Later today, Ubisoft is holding a second Ubisoft Forward presentation, which will be focusing on upcoming games the company is working on. However, last time it hosted one of these streams, the publisher came under fire for not addressing widespread claims of harassment and misconduct within the company that were making their way to the public weeks prior. Before the stream, Ubisoft posted on social media that the entire show had been pre-recorded, and that there was no opportunity to add anything to it, including a statement addressing anything that was coming out about the inner workings of Ubisoft and its “boys club” workplace culture. Well, this time around, Ubisoft finally recorded a statement, but like its explanation about why it wouldn’t be addressing these things during Ubisoft Forward, it was posted to its social channels three hours prior to the actual show.
The four-minute video is of Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot, speaking on two specific controversies: the harassment allegations and the recent use of the Raised Fist icon, which is widely associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, alongside some extremely fascist shit in a Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad cinematic. In these four minutes, Guillemot says that Ubisoft has taken action to remove those accused from the company, and is investing another $1 million over the next five years (Ubisoft’s net income in 2018 was €139.452 million, roughly the equivalent of $165 million USD) into its graduate program to create professional opportunities for women and people of color within Ubisoft.
On the Elite Squad controversy side, Guillemot didn’t reference the game by name, only saying that one of the company’s mobile games contained imagery that was “inappropriate.” As a response, Guillemot said that Ubisoft has put up new safeguards to ensure an oversight like using modern iconography of an ongoing social movement that is still making headlines daily, doesn’t happen again. What does that mean? He did not say anything more specific than that. Guillemot did mention the Black Lives Matter movement, saying that Ubisoft fully supports it and will be making a donation to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Here’s the full video:
— Ubisoft (@Ubisoft) September 10, 2020
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Ultimately, these initiatives can only matter if they’re upheld and supported, and it’s unlikely that the extent of the rot that’s going on within the company has been excised just in the months that Ubisoft has been compelled to actually address it. But even if Ubisoft has millions of followers on social media who might see this video, it still reads as cowardice to me to release this statement even slightly distanced from the presentation about how super cool and awesome its upcoming games are. If you can’t even name the game you appropriated a real-world movement advocating for black lives with, what is your true motivation in addressing what you’ve done wrong?
In response to questioning on this, the company’s social media team said that the video wouldn’t be part of the show “due to timing constraints,” and that the video is going to be placed at the beginning of the presentation should anyone watch it in VOD format. But who is imposing time constraints on a Twitch stream you’re hosting yourself? And if this hypothetical higher-up is saying there’s no time to include a video addressing public controversies about workplace harassment and using imagery of the Black Lives Matter movement, what do they think is more important that it needed to be on the show in its place? I promise you, hypothetical Ubisoft producer, if you genuinely need to make space for this, you can show the trailer for Immortals: Fenyx Rising some other time.