Last week, Activision employees held a walkout on Wednesday to protest the alleged sexual harassment and discrimination culture uncovered in a two-year investigation by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
Ubisoft is also guilty of discrimination and sexual harassment
Current and former Ubisoft staff have banded together, signing an open letter (shared by Axios) in solidarity with the Activision Blizzard employees, criticising Ubisoft’s handling of internal abuse allegations and calls for “fundamental changes” across the gaming industry.
The letter signed by over 1,000 current and former Ubisoft staff from 32 studios highlights the French publisher’s failure to deliver actual change after last years misconduct scandals involving upper management.
In June 2020, Ubisoft experienced a substantial sexual harassment investigation which led to the dismissal/leave of several executives. Among them was Serge Hascoet (Chief Creative Officer and second in command), Cecile Cornet (Human Resources Director), Tannis Mallat (Managing Director of Ubisoft’s Canadian branch) and two others.
Their leave was [sparked] after former and current Ubisoft employees used social media to denounce predatory behaviour displayed by managers. It was found that Ubisoft was facing dozens of allegations involving physical assault, threats of rape and allowing a bigoted work culture at Ubisoft Sofia.
Former Product and Brand Manager Adrien Gbingie was accused of manipulation, emotional abuse and rape by a former employee.
An expose by Kotaku recently found that sexual harassment, toxic management, and poor pay are all prominent at Ubisoft Singapore. One former developer says it is internally known as “one of the worst Ubisoft studios in terms of culture”.
Ubisoft has accepted Singapore government subsidies without fulfilling their side of the deal in training local talent, providing them fair wages and promoting Singapore staff. Instead, European developers would be offered lucrative roles in the Singapore office as an exotic one-two year tour away, creating a toxic work environment that encourages racial discrimination.
One local developer spoke to Kotaku stating that the Singapore studio already has plenty of “[talented staff (Singaporeans) who have the potential to make amazing games but they’re handed bad projects, work under toxic leaders, and suffer through ‘office politics’ which snuffs said potential].”
The complaint alleges that Ubisoft "[maintains and reinforces] a system where sexual harassment is tolerated because it is more profitable for the company to keep harassers in place than to protect its employees.”
The complaint names CEO Yves Guillemot, including several other former and current employees. These other employees were involved in the sexual harassment scandal in June 2020.
Guillemot was not named because of specific acts of harassment. Still, his responsibility as the CEO and co-founder is to ensure his staff’s safety and protect employees from a toxic work environment.
Systemic change needs to happen within the games industry
The open letter by Ubisoft staff also calls for action to hold those responsible for sexual misconduct and discrimination across the whole games industry “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.
From the frequency of these reports, it is clear that there is a widespread and deeply ingrained culture of abusive behaviour within the industry. It should no longer be a surprise to anyone: employers, executives, journalists or fans that these heinous acts are continuing.
It is time to stop being shocked. We must demand real steps be taken to prevent them. Those responsible must be held accountable for their actions.”
The letter then directly addresses Ubisoft management, denouncing their lack of effort to change “systemic discrimination, harassment and bullying” since the sexual allegations came to light in June last year.
“We have seen nothing more than a year of kind words, empty promises, and an inability or unwillingness to remove known offenders. We no longer trust your commitment to [addressing] these issues at their core. You need to do more.”
The letter offers a proposal that Ubisoft teams up with other industry-leading publishers and games developers, such as Activision Blizzard, to collaborate on a set of rules and processes to handle the reports of future offences accordingly.
“This collaboration must heavily involve employees in non-management positions and union representatives. This is essential to ensure that those who are directly affected by these behaviours are leading the change.”
Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot Responds to open letter
Ubisoft issued a short official statement in response to the open letter saying, “Over the past year, we have committed to engaging with our employees to enact fundamental changes.”
“Many of these changes have been driven by internal feedback and insights shared by our teams,” adding, “We must continue to engage our employees to ensure we are creating a workplace where they feel valued, supported, and most importantly, safe.”
The CEO of Ubisoft, Yves Guillemot, goes into more detail, claiming that the publisher has made "important progress over the past year" but still acknowledges that "there is still more work to be done."
However, workers have already reacted to the CEO’s message showing their disappointment in taking a year to remove “toxic people”.
And a second open letter from Ubisoft staff addresses that many of their demands were “sidelined [with] few of [their] points addressed.” And while they are aware of the changes that the company has made to improve the protection of its employees, Ubisoft continues to “protect and promote known offenders and their allies.”
The newest statement also lists specific issues for Ubisoft to address and insists on “having a collective seat at the table” regarding company reform - Ubisoft is yet to reply.