5505 St. Laurent Boulevard
Montréal, Quebec, Canada
October 13, 2016
1:30 PM EST
The man stepped off the bus, a vehicle oddly labelled "SeaLink Transit" instead of the "stm" logo normally seen on public transit in the city. He looked up at the brick building in front of the bus stop, taking a deep breath as he glared at the sign in the upper left corner of the face of the building… "UBISOFT". He then walked up the steps and into the building, a briefcase in his hand.
Inside, the receptionist at the front desk immediately put the current call on hold. "Oh! Mr. Chaser! They're waiting for you upstairs, go right on in." she said, and went back to the phone call. Alex Chaser nodded and headed for the stairs.
The boardroom was tense. After the failures of Watch_dogs and Assassin's Creed Unity, Ubisoft's profits had been falling over the past two years, and showed no signs of stopping. Aside from the massive amounts of funding which the Drake Holdings Corporation could provide, the DHC also had an air of superstition to it. Seemingly every company which Drake Holdings flushed cash into experienced not only a rise in profits but general "good luck", and some companies were in deep enough and desperate enough to try anything to get on their feet.
Although Ubisoft's recent games hadn't all failed, it was clear that their heavy hitter Assassin's Creed had been milked dry. They'd put it on "hiatus for a year" with no real intention of reviving the franchise. Their other games were never the big sellers, so Watch_dogs 2 was a last ditch attempt to replace their old flagship franchise by vastly improving on the mild success of the game's predecessor. However, they weren't talking about a franchise in this case, but merely a sequel to what many considered a single game, and one that had sold relatively poorly at that. They were indeed desperate enough to hope for good luck, though they certainly weren't going to count on it.
The thing was, dealing with Drake Holdings meant dealing with the enigmatic Mr. Chaser, who also had a role in the superstition. What kind of name was Drake? Who exactly was their CEO? Some of the more religious people in the industry almost suspected a literal deal with the devil.
Finally, Mr. Chaser entered the boardroom. The management tried to look enthusiastic, their plastic smiles belying the weight of their situation. "Mr. Chaser! Glad you could make it! How was your flight?" the CEO asked.
"I'd tell you, but I took a bus." Mr. Chaser responded. For a second there was an awkward pause, and then Mr. Chaser broke into a smile. "Relax, I was already in the area! I'm not going to take my jet when it's faster and cheaper to go by mass transit."
Everyone else silently breathed a sigh of relief, and they all sat down at the table. "So, according to the files my secretary gave me, you need investment to stay afloat long enough to produce Watch_dogs 2?" Mr. Chaser asked. They were a bit surprised. Most investors were not interested in the actual development enough to bother to remember the games being produced. "Ah, yes. We-" the CEO began, but was interrupted by Mr. Chaser taking out his laptop and continuing to speak. "Here's the thing. Don't bother trying to sugarcoat it, I already have the understanding that you've done the projections and you won't be able to stay afloat long enough to finish your current game." The room went dead quiet. The CEO coughed in embarrassment. "That said, I've played the current version of Watch_dogs 2 at PAX, and I'm impressed with what I've seen." That relieved a bit of pressure in the room. Knowing the names of the games was one thing, but actually playing them showed a whole 'nother level of competence.
Mr. Chaser took a stack of papers stapled together out of his briefcase and passed them across the table to the executives. "This contract is for the investment terms. I'll lay it out for you. I will give you as much cash as you need to get Watch_dogs 2 to market. Advertising, development, day-to-day operations, everything. However, if the game fails to live up to customer expectations, this company will owe all the money it received back to Drake Holdings.”
“What do you mean by 'customer expectations'?” the CEO asked. “Simple. If the Steam rating is Mixed, Mostly Negative, Negative, Very Negative or, God help you, Overwhelmingly Negative, you've failed to live up to customer expectations.” Alex said. “Believe me, Drake takes game quality very seriously. You do not want to piss off your customers if you sign this deal.”
The executives looked at each other nervously. They weren't EA, but Ubisoft was infamous for its treatment of customers. Signing this meant they would be legally obligated to do a good job. “We'll have our lawyers look at it and get back to you.” the CEO responded. “Go ahead. It might be a bit unorthodox in its demands, but I assure you, it's legally valid and you won't get a better offer.” Mr. Chaser told them, and began packing up his things. “I'll see myself out.”
5505 St. Laurent Boulevard
Montréal, Quebec, Canada
October 17, 2016
8:59 PM EST
“Those are the terms. Honestly, they're almost too reasonable. We get cash when we need it, we release the game, and if the game is objectively rated high on Steam and various gaming journalism outlets, we only owe 5% profits. If we get a low rating from Steam and the gaming press, we have to pay back every penny we received, with the only silver lining being that we don't owe interest. If we can't pay, the board members will be required to cover the cost by selling their shares to DHC, meaning Drake Holdings Corporation owns Ubisoft outright.” the lawyer said. “The game review sites condition also have a clause in our favor. If they're tampered with by us, them or a third party, they are invalid for the purposes of the contract and will be ignored. The worst that can happen is that positive reviews get dismissed, the best is they ignore a lot of bad press.”
“So what's your recommendation? Should we sign?” the CEO asked.
“Considering what you've told me about our financial situation, it depends on the state of the game. If you're confident enough that our product is genuinely good, then absolutely yes.” the lawyer responded. “Otherwise it won't make a difference what we do, so best not to tangle ourselves in something we don't need to. I've read up on that company. They're very mysterious, almost legendary in the industry. Lawyers at publishing companies across the globe have dealt with them in the past, and they always insist on a quality product and fair treatment of customers. Sometimes they also require better treatment of employees. Their finances are a mystery, their board members have no digital footprint, Mr. Chaser seems to work as the CEO of their game development subsidiary which is surprisingly minuscule and deals mostly with 'indie' titles… frankly Drake Holdings is conspicuously unknown despite its size but they've made these deals in the past and not once have they failed to deliver. There have been no legal inquiries into their operations, but nothing that big and that featureless bodes well. If there was ever a Faustian Deal in the already cutthroat corporate world, you're looking at it.”
The CEO bit his lip, reached into his briefcase and produced a fountain pen. He signed the contract in red ink, a consequence of his bad luck in trying to procure black ink for it after it ran dry yesterday. Every company that made fountain pen ink had suddenly, somehow, sold out of the most common ink colour on the planet. “How quickly can we get this faxed?”