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Ubisoft's developers "can't live with the threat" of Vivendi takeover

Michel Ancel explains the difficulty of staying focused in a time of great uncertainty

The possibility of a takeover by Vivendi is a major issue for more than just Ubisoft's executives and shareholders. According to Michel Ancel, the company's many development teams are struggling to retain a "natural" approach to their work in the face of the looming threat.

Speaking to Kotaku last week, the creative director of Ubisoft Montpellier discussed the difficulty of working in the atmosphere of uncertainty that Vivendi's plan has created. "We try to continue in the normal way," Ancel said. "We try to [remain] focused on our job and not think too much because otherwise... you aren't natural anymore."

Ultimately, though, Ancel conceded that "you can't live with the threat," and it's still unclear whether Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot will be able to resist a Vivendi takeover. The French conglomerate has already completed a hostile takeover of Gameloft - which was also started by the Guillemot family - and it recently increased its stake in Ubisoft to 24%. For his part, Yves Guillemot has taken every opportunity to speak about his commitment to resistance, stating recently that he wouldn't "relax" until Vivendi has sold all of its shares in the company.

For Ancel, a takeover would threaten the "fragile system" that distinguishes the best creative companies. "It's not just one person most of the time, it's a lot of people who make the team work," he said. "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."

Ancel offered Beyond Good & Evil 2 still being in development as evidence of his argument. The first game was a critical success but a commercial disappointment, and it was released 13 years ago this month. Ubisoft Montpellier's plans for the sequel - which focus on "interplanetary travel" - were so ambitious that only now does the technology exist to realise them. The fact that the project was never cancelled, Ancel said, is exactly what makes Ubisoft's independence so important.

"They want these kinds of games to exist," he said, referring to CEO Yves Guillemot and CCO Serge Hascoet. "When they wake up in the morning they don't want to make money - they've got money for ten lives if they want to stop. It's not a question of power or money now.

"What reason has this company to live? Is it to beat competitors? No, [Ubisoft's] already in the top three. It's being able to create things that have never been created before. [Guillemot and Hascoet] are the ones that want to make this happen. They ask the creatives 'You want to do it? We can do it.'"

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Matthew Handrahan

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Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.