In an effort to prevent themselves from being acquired by Vivendi, Ubisoft has reached out to the Canadian Government for aid in blocking the acquisition. Vivendi and Ubisoft, both French companies, are currently locked in a struggle for dominance with Vivendi and it’s chairman having purchased a total of 15% of all Ubisoft stock. Ubisoft founder Yves Guillemot has been meeting with investors and shareholders to try and secure at least 50% of outstanding votes, needed to block any changes to their board of directors. Vivendi has already made overtures at gaining a controlling stake in Gameloft, also owned by another in the Guillemot family.
If Vivendi and it’s allies sway the voting which determines Ubisoft’s board of directors, they could replace existing leaders with those more amenable to their own ends, potentially changing the course of how Ubisoft runs it’s business. Correspondingly, the future of Ubisoft’s stable of IPs and creative direction may hang on these results as well. Since Ubisoft’s largest studio, Ubisoft Montreal, is located appropriately enough in Montreal, Canada, this becomes something of a national issue as well. Relationships between France and Canada are well established, but more important to many are the thousands of quality jobs that Ubisoft represents for the Land of Moose and Syrup.
It might be this nationalistic angle which drove Guillemot to meet with Canadian officials. The founder has stated that Ubisoft wishes to increase the number of Canadian shareholders, and has even courted direct investment on the part of the Quebec government. Ideally,this could act as a counterbalance to the francocentric Vivendi’s influence, and help even out the scales enough to retain independence for the popular studio. Even newly minted PM Justin Trudeau has visited the local studio and expressed good faith in their work. If things go bad, or even just look that way, it could lead to an exodus of talent from the publishing giant, and negatively effect the quality of future games.
There is plenty to fear for developers, even big ones, who lose autonomy to larger, less games-savvy corporations. On top of being controlled by finance-major policymakers and the loss of top talent, existing assets like IPs and studios can be used and abused by hamfisted attempts at monetization. Historically, cases like Rare and Lucasarts are an indication that Ubisoft’s concerns are well placed.
Recently, Ubisoft has begun outlining a new strategy that they hope will bring in some fresh money, the highlights of which include producing games with a larger scope, but less often, and increasing focus on multiplayer titles. Hopefully Ubisoft will come out on top of this issue and remain a strong, positive presence in the industry for many years to come.