Ubisoft joins free-to-play rush with dev buyout

Ubisoft joins free-to-play rush with dev buyout

By Rob Crossley

July 12th 2011 at 4:40PM

CEO Yves Guillemot tells Develop the firm is prepared to buy again in new online push

Publishing empire Ubisoft has moved quick to jump onto the fast-growing free-to-play craze, revealing to Develop it has purchased the Paris-based studio Owlient.

Owlient, which has in its six years grown beyond 40 team members, builds online free-to-play games. Since forming it has accumulated 25 million user registrations, though it is not known how many of those remain active.

"We are thrilled to welcome the talented team at Owlient to Ubisoft,” said the publisher’s CEO Yves Guillemot.

“Over the last five years they have developed an architecture dedicated to delivering and monetising games as a service, as well as the skills of attracting and retaining online communities,” he added.

Guillemot told Develop that his company was willing to acquire another studio as part of its renewed push in the online space.

In 2008 he said Ubisoft had some €780 million to spend on acquiring studios or companies should the opportunity arise.

“This acquisition is the next step in the acceleration of Ubisoft’s free-to-play strategy following last year’s launch of Settlers Online, CSI Crime City and Heroes Kingdoms, as well as the recent beta launch of our ambitious title Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Online,” he added.

Free-to-play gaming has become the latest industry craze. Though the freemium model has driven the success of MMOs and social games for a number of years, the model itself – now fully proven – is creeping into other genres.

Last month Valve made its FPS Team Fortress 2 an entirely free-to-play game, days before Develop discovered that Microsoft was preparing to adopt the free-to-play model across its Xbox Live infrastructure.