Ubisoft claims to be the third largest independent publisher of video games worldwide (after Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts). Ubisoft 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 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 the video 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. They entered the video game distribution and wholesale markets, and by 1993 they had become the largest distributor of video games in France. In the early 1990s, 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, Milan and Montreal.
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 its teams of female game developers/testers, known as the Frag Dolls.
In December 2004, rival gaming corporation Electronic Arts purchased a 19.9% stake in the firm, an action Ubisoft referred to as "hostile" on EA's part.
Ubisoft announced plans in 2013 to invest $373 million into its Quebec operations over seven years, a move that will generate 500 additional jobs in the province. The publisher is investing in the expansion of its motion capture technologies, and consolidating its online games operations and infrastructure in Montreal. The significant investment is expected to generate 500 jobs in Quebec over a seven-year period. By 2020, the company will employ more than 3,500 staff at its studios in Montreal and Quebec City.
In March 2015 the company set up a Consumer Relationship Centre in Newcastle upon Tyne. The centre is intended to integrate consumer support teams and community managers. Consumer Support and Community Management teams at the CRC are operational seven days a week.
In October 2015, Vivendi bought a 6% stake in Ubisoft.
As the world's third largest independent video game company, 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:
Ubisoft Abu Dhabi, located at media city twofour54 in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. 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.
Ubisoft Toronto, announced on 6 July 2009, was led by Jade Raymond until she decided to part ways with the company in October 2014. Alexandre Parizeau has since replaced her as studio head. Their first productions will include a new installment of the Splinter Cell series made by staff coming from the series' core team at Ubisoft Montreal. The Toronto team also contributed features to the game Far Cry Primal.
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 Vancouver, started on 3 February 2009 after acquiring Action Pants Inc. Closed in January 2012.
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 Uplay, 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 meaning 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. 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 "EGMShoe" Hsu asserted that Ubisoft had ceased to provide Ubisoft titles to EGM for 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 by the internet, 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.
After revealing Assassin's Creed Unity at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2014, Ubisoft came in for criticism from the gaming community shortly after revealing that the game would not support female characters in co-op gameplay. The criticism was inflamed after they explained the absence of a female co-op or playable character in Far Cry 4: according to Ubisoft Montreal, they were close to making it possible when the decision was taken that they didn't have the right animations for a female character. Among the responses were comments from developers that the explanations given were not valid. Among them were the fact that the protagonists of Assassin's Creed III and its spin-off game Liberation shared a large amount of movement animations. There were also statements that characters in video games tended to move in a similar fashion regardless of gender. An animation director for Assassin's Creed III also said that the stated reasons of workload and animation replacement didn't hold up, saying that it would be "a day or two's work" to create a female character model.
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.
In December 2014, Ubisoft offered a free game from their catalog of recently released titles to compensate the season pass owners of Assassin's Creed Unity due to its buggy launch. The terms offered with the free game revoked the user's right to sue Ubisoft for releasing an unfinished product.