Ubisoft is fighting to stay independent. French media company Vivendi has been buying up stock in the developer, with the goal of getting back into video game publishing after Activision bought themselves out of their ownership a while back. Ubisoft, though, isn’t having any of it.
To bolster their resources in that fight, Ubisoft is seeking assistance from the Canadian government and other Canadian investors. The developer has 3,000 developers in Canada, so the two are closely intertwined. CEO Yves Guillemot says that the company’s assets would be better protected by staying independent. Guillemot and his brothers own nine percent of the company, while investors siding with them own another 15 percent. Vivendi has amassed a 15 percent stake in the company.
While gamers may have had their complaints with Ubisoft in recent years, a hostile takeover like this could be a massive change for the company. Employees who side with the brothers could leave en masse, Vivendi could decide to close Canadian studios and move development back to France (this seems unlikely). Ubisoft is one of the biggest independent publishers making big console games, and a change in that status could send unpredictable ripples through the industry. Vivendi is a huge media company, and their interest in Ubisoft is purely monetary. While Ubisoft needs to make money to keep the lights on, and has released some troubled games in an effort to keep profits up, the brothers have shown a commitment to continuing to make triple-A console games, avoiding remakes and trying to bring in new IP, even suspending their flagship series Assassin’s Creed in hopes of giving it a better chance at success next year.
Guillemot said he believes he needs about 50 percent of the votes to keep Vivendi from making changes to the board. He’s spoken with Quebec Premier Philippe Coulliard and seeks backing from other Canadian government officials as well.
Industry analyst Michael Pachter noted that hostile takeovers are pretty rare in entertainment, as they risk pushing a given company’s best creators out the door to their competitors.