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Ubisoft Announces Plans To Shake Up The Company’s All White Male Editorial Group [Update]

Illustration for article titled Ubisoft Announces Plans To Shake Up The Company’s All White Male Editorial Group [Update]
Photo: Emmanuel Dunand (Getty Images)

Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot announced today in an email to employees that the game publisher will be revising the composition of its currently all white male Editorial Department which oversees creative decisions across all of its global studios. He also outlined other measures to try to address a recent wave of allegations about harassment and misconduct at the company’s studios.

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“The situations that some of you have experienced or witnessed are absolutely not acceptable,” Guillemot wrote. “No one should ever feel harassed or disrespected at work, and the types of inappropriate behavior we have recently learned about cannot and will not be tolerated.”

“Specifically,” he continued, “I have decided to revise the composition of the Editorial Department, transform our human resource processes, and improve the accountability of all managers on these subjects.” Ubisoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment about what that revision entails.

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The change to the Editorial group will impact the most senior level of creative leadership at the company. It will also belatedly address concerns expressed by the company’s own employees that the composition of the group was a sign of how out of step Ubisoft has been with the times.

In January, Ubisoft had announced a reconfiguration of this powerful Editorial group, which has steered the direction of the company’s huge franchises for years. At the time, seven people were named to the group, including a few who already held the position. All of them were white men. On the company’s internal message board where Ubisoft workers post with their real names, employees fumed at the group’s long-standing lack of diversity.

In an internal message to the company four days later, Serge Hascoët, Ubisoft’s chief creative officer and the man responsible for picking the team, tried to apologize. “We have heard this feedback and agree that we can and must do better when it comes to diversifying the Editorial Team and our development teams at Ubisoft in general...The entire Editorial Team, including me, is acutely aware of this need and is making it a priority.” To that end, Hascoët said the Editorial Team would be taking on mentors, and encouraged “a diverse pool of internal applicants.”

Two of the Editorial group’s current members, Maxime Béland and Tommy Francois, are currently suspended pending the outcome of an outside investigation into allegations of misconduct, according to a report by Bloomberg. Yesterday, the French newspaper Libération published detailed allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct by Tommy François. He responded to the newspaper through his lawyer, saying the alleged victims should contact the judicial authorities. “Such complaints would thus have the advantage to allow authorities to assure the authenticity of these allegations and allow us to respond and demonstrate their falsehood,” the lawyer said, based on a translation of his remarks by Kotaku. The Libération also reported that of all the Editorial VPs, Hascoët is closest with François and treats him like his right-hand man.

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In addition to an apparent change-up of the Editorial group, Guillemot also announced the creation of two new posts to specifically deal with issues of workplace toxicity. The first is a head of workplace culture, which will be filled by Lindwine Sauer, currently the Projects Director in the company’s Strategic Innovation Lab. The second is a head of diversity and inclusion. No one was named to that position, but Guillemot said they will report directly to him. In addition, the email says the company will be holding a number of discussions with employees next week about their concerns and how to create a safer workplace.

[Update - 7:29 p.m., 7/3/20]: In an email late Friday evening, Guillemot announced that Béland has resigned from the company and François has been placed on disciplinary leave. Ubisoft is still continuing to investigate the allegations of misconduct against both men. Meanwhile, a third, unnamed individual from Ubisoft Toronto has been terminated for “engaging in behaviors that do not align with what is expected of Ubisoft employees.”  

Kotaku staff writer. You can reach him at ethan.gach@kotaku.com

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DISCUSSION

nobrakes58
NoBrakes58

Really makes all of those “This title was created by a diverse team...[etc.]” messages at the beginning of every Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry title seem pretty disingenuous. I also find it kinda funny that they’re encouraging specifically internal applicants to improve editorial diversity when one of their issues is a relative lack of diversity among the rest of the staff, too.

(And, as an aside, an issue of style in the headline: “shakeup” is a noun, though AP prefers “shake-up”; “shake up” is a verbal phrase.)