Last year, Ubisoft was the subject of numerous allegations of workplace abuse that included physical assault and sexual harassment. Along with specific incidents, the company was accused of harboring a culture in which sexism, overwork, and misconduct were normal. Multiple executives resigned as a result of the allegations, including vice president Maxime Beland. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot promised "profound" changes at the company. A year later, a number of fans don't believe that Ubisoft has kept that promise.
The doubt was brought on in part by a recent report from French paper Le Télégramme, which says that some employees don't feel Ubisoft has fundamentally changed since last summer. The report was shared widely last week, and fans rallied a boycott on social media under the #HoldUbisoftAccountable banner.
Without directly referencing the Télégramme report or hashtag, Ubisoft responded today in a statement from Guillemot that outlines what the company has done since last year's resignations. Guillemot says that Ubisoft has set up multiple ways for employees to report misconduct, including anonymously, put all employees through anti-harassment training, assessed its workplace culture through questionnaires and focus groups, and brought in a third party to audit its HR practices. Ubisoft has also created a "clearer, more comprehensive, and more actionable" code of conduct, writes Guillemot, which all employees will be required to sign.
Guillemot also highlights new leaders at Ubisoft. Not long after the allegations were made, innovation lab projects director Lidwine Sauer was appointed to a new role as head of workplace culture. In February of this year, Raashi Sikka was hired for a new VP of global diversity and inclusion role, and in April, Anika Grant joined Ubisoft as its new head of HR. Both Sikka and Grant previously held similar roles at Uber, where they faced a comparable situation following sexism and harassment allegations made against the company in 2017. In 2019, Uber settled with workers for $4.4 million after charges that it fostered "a culture of sexual harassment and retaliation against individuals who complained about such harassment."
"Considerable progress has been made, and we will continue to work hard with the ambition of becoming an exemplary workplace in the tech industry," wrote Guillemot in today's statement.
Le Télégramme's sources are associated with Solidaires Informatique Jeu Vidéo, a game workers union which the paper says will soon bring collective legal action against Ubisoft. Union sources told Le Télégramme that they "don't expect anything" from these appointments, and also that the Canadian part of the business hasn't significantly improved since Christophe Derennes took over as head of Ubisoft Montréal following the resignation of Yannis Mallat last year. Specifically, the source alleges that harassment reports were "sidelined" in December, but the paper doesn't go into more detail on that claim.
The article isn't like the 2020 exposés that revealed a number of specific incidents; it's more of an overview of disappointment over instances of inaction, or what sources say is insufficient action. The feeling that Ubisoft hasn't done enough was already present, though, and the report has acted as a spark. After the report was published, one former employee said that their efforts to engage with Ubisoft's task force felt "ceremonial."
I felt like we were ceremonial. Weeks, months passed and the same topics kept recurring. So many solutions had to come from elsewhere. Whether it was someone senior saying "we're waiting for [x] to do this first" or us noticing "we can't do [y] without the go-ahead from [x]".May 18, 2021
#HoldUbisoftAccountable trended on Twitter as fans discussed the article and urged others to stop buying Ubisoft games. Guillemot's statement today hasn't changed the tone: A common sentiment is that Guillemot himself was either directly responsible for the culture Ubisoft now says it is changing, or indirectly responsible through negligence, and should resign as CEO. Guillemot co-founded Ubisoft with his brothers in the '80s, and the family still controls the company.
Last week, Ubisoft sent news outlets a statement similar to the one posted publicly today, telling GamesIndustry.biz and others that "Ubisoft has implemented major changes across its organization, internal processes and procedures in order to guarantee a safe, inclusive and respectful working environment for all team members."