Ubisoft and I have a very rocky relationship. One moment, we’re the best of friends. The next, we’re at each other’s necks. </p>
Well, that’s what happens when you continually force Assassin’s Creed down my throat every year! Plus, I still haven’t forgiven Ubisoft for delaying a complete Wii U version of Rayman Legends by seven months because they wanted a multiplatform release. And while we’re at it, where in the bluest of blue hells is Beyond Good and Evil 2!? Stop hiding behind the name of a dead author and give me an answer, Ubisoft!
While Ubisoft and I have seen better days, I still have a great deal of respect for the company, especially for the major role they have played in maturing the Canadian video game industry over the past two decades. Sadly, Ubisoft’s influence on Canadian video game development may be numbered as the company faces a hostile takeover from Vivendi.
Vivendi is using a takeover bid of sister company Gameloft to force talks between themselves and the Guillemot family — the owners and founders of both companies — over Ubisoft. In order to defend against the takeover, Ubisoft is seeking financial backing from Canadian investors, including the federal and Quebec governments. Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau personally visited Ubisoft Montreal and met with Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot Feb. 25.
The average gamer might feel this story might not serve any real significance to them. Hostile takeover, mergers, and other business collaborations are a natural part of the video game industry and modern business in general. We have witnessed events like this happen multiple times over the past decade, such as EA’s failed bid to buy Take-Two, Activision’s merger with Vivendi Universal, and Sega’s purchase of Atlus’ parent company Index Digital Media. What makes Vivendi’s possible purchase of Ubisoft so important?
It’s the possible loss of Ubisoft’s identity and independence. You might not like the current direction of the company — I most certainly am very critical of it — but you have to give credit for being willing to take risks. Although not all of them are golden; just look at Battle Tag. Ubisoft’s ingenuity and creativity outside of Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry is refreshing to see in a AAA publisher. Being restricted to only working within Vivendi’s umbrella would stifle Ubisoft’s vision.
Considering all major Ubisoft projects are now made in Canada, specifically Ubisoft Montreal, stifling Ubisoft will hurt Canada’s video game industry as a whole. While there are a decent amount of AAA game publishers in Canada, none of them centre the creation of their marquee titles like Ubisoft does. In a time where the federal government is looking to up Canada’s stock in the global tech sector, Ubisoft plays a key role in fostering a greater presence in the fastest growing entertainment medium.
Despite being French in origin and relying far too heavily on a few established franchises, Ubisoft is still an important part of this industry and, ultimately, Canada’s presence in it. For Ubisoft to lose their identity and independence will be a greater blow to this industry than THQ’s bankruptcy and the effects on the Canadian video game industry could be crippling, to say the least.