Vivendi continue to skulk toward an Ubisoft takeover

Vivendi, the French-run media colossus that owns Universal Music Group, has announced that it now owns over 25% of Ubisoft shares. While that doesn’t mean anything in itself, it does suggest that the giant is set on getting the necessary stock to make a takeover bid of the publisher, which it is obliged to do by French law once it owns 30% of the company’s shares. In short, Vivendi are continuing to creep towards Ubisoft with a chloroform cloth. How such a takeover would effect y’all, we don’t know. But Ubisoft say it’s not what they want.

Vivendi has been steadily buying up shares since it bought a 6.6% stake in October last year, snatching up the Guillemot-owned mobile publisher Gameloft along the way. All of which make its claims that it “is not considering the launch of a public tender on Ubisoft nor acquiring the control of the company” hard to take at face value. This won’t be the first time the French multinational has dipped its toes into the games industry hot spring. It once owned Activision Blizzard, but cut ties in 2013, leaving that particular beast to become its own thing.

Meanwhile, the publisher would rather merge with another games company, said CEO and co-founder Yves Guillemot at E3 this year, and doesn’t think Vivendi knows the business well enough to run things correctly.

“We have Plan A and Plan B,” he said. “Plan A is to remain independent. Plan B is going with another group, either in the game industry or with a technology or other types of company. Those are the two options at this point and they are both still open.”

It’s also important to note that, while Ubisoft has been posturing as “the little guy” fending off a strong-arming giant, it isn’t exactly an indie darling, pumping out nigh-yearly franchises like Assassin’s Creed with Henry Ford efficiency. This isn’t so much David and Goliath as it is Goliath and a slightly smaller Goliath. But Ubi has suggested that small games such as Valiant Hearts or Child of Light may not be seen as profitable and wouldn’t get made under a Vivendi banner.

All in all, we got ourselves a legit business telenovela in the works here. We’ll let you know how it all ends up.

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50 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Topperfalkon says:

    I wish Vivendi would just fuck off and die already

  2. Ghostwise says:

    I don’t see Vivendi continuing to give Michel Ancel a free hand either.

    • Frank says:

      Yeah, I’m skeptical that Ubi is going to let Ancel make BGE2 as he wants to, but it seems very likely that no buyer of Ubi would let him.

  3. Idealist says:

    Say what you may about Ubisoft, but Vivendi is a scourge on any property it touches.

  4. Sin Vega says:

    It would be a shame. For all their faults and towers, Ubisoft’s games are consistently ‘pretty good’ at worst, their sequel mill funds some more creative side projects, and in the last few years it’s kind of felt like they’re sort of trying to be less … well, less EA.

  5. BTAxis says:

    These shares, are they marked on a map, and is Vivendi having to run about to collect them?

    • Isendur says:

      Why, they are placed at towers spread around Europe. How did you know?

      • April March says:

        That must be why they stopped at 25%; they need to download the app to unlock the remaining 5%…

        • ooshp says:

          Or maybe they just got open-world exhaustion and can’t stand the thought of clearing any more icons off the map.

          • keefybabe says:

            I get that as soon as I see them now, go up a tower, see icons to clear… Nope. Go play a twin stick shooter.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ericusson says:

      I give you my comment of the month award !

  6. A Wanderer says:

    Well, Ubisoft under Vivendi control would probably mean that anything which is not Assassin’s Creed, Watch Dogs or Far Cry will get brutally murdered. Then they will just stop making games, because Vivendi just does not care at all. I mean, Bolloré and Co already managed to almost destroy one of the biggest french television channels, so…

    • baud001 says:

      Yeah, I’m working there (as a contractor) and it’s gone very bad since the takeover.

      • Premium User Badge

        zapatapon says:

        Can someone explain to me how this makes business sense? I don’t get it. How is spending a large sum of money to buy an entity (a software company, a TV channel), then destroying it over a few years, financially beneficial?

        • Premium User Badge

          Ericusson says:

          I think it’s a political investment.
          On short term it’s an editorial bad joke/nightmare.

          But he bought get himself his very own propaganda channel which will slowly be oriented as he wants to in the coming years.

        • keefybabe says:

          I wish I knew, but the amount of times I’ve seen a takeover where they take something unique and successful and then systematically destroy what made it work is tantamount to the amount of times I’ve had a piss in my life.

    • Archangel says:

      > anything which is not Assassin’s Creed, Watch Dogs or Far Cry will get brutally murdered.

      What makes it worse is that those three are all the exact same game.

  7. Monggerel says:

    Business as usual. I used to rant about how corporate greed was destroying culture (and not just videogames) but there will probably be other culture to replace it (and itself, in turn, get destroyed by corporate greed) and you can always retreat into nostalgia if that doesn’t happen in a way that suits you. And, truth told, I’m not at all fond of Ubisoft or their games. Not even their “indies”.

    Vivendi’s a fucking shitshow though. I expect them to run Ubi into the ground should the buyout happen. Which is probably the intent here so at least *someone* (a lizard) gets their payoff. Hissssss.

  8. playzintraffic says:

    I can never feel sorry for Ubi after what they did to Heroes of Might and Magic. Hopefully Vivendi will sell off the less profitable titles like that.

    • montorsi says:

      Nice, this is how Trump got elected.

    • Seafort says:

      You won’t get Heroes and Might and Magic back if Vivendi do a hostile takeover of Ubisoft. It’ll be left to rot like most of their games.

