In its annual Universal Registration Document, Ubisoft publicly (and quietly considering most folks never read these things...) acknowledged that “inappropriate behavior by employees” was a new risk facing the large publisher and developer and could lead to the company losing talented employees.
This Universal Registration Document focuses on various aspects of Ubisoft, including financial risks, key people, corporate structure, and legal documents and rules.
Included in this large document is a section detailing how Ubisoft is facing issues with retaining and hiring new talent due to an “Occurrence of inappropriate behavior by employees,” with Ubisoft listing the risk of failing to “attract and retain talent” as “High”.
The document goes on to explain that in Mid-June 2020 Ubisoft faced growing pressure, both internally and externally, to stamp out toxic behavior within the company. In August 2020, Kotaku reported on these allegations and the fallout that followed. Multiple people left the company following claims that higher-ups at the publisher had ignored or mishandled complaints involving sexual harassment and misconduct. In September, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot apologized to “everyone who was hurt” by misconduct at the publisher. However, this video was not included in a Ubisoft Play livestream event that aired in the day due to “timing constraints.”
Also found in the document is information on what Ubisoft has done to fight back against toxic behavior and harassment, including mandatory training for all workers about harassment and sexism and the creation of a new position, the VP of Global Diversity and Inclusion. Ubisoft claims this will “promote diversity, equity and inclusion” within the company.
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However, Ubisoft warns the risks added by a toxic workplace aren’t easily dealt with, adding that it “cannot provide an absolute guarantee that this type of risk will be controlled.”
While Ubisoft in this document claims to be working to fix some of the toxic issues plaguing some studios, the recent announcement of a new, massive Assassin’s Creed project alongside a reorganization of Ubisoft studios has reportedly angered some staff. The problem is that according to them, some of the folks still in charge are people who were accused of abusive behavior. A Ubisoft spokesperson told Bloomberg last week that any employee who faced allegations of toxic behavior and remains at Ubisoft has had their case “rigorously reviewed by a third party” and those involved were either “exonerated or underwent appropriate disciplinary actions.”
It would seem Ubisoft, like many other gaming companies, have a lot of work to do if they wish to improve and fix toxic workplaces filled with harassment. And as usual with these things, it’s taking a long time to see progress get made.