Jade Raymond has left Ubisoft after ten years overseeing some of its most successful studios and franchises, and with her goes one of the best-known producers and studio directors in the business. Most recently, Raymond worked as… Wait, you're not sure what a video game producer actually does, are you?
You, like me, may have had a vague idea which you chalked up to "very important stuff". After all, it's one of the few positions in a video game studio that doesn't explicitly say what the person does in the title--you know, like animator, artist, creative director. All those people produce things, but only a select few are called producers. So what do producers actually do?
Well, while everybody else in the studio makes sure the game is awesome, the producer makes sure the game happens. Take the original Assassin's Creed: Raymond was the producer and Patrice Desilets was the creative director. In the gigantic diaspora of studios and 20-minute-long end credits that is Ubisoft development, Desilets is the guy it's safest to say "created" Assassin's Creed.
So why does it royally suck for Ubisoft to lose Jade Raymond, other than her sharing a first name with Ubisoft's best protagonist ever?
She made sure Assassin's Creed (and Assassin's Creed 2, which she executive produced) stayed within its budget and came out on time, and that everybody knew about the game when it came out. She was the voice of the production both for the press and for convincing dudes like Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot that a weird open-world game about the Crusades and conspiracies and jumping into hay bales and genetic time traveling was a good investment. Most recently, she helped whip the newly formed Ubisoft Toronto into shape as its managing director.
Assassin's Creed grew from an ambitious-but-flawed open-world title to a franchise that has sold more than 73 million copies over seven years. Raymond also executive produced Watch Dogs which--say what you will about new-gen graphics expectations--broke day-one sales records for Ubisoft. Both those games represent the alpha-and-as-of-yet omega for Ubisoft's lucrative open-world AAA push.
Raymond is also notable as one of the most prominent female leaders in the games industry. Though she followed in the footsteps of notable designers such as Brenda Romero (creator of Wizardry) and Roberta Williams (co-founder of Sierra On-Line and creator of King's Quest), she was one of the first women to hold a visible and powerful position in the male-dominated field of AAA console games development. So yeah, she's kind of a big deal.
All kinds of people make awesome games, but it takes a firm hand and an iron force of will to bend an Ubisoft-sized production to a discrete system of deliverables. We can only hope her next destination will remain in the games industry. Either way, Ubisoft and fans of its big-time productions are going to miss her.