Ubi teeing off sports games

French publisher hits into EA as it nabs license deal with Tiger-rival Vijay Singh; acquires code from Microsoft's sports properties to fuel upcoming game.

The dicey world of sports-game publishing just got another player. Ubisoft today revealed that it will begin publishing sports games by announcing two major deals, making the already hectic market even more cutthroat.

The first deal sees Ubisoft signing the world's number-one ranked golfer, Vijay Singh, to a licensing deal. The agreement allows the publisher to produce a Vijay Singh-titled golf game, though no platforms or release dates have been revealed. Singh, whose public reception is lukewarm at best, is the main rival to the PGA's shining star, Tiger Woods, who not so coincidentally stars in his own top-selling golf games from Electronic Arts.

In a surprising move, Ubisoft also acquired the technology, tools, and source code of sports games from Microsoft Game Studios. The code was used in the Microsoft games NHL Rivals, NFL Fever, NBA Inside Drive, and MLB Inside Pitch. The curious purchase gives Ubisoft a healthy jumping-off point to enter the sports market, but using code from NFL Fever and MLB Inside Pitch seems moot, since EA owns the exclusive rights to the National Football League, and Take-Two Interactive owns the exclusive third-party rights to Major League Baseball. Both deals go into effect next year.

Could Ubisoft be looking to enter the college sports market? Are these purchases a way to ward off a potential buyout by EA? Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot was vague about Ubisoft's future in the sports gaming sector.

"There is still room for innovation in the sports genre, and Ubisoft has some great ideas that we're looking forward to implementing," said Guillemot. "We hope to not only offer sports fans games that have a unique flair and character, but also something that will take advantage of the fabulous capacities of current and next-generation consoles."

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