On Wednesday the 10th May, Ubisoft’s shares slipped yet again, reigniting the interest of arch nemesis, Vivendi. The giant French media conglomerate continues to threaten a hostile takeover of Ubisoft over a 3.2% fall in shares. While the success of For Honor and Ghost Recon: Wildlands has dulled the blow somewhat, Ubisoft remains firmly in the crosshairs of Vivendi. Now, 3.2% is not much, you might say. Yet it is the sharpest fall Ubisoft has seen in a year.
What A Vivendi Takeover Really Means
This is a big deal for you as a gamer and yes, you should care about this. Even if you don’t play any Ubisoft games. Even if you don’t intend to. A point to be returned to in a moment. For starters, if a Vivendi takeover is carried out on Ubisoft, there will be a huge protest among its staff. As several Ubisoft execs, as well as analysts, have already said – Should Vivendi takeover, there is a very real risk of a “talent exodus”. Guillemot would have us believe Ubisoft and its many teams take pride in being independent and having the creative freedom to make games the way they want. The threat of this talent exodus will prove this philosophy of “creative freedom first” right. There seems to be a sincere desire to maintain creative autonomy over their projects and Vivendi’s corporate meddling will certainly put that at risk.
This is why it’s a big deal for you, yes YOU as a gamer. Looking forward to the revival of Assassin’s Creed? Or perhaps the next Far Cry, rumoured to be set in the Wild West. If a Vivendi takeover of Ubisoft is completed before the end of the year, as many analysts believe is more than possible despite CEO, Yves Guillemot’s protests, then all of these projects and more will be at risk of creative annihilation. Under the direction of Vivendi, inexperienced in handling videogames’ creation and marketing, future titles could suffer from a lack of imagination and shoehorned appeasement tactics for investors. The great and dedicated people behind your beloved games will have left to work for other companies. And the cycle of videogame drudgery will continue.
Other Developers Are Now Setting Up Defences
For a very short while, there was a fear that Vivendi was eyeing up CD Projekt Red… I know. Thankfully, it turned out not to be the case. Yet CDPR was only bolstering their stocks and shares as an observation of these terrible events at Ubisoft. We all know the CDPR team are incredibly smart. They know how to deliver a story. How to deliver great gameplay. Now, it seems they know how to pre-empt companies like Vivendi and their greed. After all, who knows? Maybe Vivendi takeover train will turn towards CDPR. After all, they have more than done well to take the media limelight in the wake of The Witcher 3.
So, regardless of whether you support Ubisoft or not, these corporate buyouts are a risk to you as a consumer of videogames. The industry is becoming ever more appealing to investors as it continues to churn out ridiculous sums of money. It has grown to the extent that it has become a target for groups like Vivendi in efforts to expand their financial conveyor belt empire.
Will Yves Guillemot Cook Up A Master Anti-Vivendi Plan?
Life as head of Ubisoft must be insanely stressful right now. Yves Guillemot has come up with a last ditch, make or break effort to ensure Ubisoft’s continuing success. In turn, fending off the threat of a Vivendi takeover after reaching the dreaded 30% mark of ownership. That’s the point at which they can carry out a hostile takeover, you see.
Thought that you’d seen the end of microtransactions and subscription services in Ubisoft titles? Guillemot now aims to make fewer AAA titles but give them longer life through continued support and long tail DLC schemes. Risky, given the downturn in game sales. As well as the fact that a game absolutely must perform well on sales to bring in a decent customer base for that DLC. There is a risk of wasting long term, intricate plans on a videogame that might not do so well. This is the part where Ubisoft is hanging in the balance. If the games aren’t good enough to support Guillemot’s plan here, the Vivendi takeover will happen as a matter of time. If it works, it will allow Ubisoft to lower its dependence on releasing so many games, simultaneously holding creative control.
Ironically, Less Is More
“All our games are now bringing live operations. But the operations are all different. Ghost Recon’s live operations are different from Rainbow Six’s, and will be different from Assassin’s Creed.Clearly the philosophy of all the games that we make is to be able to justify and bring live operations to titles for as long as we think it fits for the game.”
This may seem like typical journalist fodder from Guillemot. His words ring true in terms of Ubisoft’s success stories of late. It’s clear to see why he’s going for the less games, more community approach. Yet, it’s the opinion of this writer that the end of this quote could be bad news as well. As soon as a game stops receiving support, will it ever be playable again? Multiplayer lobbies could eventually shut down, rendering games like The Division nothing more than an expensive menu screen. Is Ubisoft sacrificing its future legacy to survive in the here and now?
Ubisoft’s Customer Buying Trends Offer A Glimmer Hope To Guillemot. One That Can Be Leveraged
For now, this may seem like typical journalist fodder from Guillemot. But his words ring true in terms of Ubisoft’s success stories of late. It’s clear to see why he’s going for the less games, more community thing.
As you can see, there’s a drastic increase in player recurring investment. That’s DLC. And with the success of community based games like For Honor and Wildlands, Guillemot’s reasoning seems sound. But will it pay off?
Further good news can be found in Assassin’s Creed: Origins (originally Empire), as it is being developed by the same team behind Black Flag. Critically acclaimed across the board, everyone agrees Black Flag was the best AC of recent years. Far Cry 5 may well turn out to be The Division in first person with evolving events and sporadic content updates. Not sure how we feel about that one. Time will tell.
Get The Word Out. Ubisoft Deserves Our Support
Frankly it is baffling that the seriousness of this situation is not being discussed online in more depth. The games industry owes so much to Ubisoft. Prince of Persia, Rayman, Assassin’s Creed, Splinter Cell, Far Cry. Even Beyond Good & Evil 2 is in the pipes and by proxy – at risk.
All incredibly well known franchises across the industry, that are under extreme risk of losing what they are. Memorable experiences we grew up with. One that we’d like to continue following as intended by their original creators. Not as intended by Vivendi, a giant greedy corporate entity that seeks to expand its empire in a damaging way into our beloved games industry. If they take Ubisoft, who will be next?