After investing in Japanese game company FromSoftware last week and becoming its second-largest shareholder, Tencent has invested in veteran French game maker Ubisoft this week to expand its presence in overseas game markets. The company is run by Ubisoft co-founder Yves Guillemot.
In the statement, Tencent, for its part, will pay 200 million euros, buying shares at an implied value of 80 euros per share (closed at 43.50 euros on Sept. 6), and invest a further 100 million euros. In the future, Tencent will bring a number of Ubisoft’s PC games to the Chinese market and will help bring several Ubisoft 3A titles to the mobile platform.
Ubisoft is one of the largest game companies in the world, with branches in many parts of the world and more than 20,000 employees. Ubisoft has many products under its umbrella, and Assassin’s Creed is one of its most representative IPs, in addition to “Full Frontal” and “Rainbow Six”, which are also well known among game users.
But in recent years, Ubisoft’s share price has fallen from a high of 100 euros to less than 44 euros due to a lack of key titles, a number of delays in the release of new games, and allegations of sexual harassment within the company. Tencent’s deal price for the acquisition implies a valuation of 80 euros per share for Ubisoft, the company’s all-time high share price.
Ubisoft and Tencent had previously cooperated. in 2018, Ubisoft had accepted a 5% stake from Tencent in order to get rid of Vivendi Group’s hostile takeover. in 2021, Tencent Games reached a strategic cooperation with Ubisoft, obtaining the exclusive agency rights of Ubisoft’s game “Total Blockade 2” in China.
After this investment, Tencent’s shareholding in Ubisoft increased to 9.99%, but it is not allowed to sell its shares within 5 years. Ubisoft’s internal management will remain unchanged, and Tencent will not hold a management position in the company and will not have any veto power over business operations.
Commenting on the acquisition, Tencent president Liu Chi-ping said that Ubisoft’s team has a great track record of creating world-class entertainment products and looks forward to bringing more Ubisoft 3A-rated products to the mobile space in future partnerships. Ubisoft CEO and co-founder Yves Guillemot said that further cooperation with Tencent provides the necessary stability for the company’s long-term growth.
But it’s also clear that Tencent’s gaming business is facing downward pressure heading into 2022. The second-quarter earnings report showed that Tencent’s domestic game revenue fell 1% to 31.8 billion yuan, and game revenue in international markets dropped 1% to 10.7 billion yuan.
On the one hand, Tencent began to reduce costs and increase efficiency, adjusting many inefficient projects, such as QQ Tang, Penguin e-sports, Watchpoint App, Pocket WeGame, QQ Flower Vine, etc. On the other hand, it is still increasing its investment globally and launching cooperation with overseas game developers.
It is widely believed in the industry that Tencent hopes to get more IP resources to develop its hand game products. In addition, in the overseas market, self-developed games may be unsuitable for the sea, and it may be more efficient to acquire and invest in well-known manufacturers.
Ma Xiaoyi, senior vice president of Tencent Group, has said that traditional major manufacturers in Europe and the United States have started to actively embrace GaaSization (Game-as-a-Service, or service-based game) and handheld games.
“We want to seize this window period as much as possible and help our team to carry out more cooperation with these big factories. On the one hand, we are able to seize the IP of 3A games and the opportunity to play online and handheld games, and on the other hand, we are able to learn more from these top teams,” Ma said, “but we have to realize that this window is going to close because all these big companies will start making their own online and handheld games. “