Rayman and Beyond Good & Evil creator Michel Ancel announced his retirement from the video games industry just a week ago, but it seems his exit may have been precipitated by years of bad behavior. For the French newspaper Libération, reporters Erwan Cario and Marius Chapuis spoke to Ancel as well as sources who worked under him, who describe Ancel's management style as disorganized, unhelpful, and abusive at times. This, sources allege, kept Beyond Good & Evil 2's development in disarray for years, especially as Ancel split his time between it and the game Wild.
In the report, sources tell Libération that work from developers at Ubisoft Montpellier on Beyond Good & Evil 2, an online open-world adventure sequel to the 2003 original, was regularly thrown out or deemed unusable by Ancel with little warning. One developer describes Ancel's management style in this regard as erratic, giving praise to workers in one meeting only to turn around and denigrate them in the next.
Sources allege that Ancel's divided attention and his good favor with Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot also hindered Beyond Good & Evil 2. Splitting his time between Beyond and Wild, a title still in development at Ancel's Wild Sheep Studio, Ancel was not devoted to the team at Ubisoft Montpellier in a full time manner. Libération reports that this arrangement was raised to Guillemot as a potential problem as early as 2017.
An evaluation of Ancel began this year after employees at multiple Ubisoft studios came forward with allegations of abuse and misconduct against other high-ranking creatives at the company, leading to investigations, resignations, and the exits of Editorial Department vice presidents Tommy François and Maxime Béland. According to Libération, Guillemot reinforced his support for Ancel's director role on Beyond Good & Evil 2 in late August.
Ancel appears to have a different perspective on Beyond Good & Evil 2's seven years of development so far. He tells Libération that he was not aware that many staffers blame him for the strife associated with working on the project, but characterizes stress and burnout as part of the territory.
Ancel's retirement announcement then came as a shock to members of the Beyond Good & Evil 2 team, Cario and Chapuis say. Montpellier workers did not expect Ancel's more recent distance from the project (confirmed by Senior Producer Guillaume Brunier) to be permanent, nor did many know about the investigation.
USgamer has reached out to Ubisoft for comment on the allegations against Ancel and the characterization of Yves Guillemot's input on Beyond Good & Evil 2. We did not receive a response prior to publication.
With both Wild and Beyond Good & Evil 2 continuing development as Ancel leaves to focus on work at a wildlife sanctuary, the future for both projects seems quite uncertain. Brunier says Beyond Good & Evil 2 "recently passed an important internal milestone" and that the team hopes to show the game off next year (which would make its first showing since E3 2018). Ubisoft Paris is now working on Beyond Good & Evil 2 as a partner studio, and new job listings have recently been posted for the project. Wild, on the other hand, was last demoed at Paris Games Week in 2015, nearly five years ago.
Publicly, Guillemot has made multiple promises of reform since the allegations of widespread abuse at Ubisoft emerged earlier this year, but his leadership has also been questioned for the way Ubisoft has sidelined its statements on the matter while marketing its lineup of holiday 2020 and early 2021 releases. Now, Ancel's alleged misconduct joins the list of issues that Guillemot may be expected to answer for in future company statements or in response to questions from investors.