A year ago, another blog and podcast ago, I took a stern interest in the Ubisoft and Vivendi squabble going on in France.
For those that need to be educated here is the cliff notes:
Vivendi is an old company that since the late 1900’s has made its company off the backs of buying other companies and in many cases, selling them off later. In a series of deals they once owned what was once NBC Universal, Sierra Entertainment, and Activision before some of their companies were either sold off or got their freedom by buying themselves out. And in a weird history between the two, Ubisoft has leadership has acquired the same opinion and a disdain for the multi-national conglomerate.
Understandable of course as Vivendi, in 2015 decided to try and expand its media properties by targeting Ubisoft and Gameloft which are owned by the same family (the Guillemots). And under french law, and under a hostile take over, Vivendi owns Gameloft.
And in late 2016 Vivendi gained 23% of shares while the Guillemots were able to increase their voting share to 20%. and their share hasn’t budged since… Vivendi on the other hand, as of December 2016, Vivendi has 27.15% stake in Ubisoft. With Reuters reporting that a hostile takeover is imminent.
In between, Vivendi has tried to get themselves included with board meeting seats because of the size of their stake in the company, to which they were denied. The Guillemot family has launched a campaign to stave off the hostile take over while Vivendi was dormant after December. But in a recent interview with the head of Ubisoft, Yves Guillemot, it gave me a sense of where Ubisoft might be at in their fight.
He expressed that Vivendi can always just swoop in and make a high bid and its expensive to fight that kind of power. It effects their ability “to create and being agile and take risk.” and that the fight just isn’t about Vivendi, its about fighting against corporations that make themselves out of investing instead of understanding how the industry works.
Now I focused on this topic because it speaks to where Ubisoft is at. For years we have had up and down swings with Ubisoft; Not every game they have put out, has been good. And how they are now, the way of life they keep promoting during this situation with freedom of developers in their company, is apparently at risk if the company takes a risk and develops one or two bad games. So with every stroke, Ubisoft must now hit the ball out of the park with each game, hitting profit goals, showing growth and improvement. And if any indicator, Ubisoft just opened a Stockholm studio that will be headed by the former head of EA DICE, Patrick Bach.
Just Dance 2018 which comes out in August has to be a success, Assassin’s Creed Origins has to be knocked out of the fucking park! and in 2018 FarCry 5 and the intriguing game, Skull & Bones both need to be amazing. And the Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle game that comes out soon…well thats a different bag of nuts all together.
In short, this is where we are at with Ubisoft…the one company that unlike many…has to bow to shareholders. Which not many game companies are actually like if we can be real. Most game companies operate with a sense of creative autonomy or a publishing overlord that has the capital to take risk and be okay. Ubisoft doesn’t have that anymore nor can they take big risks.
I won’t lie though, Vivendi maybe be a giant conglomerate that likes to invest just to make profit off the back of another company and aside from making corporate moves that have always been in the industry; they seemingly operated like any other gaming company. And were responsible for many amazing games.
I also welcome competition in a circle of gaming that has for the longest been towered by Activision, EA and other big names alongside Ubisoft who take the stages. I think its intriguing to add more competition in the mix. After all that only benefits us in the long term.
I’m not saying Ubisoft should go, the main people that will suffer will be developers and management of the company if Vivendi is successful. I’m sure games in the pipeline will be nixed as well… but its something to consider when you think a third major player could force Activision and EA to say “we need to put more focus into creating new things and pushing the envelope” instead of doing the same things and adding bells and whistles because there is another player in the fight that can easily fund their slow downfall.
Something to consider…