Ubisoft gears up for its 35th birthday with discounts and freebies

A Ubisoft stand at Paris games week.
(Image credit: Nurphoto via Getty Images)

One of the largest video game publishers on the planet, Ubisoft, was founded in France 35 years ago: on March 28, 1986, to be exact. it seems like someone over at present-day Ubisoft has belatedly realised this as, now that the anniversary has passed, it's announced a bunch of 35th anniversary celebrations.

While it's easy to think of giants like Ubisoft as just always having been there, the company grew out of what was a highly successful computer mail-order business. The Guillemot brothers, five in total and all co-founders, saw the burgeoning demand for video game software and realised that, having experience on the publishing and distribution side, they should get into development. 

"There was a specific business—you had to have the right game," Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot (appointed in 1988) told Game Informer. "As the mail orders started to grow fast, we went from mail order to selling to retailers that were anxious to get product at a reasonable price. When my brother discovered the difference in price, he started to import the games so we were selling them at 50 percent of the price the other suppliers were selling it to customers. So that’s how Ubisoft was created in 1986. We said, 'Okay, we really have to see how we can create those games, because we know how to buy them. We know what is working, as we love to create and play those games, so we should organize ourselves to create them.'"

Thus Ubi Soft, initially with a space between the words, a shortened form of Ubiquitous Software.

See more

Ubisoft was a success from the start: its first game, Zombi, garnered good press and sold well (it would later be reimagined as a launch title for the ill-fated Wii U). What really put Ubisoft on the map however was Rayman, the wildly successful 1995 platformer, which remains an active series today. Other key titles in the company's history include Rainbow Six and the Tom Clancy line more generally, Prince of Persia, Assassin's Creed (which grew out of a PoP prototype), Far Cry and Just Dance—and of course, there are dozens of other series one could add to that list.

"We are turning 35 this year! 35 years of immersive worlds built with your enjoyment at heart," reads the company's announcement. "To celebrate we have two months of special events, gifts and retrospectives. Join us to discover new worlds and dive back into your favorites."

Confusingly though, for an event that begins by exhorting you to "open your presents!", there doesn't seem to be all that much going on beyond some discounts, a daily prize draw for Ubisoft store credit, and some Ghost Recon Breakpoint cosmetics. Upcoming are free weekends for the publisher's games, rewards linked to Ubisoft+ accounts and most interestingly some sort of game giveaway. It'll probably just be a copy of Far Cry 3 or something but hey, we can dream.

Yves Guillemot in front of a Ubisoft logo.

(Image credit: Christian Petersen (Getty Images))

The celebration comes during a period where Ubisoft is facing tough questions about the working environment at its studios, 16 months after the first serious allegations about abuse, harassment, and misconduct came to light. Workers this weekend demanded swifter concessions from leadership after Activision appeared to have done the same. Yves Guillemot said earlier this year that "important progress" had been made towards addressing such issues since the scandal first broke, but some remain to be convinced.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."