Ubisoft is the third-largest independent game publisher in the world, trailing Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts (EA). Ubisoft Entertainment S.A’s worldwide presence includes 29 studios in 19 countries. The company has subsidiaries in 26 countries. Ubisoft's largest development studio is Ubisoft Montreal in Canada, which employs about 2,100 people.
In Ubisoft’s 2008–2009 fiscal year, the company’s revenue was €1.256 billion, reaching the 1 billion euro milestone for the first time in the company’s history. Ubisoft created its own film division, called Ubisoft Motion Pictures, which creates shows and films based on the company’s games.
In March 1986, five brothers of the Guillemot family founded a computer game publisher, Ubisoft, in Carentoir, a small village located in the Morbihan department of the Brittany region, in France. Yves Guillemot soon made deals with Electronic Arts, Sierra On-Line, and MicroProse to distribute their games in France. By the end of the decade, Ubisoft began expanding to other markets, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. In the early 90s, Ubisoft initiated its in-house game development program, which led to the 1994 opening of a studio in Montreuil, France. It later became their administrative and commercial head office, even as the company continues to register its headquarters in Rennes. Ubisoft became a publicly traded company in 1996 and continued its expansion around the globe, opening locations in Annecy, Shanghai, Montreal and Milan.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Ubisoft committed itself to online games by supporting Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, The Matrix Online, and the European and Chinese operation of EverQuest. The publisher established an online division. However, in February 2004, Ubisoft cancelled the online portion of Uru and backed out of the publishing deal on The Matrix Online.
The company is noted for it's teams of female game developers/testers, known as the Frag Dolls.
As the world’s fourth largest video game company as of 2009, Ubisoft studios employs the second largest amount of in-house development staff in the world and has several divisions and offices across the globe. While some were founded by Ubisoft, others have been acquired over time:
Future Games of London in London, United Kingdom, founded in 2009, acquired on 1 October 2013.
Ubisoft Abu Dhabi, located at media city twofour54 in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. This studio opened its doors in December 2011, and it is the first ever gaming development studio in the Middle East that was launched by a multi-millionaire video games publishing company. The studio is also responsible for launching twofour54’s gaming academy.
Ubisoft Montreal, started in 1997 as Ubisoft Divertissements Inc., acquired the Canadian division of MC2-Microïds (Microïds Canada) and integrated it into eventually merged into this division in March 2005.
Ubisoft Nagoya, started in September 1996 as "Digital Kids". Acquired by Ubisoft in 2008.
Sinister Games, acquired in April 2000, closed in June 2003.
Ubisoft São Paulo, started on 24 June 2008 and on 20 January 2009 they acquired Southlogic Studios and integrated it into this studio. The studios were closed in late 2010 to focus on games distribution.
Ubisoft had, for a time, used the controversial StarForce copy protection technology that installs drivers on a system and is known to cause hardware and compatibility issues with certain operating systems. On 14 April 2006, Ubisoft confirmed that they would stop using StarForce on their games, citing complaints from customers. In January 2010, Ubisoft announced the Online Services Platform, which forces customers to not only authenticate on the first game launch, but to remain online continually while playing, with the game even pausing if network connection is lost. This makes it impossible to play the game offline, to resell it, and means that should Ubisoft’s servers go down, the game will be unplayable. In 2010, review versions of Assassin’s Creed II and Settlers 7 for the PC contained this new DRM scheme, confirming that it is already in use, and that instead of pausing the game, it would discard all progress since the last checkpoint or save game. However, subsequent patches for Assassin’s Creed II allow the player to continue playing once their connection has been restored without lost progress.
In March 2010, outages to the Ubisoft DRM servers were reported, causing about 5% of legitimate buyers to be unable to play Assassin’s Creed II and Silent Hunter 5 games. Ubisoft initially announced this was the result of the number of users attempting to access their servers to play, but later claimed that the real cause of the outages were denial-of-service attacks. In August 2011, Ubisoft released From Dust with DRM protection, contrary to previous statements that the game would not have any DRM related restrictions. After several months, the DRM had still not been removed from copies of the game.
In the February 2008 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, Editor-in-Chief Dan "Shoe" Hsu asserted that Ubisoft had ceased to provide all Ubisoft titles to the EGM for any coverage purposes as a result of prior critical previews and negative reviews. Yves Guillemot, the CEO of Ubisoft, was quoted in the company’s third-quarter 2008–09 sales report as saying "as some of our games did not meet the required quality levels to achieve their full potential, they need more sales promotions than anticipated." The company’s use of Aaron Priceman, also known as Mr. Caffeine, as a spokesman at E3 2011 was criticized for his reliance on popular internet references, inability to pronounce Tom Clancy (he pronounced it Tom Culancy), sexual innuendos and imitations of video game sound effects with little to no response from the audience.
On 2 July 2013, Ubisoft announced a major breach in its network resulting in the potential exposure of up to 58 million accounts including usernames, email address and encrypted passwords. Although the firm denied any credit/debit card information could have been compromised, it issued directives to all registered users to change their account passwords and also recommended updating passwords on any other website or service where a same or similar password had been used. All the users who registered were emailed by the Ubisoft company about the breach and a password change request. Ubisoft promised to keep the information safe.
In 2008, Ubisoft sued Optical Experts Manufacturing (OEM), a DVD duplication company for $25 million plus damages for the leak and distribution of the PC version of Assassin’s Creed. The lawsuit claims that OEM did not take proper measures to protect its product as stated in its contract with Ubisoft. The complaint also alleges that OEM admitted to all the problems in the complaint.
In April 2012, Ubisoft was sued by the author of the book Link, John L. Beiswenger, who alleged a copyright infringement for using his ideas in the Assassin’s Creed franchise and demanding $5.25 million in damages and wanted to stop the release of Assassin’s Creed III that was set to be released in October 2012 along with any future games that allegedly contain his ideas. On 30 May 2012, Beiswenger dropped the lawsuit. Beiswenger was later quoted as saying he believes "authors should vigorously defend their rights in their creative works," and suggested that Ubisoft’s motion to block future lawsuits from Beiswenger hints at their guilt.