Earlier this week, this pile of tubes we call the Internet was ringing with news about French media corporation Vivendi plotting a move to buy into a majority stockholder position of Ubisoft. The move ostensibly places Vivendi in a decision making role for the company. In response, Ubisoft purchased enough of its own shares to retain their corporate independence, for now. To most, this news may feel a bit dry. A bunch of corporate dealings where in the end nothing really changed, so what? While yes, in the end nothing really has changed from the perspective of gamers, this illustrates a media conglomerate’s intention to take over Ubisoft. If that were to happen, what would that actually mean for gamers?
Before I get into any theory crafting please know that this is only my opinion. I’m not a financial analyst or corporate expert, and this may not be the definite result of a takeover, just a possibility.
With any industry even outside of games, corporations have one goal, make money, and typically they want to accomplish this goal in the safest, most reliable way. Money-making game franchises come to mind, like Madden, Fifa,
and Call of Duty
. Properties like these are safe and reliable because they have an assumed success based on guaranteed return-customers. Sure, there may be one or two games in a franchise that don’t blow the doors off (looking at you COD Ghosts
), but 9 time out of 10 these games will be successful. However, what we’ve learned from series like Call of Duty
is that while they are safe money-making bets, repetition gets boring.
For a company like Ubisoft, what properties do you think a corporate stakeholder would approve? Games that are safe, games that are proven, games like Assassin’s Creed
and the Tom Clancy
titles. Don’t get me wrong; those are great games with which I have some awesome memories, but they don’t define Ubisoft.
Risky games, games that have a different agenda, games that want to bring something new to the table are the ones, in my opinion, that help drive the industry forward. In Ubisoft’s case, games like Valiant Hearts
, Child of Light,
and Beyond Good and Evil
come to mind. I imagine that under Vivendi corporate leadership, it would be hard to convince a board of directors to take a chance on smaller, art-inspired, unproven games like these, and I’m sorry, but a future that doesn’t include Beyond Good and Evil 2
is unacceptable in my eyes.
If Vivendi took over Ubisoft, this could be the reality facing gamers. Thankfully, for now, Ubisoft is holding onto its independence and continues to create the games that we love. In an interview with Gamespot
, Yves Guillemot, Ubisoft CEO, illustrates the company’s position on the importance of independence:
Creativity, agility, and risk-taking is intrinsic to our industry. If you are independent, you know the level you can go to, but if you’re part of a conglomerate that doesn’t understand what your industry is, how fast it’s moving, or the decisions you have to make at speed, they can limit your possibilities. Then, automatically, you don’t create new experiences that are coming out of nowhere. Sometimes when you take risks, it doesn’t work and you have to cancel a project because you thought the business was going in one direction, but it didn’t. When the management allows that, you aren’t blamed for not succeeding, your management says,’Ok, we learned this and that, and we can use that on this new opportunity.’ When you’re in an organisation that’s less risk-taking, you don’t do that. And then when you don’t take risks, you don’t get rewards. Yes, companies merging is normally not a problem, but in our industry, which is changing a lot of time, it’s actually risky.”
In response to this corporate move, Ubisoft has reasserted its efforts to deliver gamers new and meaningful experiences before Vivendi can make a move like this again this time next year. I’m incredibly excited to see what the coming year will bring because Ubisoft has an opportunity to prove not only to its stakeholders, but also to gamers that independence is essential to developing new and fantastic gaming experiences.