Three hours before tonight's Ubisoft Forward stream, their latest blast of announcements and trailers, CEO Yves Guillemot issued a public video apology to people hurt by the company's failure to protect them from abusive employees. This year, accusations of sexual harassment, abuse, and discrimination were made against numerous Ubisoft employees and studios, including several high-ranking people.
If Guillemot's apology video was planned to clear the air so today can just be feel-good marketing, it's unfortunate that only seven hours prior, a new report came out with allegations of abusive behaviour at Nadeo, the Ubisoft studio who make Trackmania.
"This summer, we learned that certain Ubisoft employees did not uphold our company's values, and that our systems failed to protect the victims of their behaviour," Guillemot said in the video statement. "I am truly sorry to everyone who was hurt. We have taken significant steps to remove or sanction those whose violated our values and code of conduct, and we are working to improve our systems and processes."
It's unclear who the "we" that only just learned this is, considering many of the numerous accusers said not only had they reported issues to HR with little consequence, but HR appeared to particularly protect prolific employees. A report in French newspaper Libération claimed the now-former global head of HR had said Yves Guillemot was okay with toxic management as long as their results outweighed their toxicity, and that she'd said Ubisoft would give extra chances to key employees.
I am surprised that Ubisoft have cleared out quite so many executives in the wake of allegations becoming public. It's more than some companies have done. May investigation and change continue.
"We are at the start of a long journey," Guillemot said. "Real change will take time but I am determined to do everything in my power to ensure everyone at Ubisoft feels welcome, respected, and safe, and to rebuild the trust our teams, fans, and players have in us."
He also noted that Ubisoft plan to invest an extra $1 million (£770k) into their graduate programme over the next five years, with a focus on "creating opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and people of colour, to join and thrive at Ubisoft."
Guillemot then addressed recent controversy around Tom Clancy's Elite Squad, saying "Unfortunately, one of our new mobile games included content that was inappropriate." In it, a terrorist organisation fond of raised fist symbols are hoodwinking protesters into thinking they want to make the world better. At best, this was unfathomably ignorant.
"This kind of oversight cannot happen," Guillemot said. "We are putting in place safeguards to prevent it in the future." Mate, how did it happen in the first place? You want to look into that. He added, "We fully support the Black Lives Matter movement, and today we are making an additional donation to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund."
Unfortunately, more allegations against Ubisoft are still coming to light.
Earlier today, Numerama posted a report with allegations against Nadeo director Florent Castelnérac. The French tech news website claim to have spoken to 10 current and former employees who complained about crunch, pressure, public humiliation, and yelling from him, saying that some were left afraid of him and sometimes in tears. Numerama were told that there, too, reporting issues had little effect. In response, Castelnérac has publicly gone through claim-by-claim declaring them true or false and offering his side.
Ubisoft Forward starts at 8pm tonight (noon Pacific). I sure hope that video will be shown during the stream too.