Our more attentive readers out there may remember around this time last year, a dispute of sorts was hotting up at Ubisoft. CEO, Yves Guillemot and other Ubisoft executives held several board meetings with Vivendi, who threatened a hostile takeover of stocks and shares. The future quality of many a beloved franchise like Rayman and Assassin’s Creed was on the line. Many worried about a talent exodus at Ubisoft offices around the world.
But In The Second Half Of Last Year, Ubisoft Grew Stronger
Vivendi’s hard nosed attempts at this takeover were softened when Guillemot’s brother stepped in around September time, to buy some (Some meaning millions of dollars worth) of Ubisoft’s stocks to protect against the French media conglomerate. Since then, we’ve seen little rays of hope for the survival of Ubisoft moving forward. They’ve been on their A game keeping up with the VR industry with titles like Eagle Flight and Werewolves Within. Both have been warmly received and Star Trek Bridge Crew is soon to release. On top of this, Ubisoft has taken a year out to take stock of their Assassin’s Creed franchise, now promising a more Witcher – like approach to Assassin’s Creed Empire’s mechanics. They certainly seem to be on the up and up, recently opening two new European studios at Berlin and Bordeaux
It appears Ubisoft is finding the commercial success needed to stave off the likes of Vivendi. Yet the icing on the cake that will truly secure their safety is a new deal with Tencent. Like many a Westerner, there’s a chance you’ve never heard of this China based organisation. But make no mistake, these guys are a really really big deal. To really understand what a big move this is for Ubisoft, it’s important to understand a little about Tencent.
Tencent Rose Quickly To Power Between 1998 And Now
Tencent started out in Shenzen, China eighteen years ago in 1998. Come 2005, they would start charging for use of their answer to WhatsApp, QQ Mobile. The iconic penguin branding would later be found on clothing and snack packaging. By 2008, Tencent began to see real profit growth in the area of virtual goods. In 2011, Tencent owned 92% of Riot Games who developed League of Legends.
In the same year, they went on to host the game. Come 2015, Riot Games handed over ownership to Tencent. It doesn’t stop there, either. Tencent own smaller percentages of franchises like Unreal, Gears of War and Infinity Blade. 2015 was a big year for Tencent as they would also make a deal with popular mobile developer, Supercell. This is the gaming giant that has created Clash Royale and Clash of Clans.
They Even Have Their Own Console
It’s clear to see that Tencent are not messing around. They’ve even created a console of their own called the TGP (Tencent Gaming Platform) Box, officially called The Blade. It operates a Windows 10 system and includes all games they have a stake in. These include the likes of NBA 2K, League of Legends and Need For Speed. Tencent even threatens Steam with its huge user base at around 200 million in China alone. While worldwide, Steam stands at 125 million. Tencent has yet to break out properly into Western markets. Could they be the console kings of the future?
It’s now obvious that Ubisoft is just the latest in a long line of developers to have made deals or simply been bought out outright in the past. Ubisoft’s angle is to partner with Tencent to re-release Heroes of Might And Magic III to a Chinese mobile gamers. Given the game’s continued popularity there after all this time, and Chinese penchant for mobile gaming, this is sure to be a success. The good news for Ubisoft is that, if all goes to plan, attempts at hostile takeovers by Vivendi will be a thing of the past. Perhaps it was Tencent’s assistance with severing Activision Blizzard’s ties with Vivendi that appealed to Yves Guillemot in the first place!
Aurélien Palasse is head of licensing and publishing at Ubisoft Mobile China. Writing on the Ubisoft blog, he went on to say
“Tencent is incredibly selective in the games they publish. They definitely favour quality over quantity. The only few other western IP games available on the store are King’s Candy Crush, Supercell’s Clash Royale and Infinity Blade. It is definitely a great achievement for Ubisoft to successfully position one of our IPs here among the best.”