Despite bitter resistance from Ubisoft, France's media juggernaut Vivendi has been slowly but surely increasing its stake in French game publisher Ubisoft. And now according to a report in Reuters, 2017 is likely to be the year in which Vivendi steps up its acquisitions in multiple areas, including advertising and video games. Citing sources "close to the matter," Reuters says that Vivendi is on track to "allay investor concerns about its strategy, mixed results and poor share performance" by acquiring advertising firm Havas as well as Ubisoft.
While one of Reuters' sources agreed that buying Ubisoft would be the logical choice, Vivendi could also be eyeing game company targets in China. Ubisoft has been a very public target for some time, however. Last December, Vivendi had increased its stake in Ubisoft to 25%, gaining almost 23% of the voting rights. If the stake is increased to reach 30% of the company, Vivendi would be required under French law to make an offer to purchase Ubisoft. Vivendi has repeatedly stated that it does not intend to make a hostile takeover of Ubisoft, but it's easy to see the company picking up an additional 5% stake this year.
It's also worth noting that Vivendi has already made a hostile takeover of Gameloft (which is run by the same Guillemot family related to Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot). Ubisoft's CEO has been fiercely against the notion of a takeover, claiming that it would ruin the publisher's creative output; Ubisoft has shown the capability to repeatedly introduce new IP, whether that's Watch Dogs, Steep, For Honor or VR efforts like Eagle Flight.
"Our intention is and has always been to remain independent, a value which, for 30 years, has allowed us to innovate, take risks, create beloved franchises for players around the world, and which has helped the company grow into the leader it is today," Guillemot said over a year ago.
"We're going to fight to preserve our independence. We should not let this situation - nor any future actions by Vivendi or others - distract us from our goals. Our best defence is to stay focused on what we have always done best - deliver the most original and memorable gaming experiences."
Some of Ubisoft's developers have spoken out against the possibility of Vivendi taking over as well. Ubisoft Montpellier creative director Michel Ancel, creator of the Rayman franchise, commented that a Vivendi buyout would threaten the "fragile system" of creative studios at Ubisoft: "It's not just one person most of the time, it's a lot of people who make the team work. If you change the team this fragile system could break, it's a risk, and today there is no reason to change it, unless people want to make more money."