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HIVE EXCLUSIVE: Ubi Soft Enters Online Gaming Market

5 Sep, 2001 By: John Gaudiosi

French video game giant Ubi Soft Entertainment, which just generated consolidated sales of $53.2 million for the first quarter of its fiscal year (up 162.5% from last year's Q1), will enter the massive multiplayer online gaming arena in North America in the first half of 2002 with the fantasy role-playing game (RPG) Shadowbane.

Although Ubi Soft publishes EverQuest in Europe, this marks the first time the company is setting its sites on North America.

“We see the Internet as a platform unto itself,” said Jason Rubinstein, general manager of UbiSoft.com. “UbiSoft.com will become a community for gamers to play and explore our franchises and balance that with online commerce. We also want to bring out best-known franchises to simple Shockwave gaming experiences.”

Shadowbane will be part of the focus for the new architecture behind gaming portal UbiSoft.com, which will include subscription multiplayer games, free community sites, free Shockwave games and links to other Ubi Soft studios like Red Storm Entertainment and properties like Myst III: Exhile. Like EverQuest, the PC and Macintosh SKUs of Shadowbane will be sold at retail and then require gamers to pay between $9.95 and $13.95 per month to explore the online world.

“In the first phase of our online plan, we'll focus on the PC, but we are in the loop with online console gaming,” Rubenstein said. “Red Storm has online Xbox games in development and we have developers creating multiplayer online experiences for future console and PC titles."

In addition to the subscription revenue, Ubi Soft hopes to extend the life of its franchises through online experiences and stimulate e-commerce. Rubenstein said UbiSoft will stay away from mass market games like Slingo, card games and casino games, instead focusing on core gamers.

“The casual gaming market is crowded and it's not a place we need to be right now,” said Rubenstein.

Nintendo GameCube is a place where Ubi Soft will be. The company announced that 19 games for Nintendo's next-generation platform are in development, including a GameCube version of Disney's Tarzan and Batman Vengeance, which will both ship this year.

One of the top 10 video game publishers in the world, Ubi Soft has grown through acquisitions over the past fiscal year, including: 3D Planet (Italy), Sinister Games (US) and Red Storm (US), (consolidated from October 2000) and that of Blue Byte (Germany), (consolidated from February 2001), and the assets of TLC's Entertainment division.

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