French publisher Ubisoft has completed its acquisition of German game developer Related Designs, in a move that signals its willingness to invest in the free-to-play online game sector as well.

Set up in 1995, Related Designs is one of the best game developers in Germany, best known for its PC real-time strategy games such as No Man’s Land, Castle Strike, and especially the Anno Series, most notably Anno 1404 (released in the U.S. as Dawn of Discovery) and Anno 2070.

Ubisoft Eyes Free-to-Play Game Sector

Screenshot of Related Designs’ Anno 2070

Ubisoft is the third largest game publisher in the United States and Canada and the driving force behind widely popular game franchises such as Prince of Persia, Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed. The French company already owned a 29.95 percent stake in Related Designs and has now purchased the remaining 70.05 percent. The terms of the transaction have not been disclosed.

The acquisition signals Ubisoft’s intention to become more invested in the sector of free-to-play online games. Related Designs may be best known for its real-time strategy games but the German developer has been working lately on the popular Might & Magic Heroes Online, a free browser-based massively multiplayer role playing game.

Under the French publisher’s umbrella, Related Designs’ 65-person team will continue to work on the browser MMORPG project, while collaborating with Ubisoft’s Blue Byte studio, also based in Germany, for other titles. Related Designs and Blue Byte, developers of The Settlers eight-game series, have already been working together for six years.

The buy will allow Ubisoft and Related Designs to share experience and resources more easily in developing new games. The French publisher also hopes that the Might & Magic Heroes Online project will become a successful title in its portfolio and a well established name on the free-to-play game market.

[Image via Digital Digest]