Led by Ubisoft’s Strategic Innovation Lab, the program supports startups creating products and services that have the potential to transform the entertainment industry. Paris-based Ubisoft is one of the world’s biggest video game publishers with brands such as Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, For Honor, Just Dance, and Watch Dogs.
Ubisoft’s new startups include Atlantide (France), Axie Infinity (Vietnam), Caregame (France), Immersiv.io (France), Planetarium (South Korea), Sorare (France), Splinterlands (U.S.), and Xaya (United Kingdom).
The Ubisoft Entrepreneurs Lab has worked with international startups since 2017, and is currently based both in Paris at Station F, the biggest startup campus in the world, and in Singapore at the IMDA Pixel incubation space. Collaboration with this season’s startups will take place virtually.
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For its fifth season, the program will focus on social entertainment. Media, especially video games, can serve as a tool to build and maintain social connections. The program will also continue exploring how blockchain technology — the transparent and secure digital ledger — can help empower gamers and other online communities.
Season 5’s sponsor is Ubisoft chief data officer Emmeline Biscay. In a statement, he said the joint effort with entrepreneurs is a way to enrich both Ubisoft and the startups and to innovate together. And it’s all part of ways that Ubisoft explores to enhance the experience for video game players.
Ubisoft Entrepreneurs Lab is the interface between Ubisoft’s expert teams, entrepreneurs, and external experts to foster productive collaborations and shape tomorrow’s entertainment.
In an email, Catherine Seys, project director for Strategic Innovation Labs at Ubisoft, said the company does this because it has entrepreneurial roots, and innovation has been a core value. It works with startups and pioneering thinkers to nurture this part of its culture and strengthen its entrepreneurship. The lab is a tool for Ubisoft to anticipate challenges that its teams may face a few years from now.
The company is focusing on social entertainment as the barrier between players and spectators has thinned in recent years, with the popularity of streaming platforms allowing content creators to bring their fans live content with a high level of interaction, she said.
“We want to keep exploring this path for gamers, modders, and viewers of our content,” Seys said. “Together with talented entrepreneurs working across different fields of entertainment — music, video production, live shows — we wish to contribute to creating engaging, creative, and fun entertainment experiences that bring people together.”
The pandemic didn’t affect the choices for the startups, as the themes were chosen before the pandemic.
“However, it’s clear that the pandemic has shed light on the growing importance of games as a social space to keep laughing, connecting and learning with one another,” Seys said. “Gaming today is more focused on community, lifestyle, and collective creativity than ever before. Gamers are eager to share with friends and people around the world. The phenomenon is fostered by the development of other technologies, such as blockchain, which facilitates modding communities and cloud-gaming sessions hosting thousands of people.”
Former participants in the Ubisoft Entrepreneurs Lab program include startups such as Mimesys (Belgium), acquired by MagicLeap in 2019, Hugging Face (U.S.) which raised $15 million in 2019, and Azarus (U.S.), which recently partnered with Ubisoft for the Assassin Creed’s Valhalla reveal.
Here’s the startups:
- Atlantide (France) creates educational games based on history to learn while having fun. The first experience of Atlantide is a geolocalized game that transforms a place into a playground to encourage observation, communication and immersion. Atlantide’s ambition is to dedust history by making it more concrete, more playful and less elitist, through professional and general public tools.
- Caregame (France) helps mobile game publishers to reach players like never before. Thanks to the new cloud mobile gaming solution that CareGame built, players can instantly access any mobile game without any downloads. No more smartphone (or storage) constraints: mobile games can be enjoyed in a click whatever the device – opening doors for better discoverability and wider audiences. CareGame believes the future of mobile gaming deserves to bring publishers and players closer together, being less centralized and showing more solidarity.
- Immersive.io (France) uses augmented reality to give fans a live experience. Whether watching through their smartglasses or smartphone, they get access to and interact with all the information they need to enjoy a game: video streaming, replays, stats, social feeds, editorial content and more regardless of their location, at the stadium or at home.
- Planetarium (South Korea) is an ecosystem for community-powered online games that live forever through decentralization. Libplanet, a blockchain core, enables blockchain and a game client to fully share code so that developers can create cross-platform decentralized games in a single Unity project. Game clients based on Libplanet can connect to each other to power an online world together without centralized servers. Planetarium is also developing Nine Chronicles, a fully decentralized role-playing game based on Libplanet which will launch in 2020. To encourage experimentation, this game will be available as open source at launch and updated with support from the community.
- Sky Mavis (Vietnam) is creating Axie Infinity, a digital pet universe where players battle, raise, and trade cute creatures called Axies. In Axie Infinity, players can experience the benefits of blockchain technology through ‘Play to Earn’ gameplay and a player-owned economy. The game is created by technology company Sky Mavis which specializes in creating products that allow anyone to truly own their digital identity and game assets.
- Sorare (France) is a global fantasy football game where managers can trade official digital collectibles, compose their teams and compete for rewards every week. Launched in March 2019, Sorare is on a mission to bringing crypto to fantasy sports fans through the most popular sport in the world: football. Sorare’s game has attracted more than 10,000 users with a monthly volume of $150,000 in March 2020. Based in Paris, Sorare is funded by venture investors such as Seedcamp, ConsenSys and Kima Ventures.
- Splinterlands (U.S.) is a next generation collectible trading card game. By building the game on blockchain technology, the company lets gamers play anytime, trade anytime, and earn every win. Over 20 million games have been played. Over $100,000 has been awarded to players through tournaments. Thousands of accounts battle every single day. The market has seen over $1 million worth of cards traded back and forth between players in less than two years.
- Xaya (U.K.) is a blockchain gaming platform designed from the ground up to support complex decentralized games with scalability in mind. Xaya aims to bring the quality and depth of mainstream centralized games into the fully decentralized realm. This opens possibilities such as human mining, a play-to-earn model where games are provably fair, transparent, trustless, and autonomous. Xaya is also developing Taurion, a complex decentralized game. The company is making Taurion, a massively multiplayer online, real-time strategy, and role-playing game where players use skill, intelligence, and teamwork to compete for resources in a fully decentralized player-driven economy and game world.