Ubisoft’s problems seem pretty deep-seated and long-running, what with the dozens of allegations of sexual abuse and discrimination, prolific executives resigning, and the CEO vowing to make “profound” changes “at all levels of the organisation”. From the outside, it sure looks like a cascade of institutional problems which often ignore or punish victims while perpetrators suffer few consequences. This view is further fed by a new Bloomberg report which talked to a number of current and former employees. It also claims that plans for female protagonists in some Ubisoft games were pushed out or reduced by this environment.
I don’t know if anything in the report is particularly surprising. It gives more examples of alleged sexist, racist, homophobic, and harassing behaviour which yeah, fit the pattern. It has more allegations about Serge Hascoët, the chief creative officer who resigned earlier this month, including that he and his team sometimes held business meetings in strip clubs and naturally this stifled women’s careers. It has more people reporting inappropriate sexual behaviour from colleagues and managers. It has more people alleging that HR did not help when they reported their troubles. It has accusations from a former HR person that the company distrusted victims and were hesitant to act. It has more accounts saying that high-ranking staff were valued more and protected. Yeah, this broadly fits with what people have been saying.
The report ties this environment to a reluctance to give female characters equal or main billing in Assassin’s Creed games. Reportedly, Jacob and Evie were once to be equally important in Syndicate, Origins planned to kill or injure Bayek so we’d play as Aya instead, and Kassandra was once proposed as the only playable character in Odyssey. Several people said plans were changed after they were told by Serge Hascoët or the marketing department that, in Bloomberg’s words, “female protagonists wouldn’t sell.” Which, yeah, that sounds like the big-budget video games industry. Not unique to Ubisoft, this. I’ve heard that story a dozen times before, not about these particular games but welp.
Do you want to read more allegations? Because now you can, in this new report, if you want to? I am so tired and so angry. Between Ubisoft and Twitch and others, I have read so many allegations from so many people (primarily women) over the past month, upsetting but unsurprising. It’s not just Ubisoft either. Ubisoft are only the latest company to find themselves caught in a scandal of their own creation. They surely won’t be the last.