A detailed report into the current wave of sexual misconduct allegations at Ubisoft has surfaced new details on the developer’s continued reluctance to let a woman be the sole star of a big budget Assassin’s Creed game.
Bloomberg [paywall]‘s article highlights the various ongoing investigations into the conduct of Ubisoft staff members, as well as further allegations around staff members past and present.
Centre to many of these alleged incidents is Ubisoft’s former chief creative officer Serge Hascoët, described as a close friend of company boss Yves Guillemot, who resigned earlier this month following a newspaper report detailing allegations of sexual harassment.
Hascoët is alleged to have regularly held company meetings in strip clubs, to have made sexually explicit comments to staff and to have given colleagues weed-laced cakes without their knowledge.
The report links a pervasive culture of machismo to Ubisoft’s creative output, and repeated decisions not to make a woman the sole star of a major Assassin’s Creed game.
New claims include a reduction in screentime for Victorian London-set Assassin’s Creed Syndicate co-star Evie, whose eventual role was made lesser in favour of her brother Jacob.
The same happened in Ancient Egypt-set Assassin’s Creed Origins, when its original pitch to “injure or kill off” main character Bayek in favour of his wife Aya was scrapped.
The same happened in Ancient Greece-set Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, when its original pitch was to have Kassandra the only playable character. This too was ditched to give players a choice between Kassandra and her brother Alexios.
Even with the reveal of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, which lets you play as either a male or female version of lead character Eivor, Ubisoft chose to debut the game with its male version front and centre, while its female option was first seen as a collector’s edition action figure. When pressed on why Ubisoft had not showcased the female version at the game’s reveal, Ubisoft told me at the time that Valhalla’s marketing would “showcase both at different points”.
“All of the directives came from Ubisoft’s marketing department or from Hascoët,” Bloomberg wrote today, “both of whom suggested female protagonists wouldn’t sell.”
Eurogamer has today asked Ubisoft for further comment on all the above.
There’s more detail in the report on several of the alleged incidents which have already surfaced, and an allegation of a racist culture at Bulgarian studio Ubisoft Sofia.
Ubisoft placed several high profile staff on administrative leave at the end of June as it began investigating a tidal wave of reports into alleged sexual misconduct at its various studios and within its upper management.
The reverberations from that led Guillemot to announce a set of reforms for its top editorial department and HR processes, plus employee listening sessions moderated by external facilitators and an audit of the company procedures and policies by an external consulting firm.
But the allegations kept on coming. A week later, Hascoët was named in further sexual harassment allegations published in French newspaper Libération. He resigned his position the following day. Ubisoft’s boss of Canadian studios Yannis Mallat was announced as leaving at the same time, as it had become “impossible for him to continue”.
The full report is well worth a read.