Bloomberg has published an investigative piece into the sexist culture that permeates through Ubisoft’s management, specifically in reference to multiple sexual misconduct claims that have sprung up during the past few weeks. While there have since been some resignations and removals from the company, there was no mention of these allegations and the fallout during the Ubisoft Forward stream where the company was showing off all its super cool video game products for the public to consume and purchase.
The report is extensive, and for those interested in learning more about the terrible working conditions Ubisoft’s company culture allowed I definitely recommend checking out the full report. A point that stuck out to me was the ways in which this culture manifested in the company’s games, specifically the Assassin’s Creed series.
For those unaware, two of the last three games in the series had both a male and female player character. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate starred siblings Jacob and Evie Frye, while Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey featured siblings Alexios and Kassandra. According to Bloomberg’s report, Evie’s role was significantly reduced in the overarching story while the original intent was for both siblings to share the spotlight. Even on the game’s box art, Jacob is the one who is front and center while Evie stands off to the side. With Odyssey, the original pitch was for Kassandra to be the sole starring character, but according to four people, Ubisoft’s marketing department and chief creative officer Serge Hascoët shut that idea down under the notion that games with women protagonists don’t sell. Hascoët is among the long list of Ubisoft employees accused of sexual misconduct.
In the case of Assassin’s Creed: Origins, which launched in between Syndicate and Odyssey in 2017, there were plans to have main character Bayek killed off early on in the game and be replaced by his wife Aya. According to two people familiar with the situation, Aya’s role was eventually made smaller and smaller until Bayek became the sole lead.
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Now, as we know from big games like Horizon Zero Dawn and even more recently The Last of Us Part II, games with women leads can and do sell extraordinarily well. Horizon, even as a new IP, has sold over 10 million copies on PlayStation 4, and that’s before the game has even launched on PC. The Last of Us Part II, which has been out for about a month now, went on to sell over 4 million copies just in its first week. But despite evidence of the contrary, this is just an excuse that has been allowed to run rampant within Ubisoft due to the sexist culture multiple sources told Bloomberg has become commonplace at the company.
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, the next game in the series coming out this holiday season, features both a male and female version of its main character Eivor as its protagonist.
On July 11, Ubisoft CEO sent out a company-wide email saying that the company is working on initiatives to combat sexual misconduct, as well as confirming the stepping down of several figures from their positions, including Hascoët.