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Tencent reportedly want a bigger piece of the Ubisoft pie

The Chinese company met with the Guillemots in May about buying more shares

Chinese gaming and social media giants Tencent have approached Ubisoft’s founders, the Guillemot family, in an effort to expand their stake in the AAA publisher, Reuters report. Tencent acquired a 5% stake in Ubisoft in 2018 and now multiple anonymous sources are now saying that Tencent intends to become the single largest shareholder in the publisher, a company valued at almost $6 billion (£4.9 billion).

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Representatives of Tencent are reported to have flown to France in May to discuss the investment with members of the Guillemot family. According to sources, Tencent are also seeking to buy up publicly owned shares to help in their efforts to become majority shareholder. Public shareholders currently own 80% of Ubisoft’s shares, with another 15% held by the Guillemots and the remaining 5% at Tencent.

Share prices were up for both Ubisoft and the Guillemots’ holding company after the Reuters report was published earlier today. Tencent are looking to expand outside of their home country after being effectively frozen in the Chinese gaming market, the world’s largest, since the government there stopped granting new monetisation licences last summer. Licences started being issued again this April, but have yet to include Tencent.

Tencent have been investing in studios outside China for a number of years, acquiring League Of Legends developers Riot Games in 2015. I could go into just how many studios they’ve been buying majority and minority stakes in but, crikey, there’s a lot. Here’s just a few beyond Riot: Epic Games, Platinum Games, OtherSide Entertainment, Sumo Digital… Oh wait, Imogen already compiled a round-up last summer. It’s nothing that other large organisations haven’t done – hi, Embracer Group – but Ubisoft is one of the biggest publishers going, so there’s that.

Earlier this week, Tencent announced they were teaming with Logitech to produce a cloud gaming handheld. The device is intended to support more than one cloud service, and they’re already working with Xbox Cloud Gaming and NVIDIA GeForce Now. Ubisoft games have been increasingly finding their way onto Microsoft’s Game Pass for PC and console, while Ubisoft's rebranded Ubisoft+ subscription service has been available via cloud on Google Stadia and Amazon Luna since late 2020.

Campaign group A Better Ubisoft tweeted an update on July 28th revealing that none of the demands made in their open letter to the company a year earlier had been met. The letter was signed by 1000 current and former Ubisoft employees. A Better Ubisoft estimate that 25% of those who were at the company when the letter was published have since left, 39% of whom identify as female. "Women represent just 25.4% of our global workforce," A Better Ubisoft said. "Which means that we are massively disproportionately losing women who signed our open letter calling for more action to tackle abuse." After the letter was published, CEO Yves Guillemot claimed that “important progress” had already been made.

So far, Ubisoft have declined to comment on any deal with Tencent. It seems, though, that the consolidation of the games industry continues. How would you feel about Tencent grabbing a larger slice of Ubisoft?

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