This week, hundreds of current and former Ubisoft staff signed an open letter in solidarity with Activision Blizzard employees, who took part in a walkout on Wednesday to protest an alleged culture of sexual harassment and discrimination at the Call Of Duty and World Of Warcraft developers. The letter criticises Ubisoft's own handling of abuse allegations, and calls for "real, fundamental changes" across the industry. Yesterday, CEO Yves Guillemot responded, saying the company has made "important progress over the past year", but acknowledges that "there is still more work to be done."
"To the workers of Activision Blizzard, we hear you and want to loudly declare our solidarity with you," reads the letter (obtained by Axios' Stephen Totilo). "Over the past week, the games industry has once again been rocked by revelations that have long been known by too many of us. Revelations that a year ago many were hearing about Ubisoft."
"It is clear, from the frequency of these reports, that there is a widespread and deeply ingrained culture of abusive behaviour within the industry. It should no longer be a surprise to anyone: employees, executives, journalists, or fans that these heinous acts are going on. It is time to stop being shocked. We must demand real steps to be taken to prevent them. Those responsible must be held accountable for their actions."
All of this follows last week's news that the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) were suing Activision Blizzard for allegedly harbouring a company culture that creates "a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women".
The company responded saying the lawsuit included "distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard's past". Thousands of Activision Blizzard employees signed a letter shortly after in response, condemning the company's "abhorrent and insulting" reaction to the allegations. On Wednesday this culminated in a walkout, with Activision Blizzard staff requesting management work with them on a number of demands to improve diversity, and help create a safer work environment.
After their message of solidarity, the Ubisoft employees' letter expresses distrust and disappointment at Ubisoft management's "kind words, empty promises, and inability to remove known offenders."
"We, the collective employees of Ubisoft, demand a seat at the table when it comes to deciding how to move forward from here," the letter continues. "The offenders need to be removed from the company, along with those who were complicit in or willfully ignorant of the actions of others. As the management, it is your role to see these acts going on and take action. Ignorance is not an excuse, not in law and certainly not in the eyes of your employees."
"We need real, fundamental changes, within Ubisoft, within Activision Blizzard, and across the industry."
Ubisoft responded with a short statement, saying they've made "significant and meaningful changes", while also recognising that they need to work with staff to ensure they're creating a workplace where they feel "valued, supported, and most importantly, safe." CEO Yves Guillemot also emailed employees his own response, going into a little more detail.
"We have made important progress over the past year," he says. "Since summer we have implemented new anonymous reporting tools, revamped our HR processes including new global policies to prevent and manage discrimination, retalition, harrassment, installed a new code of conduct, rolled out mandatory training, established a content review group and are bringing in new leadership across major studios, HR, D&I, Editorial and Production. These are important steps forward, but this is a long process, and there is still more work to be done."
Guillemot adds that the company has done hundreds of "listening sessions" over the last year, as well as a company-wide survey and global audit. He also acknowledges that "not everyone is confident in the processes put in place to manage misconduct reports", and it's a "top priority" for the company "to ensure they are robust and independent".
In a "final response" to Guillemot's email, a Ubisoft developer told Eurogamer today that "the majority of our demands were sidelined and few of our points have been addressed".
"Ubisoft continues to protect and promote known offenders and their allies. We see management continuing to avoid this issue," they add. "We look forward to a response that addresses all the issues raised and properly acknowledges our demands."