      This will be the worst thing to happen in gaming if Vivendi get their way.

  9. bovine3dom says:

    Fun fact: Vivendi was created at Napoleon’s behest.

  10. vorador says:

    Ubi has never been a saint, but at least they release some interesting smaller titles like Valiant Hearts or Child of Light.

    Vivendi is far worse.

  11. Antongranis says:

    Why cant ubisoft just, you know, stop selling thier shares? And why did they do it in the first place?

    • thenevernow says:

      It doesn’t work like that. Ubisoft is publicly traded and Vivendi is buying shares on the market. The founders and owners of the relative majority of shares (the Guillemot) can only “not sell” the shares they own, but they have no control over the rest (which is the absolute majority). So once Vivendi reaches 30%, it becomes a matter of price.

      What the Guillemot could have done is not going public in 1996. But they did and there’s little point in whining now.

      All this said, Vivendi sucks.

  12. Premium User Badge

    syllopsium says:

    Want to retain control? Don’t make the company public, then. They’re big boys, no sympathy.

    Rubbish that it’s ‘not what they want’. It is EXACTLY what the owners want. Float company, hopefully hold valuable shares, get taken over, retire to gold mansion.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      You realize there are other reasons to go public beyond the Silicon Valley startup style, right? The primary reason to go public is to get additional funding from investors by selling your shares so you can actually grow without accumulating crippling debt to do so.

      • Aetylus says:

        A business’s ownership model is a far more fundamental decision that any funding issue. The decision to go public is always a statement of placing returns above independence.

  13. Aetylus says:

    Is it antiquated that I still think of Vivendi primarily as a supplier of high quality mass water filtration equipment?

    • Premium User Badge

      Kerridwen says:

      A little bit :-). Vivendi’s water and environment activities were spun off in 2000 and later became Veolia. Vivendi has since been a media and telco conglomerate only.

  14. Core says:

    I still don’t understand why Vivendi got rid of Activision. Activision was making them money hand over fist.

    • syndrome says:

      “Vivendi has sold its 5.7 per cent stake in Activision Blizzard for $1.1bn, completing the French media group’s exit from the California-based gaming company more than two years after it reduced its then-majority stake. […]
      The French company said on Friday that it made the move “in view of the evolution of the Activision Blizzard stock price”, which has increased 87 per cent in the past year.[…]

      It added that it sold the stake to a financial institution, though it withheld the name. It also said that it had unwound a hedge that it had on its Activision stake, allowing it to take back a $400m cash deposit.

      Vivendi’s original decision to reduce its stake in Activision, whose games include Call of Duty and Skylanders, came as part of a wider shift to focus on its Canal Plus television business and Universal Music Group. Vivendi has set a goal of building a European media powerhouse around these two remaining pillars.”

      I’d say it was of political nature. It’s hard to think from that perspective when you’re a naive gamer with clear-cut-diamond goals and moral contrasts, but politics is for 1) those who solemnly act like they’re not psychopaths, 2) those who manipulate with the spoken reality for their own narcissistic and usually demonic agendas, 3) those who aren’t loved but believe only in power, and to whom everybody is replaceable except of course them, which makes this segment of population rather hypocritical and cynical by definition. Yet we let them do it over and over, because we all suck believe in money.

      Lizards, yeah.

  15. c-Row says:

    Needs a “sad eyes” tag

  16. SaintAn says:

    I hate Assasins Creed except for Black Sails which isn’t looking to get any sort of followup or new IP using the mechanics and keeping that horrible time traveling VR game immersion breaking trash that interrupts me playing out of the game.

    I hate Watch Dogs. Millennials seriously disgust me.

    And I love Far Cry but it’s really shallow and only recently had old features expanded on in Primal. I absolutely love Primal. Such a cool idea of a game that always makes me think of the butterfly effect of each person and animal I kill and gives me a bit of an idea of what it was like in 10,000 BC. Plus they pieced together a real dead language and used it for the entire game with subs which is so cool. I’d really hate to not get a sequel that expands on it because some greedy POS bought Ubi.

    • inspiredhandle says:

      “I hate Watch Dogs. Millennials seriously disgust me.”

      I really wanted to object to this, but who in good conscience can? Not I. It has such wonderfully cutting vitriol. I want to somehow bottle it, to harness it’s contempt for some sort of unknown future use.

      • TeePee says:

        Perhaps a future takeover of Ubisoft by Vivendi? :)

      • theliel says:

        Just how old are you?
        Millenial being people who ‘came of age around the year 2000″ means that the older millenials are, y’know, pushing 40.

        • inspiredhandle says:

          Oh, I’m totally aware of that. And since you ask I am slap bang in the middle of the demographic (depending on where you think the average ‘coming of age’ is).

        • SaintAn says:

          I too am a millennial. I’m 29 years old in a few days but luckily am already a grumpy old man.

  17. neofit says:

    I don’t remember a ubisoft game that I’ve enjoyed. Whatever happens they can’t get worse.

  18. Zeewolf says:

    I remember when Vivendi Universal Games was going to publish Brutal Legend, and then the Activision merger happened, and Kotick was left in charge, and it was cancelled (until EA picked it up). This was the Vivendi Universal Games who owned Sierra and published No One Lives Forever 2, Half-Life 2, Spyro and oooh, a bunch of other cool games. And the guys who owned Blizzard before Blizzard became the most boring company in the history of everything.

    Oh, wait, yeah, Vivendi are obviously going to destroy everything, sorry.