Ubisoft says physical media not “going away” as it discusses Activision streaming deal

With Microsoft’s $69bn Activision Blizzard acquisition now officially a done deal as of today, Ubisoft has been discussing its new ownership of all Activision Blizzard streaming rights, which also kick in today – and as part of the conversation, it’s talked a little about physical media, saying that while interesting might decline as streaming rises, it doesn’t think it’s “going away”.

Ubisoft secured the streaming rights to all Activision Blizzard games (for the next 15 years, and outside the EU, at least) as part of revisions made by Microsoft to get its proposed acquisition across the finish line after UK regulators blocked the deal highlighting concerns around its potential impact on the emerging cloud gaming market.

With the deal now approved and Microsoft officially the owner of Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft’s role as streaming rights licensor of Activision’s games has come into effect too. The Assassin’s Creed publisher has shared a Q&A to mark the occasion, discussing its view on the future of game streaming and clarifying some aspects of its agreement with Microsoft – including reconfirmation Activision Blizzard games are coming to its own Ubisoft+ subscription service.

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“We believe that streaming will continue to grow over time,” Ubisoft’s SVP of strategic partnerships and business development Chris Early explained in the Q&A. “If you look back to 15 years ago, when there were companies trying to create streaming platforms, it was a much more challenging time, and the infrastructure wasn’t quite there. But if you look at what’s available to people in their homes today, the speed of internet access is significantly better than it was 10-15 years ago. Over the next 10-15 years, I think the same thing is going to happen and it’s going to continue to get better. And as it continues to evolve, the more that underlying technology advances, the easier streaming is going to be.

While Early says Ubisoft is “already seeing a significant increase in the digital share of purchases” and that “people trust that their game’s going to be available to them without absolutely requiring physical media to play it”, he adds that he doesn’t envision a future where physical media will disappear completely.

“There’s a collector edition market,” Early continued. “There’s the aspect of gifting physical items and allowing access for people to be able to easily purchase a game in a store and gift them to their friends or family. Some people will always want to own the physical disk. I just don’t think it’s going away. Do I think physical sales might get lower over time? Sure, but will it ever completely go away? I don’t think so.”

Elsewhere, Early reiterated Ubisoft’s deal with Microsoft covers “all the Activision Blizzard games that are being distributed today and includes all the games that Activision Blizzard will release over the next 15 years”, including all associated DLC.” All of that will be available on Ubisoft+ and the company stresses – as per the terms of Microsoft’s revised acquisition proposal – it also has the rights to be able to license them individually to companies too.

But as to when those games might start showing up on Ubisoft+, Early was rather more coy. “We know players are excited for more games to come to [the service],” he said, “and we will take the time we need to make sure that the back end fully supports the experience we want players to have. Now that the deal is closed, the operational element can begin to kick off.”

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