowing stuff up and shooting other players, but also makes it accessible to players who don’t own a console.

Because of that, the game is slightly different. For starters, it is not a first-person shooter. Instead, the 2-D game is played from the viewpoint of an airplane, looking down at the players. Players form multiplayer alliances with real Facebook friends and then go on missions.

Another difference is that users can play for five minutes and walk away from their computer without exiting the game. If you did that in the console version, you’d be shot dead.

One part of the game that social gamers will recognize is a player’s base camp, where no combat happens. In base camp, the game play is more strategic. Players build buildings and manufacturer resources to bulk up on armor or other things that will allow them to do better in the field.

Here’s the teaser video for the game:

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