Ubisoft Reflects an Industry-Wide Leadership Crisis

Ubisoft Reflects an Industry-Wide Leadership Crisis

THIS WEEK IN BUSINESS | C-level execs don't need to be accused of wrongdoing to share the blame for toxic environments.

As you may have noticed, the industry is going through one of its now semi-regular reckonings regarding how it treats the people who work in it.

There's a lot of blame to go around when it comes to these stories. There are the abusers, of course. The HR departments that don't crack down on them; the co-workers who see these problems and look the other way. The wider cultural and societal norms and structures that make some people less worth protecting and others immune from criticism. The marketing, press, and community discourse that reinforce those norms intentionally or not...

And then there are the leaders, the people who set the tone, steer the ship, and have an obligation to their employees that goes beyond simply giving them money for services rendered. Even if they aren't engaging in harmful behavior themselves, they are the ones with the most power and influence in the company to make it clear what is and isn't acceptable.

If they're too focused on the bottom line to worry about their employees's health and safety, that gets noticed. Those priorities naturally become the priorities of the company. The buck stops with leadership not because it's a glib way of making my point or a catchy phrase; the buck stops with leadership because it has to. That's the entire point of being a leader.

Ubisoft told USgamer in a statement this week that unlike its last Ubisoft Forward stream, September's will include "a message tied to the show sharing the status of Ubisoft's commitment to improving the culture, comfort and safety of Ubisoft employees and community." | Ubisoft

QUOTE | "Each time we've been made aware of misconduct, we made tough decisions, and made sure that those decisions had a clear and positive impact. It has now become clear that certain individuals betrayed the trust I placed in them, and didn't adhere to Ubisoft's shared values. So I have never compromised on my core values and ethics, and I never will." – In an earnings call after the company was rocked by sexual harassment and misogyny scandals, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot replies to an investor who pointed out that as CEO of the company, he either didn't know about the toxic behavior of so many high-ranking employees, knew a little about it but didn't bother finding out any more, or knew about it all and ignored it.

QUOTE | "What can I say? I'm as disappointed as you are! My team REALLY let themselves down on this one." –In today's installment of Dinosaur Comics, T. Rex echoes Guillemot's philosophy of leadership.

QUOTE | "Yves [Guillemot, Ubisoft CEO] is okay with toxic management, as long as the results of these managers exceed their toxicity level." – According to Solidaires Informatique, a French union preparing a collective lawsuit against Ubisoft, this is a quote from (now former) Ubisoft head of global HR Cécile Cornet.

STAT | 2 (tie) – When the International Game Developers Association asked members, "Which developer or publisher would you most like to work for?" as part of its 2019 Developer Satisfaction Survey, Ubisoft was tied as the second most commonly given answer, trailing only Nintendo.

QUOTE | "I remember once working on this project, and it was the one that broke me. It was endless late nights. I was working several roles. There was no support except for the occasional desk beer and shitty overtime fast food. At one point, we all got piled into this room to address the rock bottom morale that everyone was feeling, and I thought when I came in, 'There's going to be an earnest dialogue, maybe even an apology.' Instead, we were told by the project leaders how lucky we were to be making something bigger than us.

Stanley Pierre Louis has been president and CEO of the ESA since May 2019. | ESA

"And I was like, 'We're making a video game. We didn't just solve world peace. We're making this video game that's gonna go on to be forgotten six months from now and replaced by something else.'" – Beans co-founder and former Ubisoft and Creative Assembly developer Gabriela Salvatore offers perspective on the motivational tactics of triple-A development.

QUOTE | "There's no place for harassment of any kind in the workplace or in society. Many of our leading companies in this space have policies to ensure safe work environments. And the critical element is living up to those policies, which represents the values of our industry." – ESA president Stanley Pierre-Louis addresses the recent wave of horror stories across the industry in a wide-ranging talk about the industry.

QUOTE | "I don't envision us going back to everybody being in the studio five days a week again—ever. Because we've been able to show that people can be productive at home." - Cloud Chamber Games' Kelley Gilmore says the pandemic has permanently changed the way the new BioShock studio works. Listen to more from Gilmore on the most recent episode of USgamer's Branching Narratives podcast.

QUOTE | "What success looks like to these companies is different. One is prioritising selling a service, whereas the other is prioritising the device. One of the reasons Phil Spencer cited Google as the biggest competitor to Xbox is not because PlayStation are suddenly insignificant, but because Google's current strategy is more in-line with what Microsoft is trying to do." – GamesIndustry.biz's own Christopher Dring says the console war is effectively over because Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft all have different objectives now.

STAT | $60 – The price point for Ubisoft's PS5 and Xbox Series X games, an indicator that not everyone will be following Take-Two's lead in charging an extra $10 for next-gen titles.

QUOTE | "You can't make [Trover Saves the Universe] for a few hundred thousand dollars. And because the VR market is still the size it is, it doesn't necessarily sustain these larger game experiences." – CEO Tanya Watson explains why Squanch Games is dropping its focus on VR-exclusive titles for now.

QUOTE | "We have this ludicrously huge game with a lot of revenue. We're able to self fund our way to 100 people, comfortably. And now we're in the process of finding out what we actually do—what we are as a studio, the kinds of things we want to make, and who we want to be." – Josh Ling, director of business development for Adopt Me, a social collection game on the user-generated content platform Roblox.

STAT | 70-80% - Roblox's cut of all the revenue Adopt Me brings in, according to Ling.

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Brendan Sinclair

North American Editor

Brendan joined GamesIndustry International in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at CBS-owned GameSpot in the US.

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