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Ubisoft buys free-to-play developer Owlient

CEO Guillemot impressed by "fast growing and profitable company with very good technology"

French publisher Ubisoft has announced its purchase of Owlient, a free-to-play developer, for an undisclosed sum. Owlient has over two million monthly active users accessing games like Howrse, an online horse breeding game.

"It's a fast growing and profitable company with a very good technology that we can exploit in the rest of the group. What we buy is not only the profit they will make but also the accumulation of know how," said Yves Guillemot, Ubisoft CEO, speaking to GamesIndustry.biz about the acquisition.

He also described the Owlient team as "extremely dynamic and able to establish their brand on a worldwide basis."

"We have three pillars, which are high definition, casual and online games, so we are booting the three pillars so that we can grow in those three types of games and customers. We learn a lot from those different pillars to enrich the others. So what we learn in online we are using in high definition to improve the experience," he explained.

I know we will have the possibility to buy more and more items in games, also on console, in the future

Yves Guillemot, Ubisoft

"What's important as a publisher is to create content for all that diversity that exists in the way people play."

Guillemot stated that the price of the deal would not be made public. "The only thing I can say is that it's a fast growing company and really profitable."

Owlient's team of 40 is based in Paris, and concentrates on free-to-play games aimed at a young female audience. Alongside Howrse the team are also responsible for Babydow, which allows players to raise a child from birth to school age.

"Joining the Ubisoft team will allow us to accelerate our international business and to expand our expertise and our games to new platforms," said Owlient CEO Olivier Issaly.

"It also lets us integrate our proven online services architecture with Ubisoft’s so that we can help grow their brands online. We are proud of what our team has accomplished and confident that joining Ubisoft will allow us to continue that success."

The acquisition of the Howrse developer cements Ubisoft's already strong commitment to the young and female section of the gaming demographic, building on the success of the Imagine series for the Nintendo DS.

"We know those customers," explained Guillemot. "We know what they like, so we we continue to invest in that category just because we know their wishes and we know how to fulfil them. The company is learning how to give those young girls want they want."

When asked about transferring the free-to-play model to consoles, Guillemot wasn't sure if or when such migration would happen.

"I can't say yet, but I know we will have the possibility to buy more and more items in games, also on console, in the future. I don't know actually if people will get the game as a first step for free or if they will pay to get the game, and then have the possibility to get more of it in paying more."

Ubisoft has recently acquired a number of companies with a strong focus on multiplayer and online, including Massive Entertainment, Nadeo and Quazal. In an interview last month Guillemot also spoke to about Ubisoft's move into television and film production, and about the need to diversify.

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Rachel Weber

Senior Editor

Rachel Weber has been with GamesIndustry since 2011 and specialises in news-writing and investigative journalism. She has more than five years of consumer experience, having previously worked for Future Publishing in the UK.