Over the past month, Ubisoft has seen a number of prominent departures in the wake of serious allegations of abuse, harassment, sexism, and racism at the company. The exits come as Ubisoft co-founder and CEO Yves Guillemot promises "profound changes at all levels," but according to a new report, many current and former employees describe a culture where misconduct at the company's highest levels was seemingly tolerated or denied for years.
Bloomberg's Jason Schreier spoke with over 40 current and former Ubisoft employees for a new piece detailing longstanding practices and norms at the company. Sources, many of them wishing to remain anonymous, describe rampant misconduct from top editorial staff, largely unresponsive HR, and imposition of sexist views onto Ubisoft's games.
Many employees have come forward with stories about Serge Hascoët, Ubisoft's former Chief Creative Officer who resigned earlier this month. Hired in 1988 a few years after Yves Guillemot and his four brothers founded Ubisoft, Hascoët has led the creative direction for Ubisoft's top franchises. Hascoët has been accused of making inappropriate sexual comments, routinely holding business meetings in strip clubs, pushing employees to drink, and of giving coworkers marijuana edibles without their knowledge.
According to several employees, Hascoët's alleged behavior, along with that of staff close to him like editorial vice presidents Maxime Béland and Tommy François, prompted complaints to Ubisoft HR for years. Many report nothing happening as a result of their complaints. A former Ubisoft HR employee alleges that distrust of victims amongst management made it difficult to respond to complaints.
Employees also say that the Assassin's Creed series in particular has been shaped by sexist views held by top-level staff. Current and former employees tell Bloomberg that Assassin's Creed Syndicate and Origins were originally supposed to feature women more prominently—equal screen time for Evie in the former, and having Aya star in the latter. Both roles were then reduced over the course of development. With Assassin's Creed Odyssey, developers say Kassandra was going to be the only playable character, but that Hascoët and Ubisoft's marketing department insisted on the addition of Alexios based on the idea that games starring female protagonists don't sell as well.
"I am in awe of the Ubi Québec staff who fought teeth and claws to get Evie, and later Kassandra, to even exist," former Ubisoft designer Marie Jasmin tweeted earlier this morning following the publication of the report. "Know that, before them, many battles were lost." Jill Murray, writer on Liberation, Black Flag, and Black Flag's Freedom Cry DLC, has also come forward to say that Ubisoft editorial insisted on male protagonists, and that she was "demoted over this issue" before deciding to quit the company.
With the recent weeks seeing Hascoët and Béland having resigned and François on disciplinary leave, there are early signs that Ubisoft is indeed reshaping its Editorial Department, but the outpouring of allegations also include accounts of misconduct within other parts of the company. The broader games industry movement advocating for inclusion and standing against harassment and abuse calls for more than a handful of high-profile resignations. Ubisoft's future actions beyond exec oustings will speak as much, if not more, to its commitment to change.