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Ubisoft suits up for sports games

The French game maker enters the hotly competitive market, partly by buying assets from Microsoft.

Troubled French video game publisher Ubisoft has revealed plans to enter the hotly contested market for sports games, partly by recycling discarded Microsoft games.

Ubisoft, which is in the midst of fighting off what company executives have called a possible hostile takeover bid by leading game publisher Electronic Arts, said in a statement on Monday that it would enter the sports game market with a golf title featuring top-ranked pro Vijay Singh.

The company said it also had acquired all team sports assets from Microsoft Game Studios, which created in-house titles for the Xbox console. Ubisoft said it would create new games based on Microsoft's football, basketball, hockey and baseball franchise, all shelved by Microsoft last year, in the wake of poor sales against EA titles.

"There is still room for innovation in the sports genre, and Ubisoft has some great ideas that we're looking forward to implementing," Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said in the statement. "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."

Ubisoft will have a tough time capitalizing on at least two of the Microsoft franchises, thanks to recent business moves by rivals. EA, whose "Madden NFL" franchise is a perennial moneymaker, recently signed a licensing agreement with the National Football League that gives it exclusive rights to depict pro football teams and players. In addition, rival Take-Two Interactive Software has brokered a similar deal with Major League Baseball.

Any activity in the sports market will also put Ubisoft in conflict with EA, which recently acquired a minority ownership stake in the French company. While EA has not disclosed intentions beyond its buyout of 20 percent of Ubisoft stock, Guillemot has said he views the move as an opening gambit for a possible hostile takeover.

EA has titles covering almost every major team and individual sport, including golf, where the company's "Tiger Woods PGA Tour" games have long dominated the market.