A Bloomberg investigation of French video game giant Ubisoft ― the company behind multimillion-dollar franchises Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Watch Dogs and the Tom Clancy series of military shooters ― has revealed a “frat house” atmosphere rife with allegations of sexual misconduct.
The Bloomberg report outlines accusations filed by Ubisoft’s human resources department. They run the gamut from “subtle forms of sexism to sexual assault,” with several anonymous employees describing the company’s Paris headquarters as “an atmosphere that was hostile toward women.”
Several of the reported incidents are linked to Serge Hascoët, the former chief creative officer who resigned in early July after multiple allegations of harassment at Ubisoft emerged on Twitter and in French media.
The former executive allegedly “appeared to be immune to HR complaints” and frequently “held business meetings at strip clubs ... made sexually explicit comments to staff, pushed subordinates to drink excessively, gave colleagues cakes containing marijuana without their knowledge” and, on one occasion, mocked a female presenter who had left a meeting by pulling up a YouTube video of “a French song describing sexually explicit acts with a woman [of] the same name.”
Hascoët “enabled bad behavior by fashioning the editorial quarters into a sort of frat like the one in ‘Animal House,’” and one of the accusations was that Vice President of Editorial Tommy François engaged in “sexual propositions and genital grabbing.” A woman who had worked in the Paris headquarters stating that she had been sent “sexually explicit messages, including pornographic videos” by male colleagues. This same woman was also allegedly solicited by François for drinks multiple times, and after reporting this behavior to HR, she said she was told she’d have to transfer to a Ubisoft studio in another country.
Bloomberg also reported that accusations involved other Ubisoft offices, including staff in Bulgaria calling Black actor John Boyega “a monkey,” members of the company’s Toronto office accusing former editorial Vice President Maxime Béland of choking a female employee at a party and a North Carolina employee suffering “sexist and fatphobic” remarks from her manager at a customer center, with HR dismissing her concerns until they were corroborated by a male colleague.
This toxic company culture reportedly seeped into Ubisoft’s products, with female protagonists in the Assassin’s Creed series de-prioritized or forced to share the stage with male protagonists.
This has been the case at least since 2014, after Ubisoft Creative Director Alex Amancio said that playable female characters were cut from the multiplayer mode of Assassin’s Creed Unity because they required “a lot of extra production work.” Bloomberg’s report indicated that this attitude toward women continued to plague the latest entry in the series, 2018′s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which was initially intended to feature one female main character until the team was told “that wasn’t an option” and a male protagonist was added.
The same day that Bloomberg’s report was published, multiple female employees who had worked on the franchise posted corroborating stories on Twitter, mentioning how female characters like Aya in 2017′s Assassin’s Creed Origins were either minimized or required hard-fought battles “to even exist.”
Ubisoft had not publicly responded to the report by Tuesday evening, but both Béland and François were placed on administrative leave in June. In the same statement that announced the resignation of Hascoët, CEO Yves Guillemot said that the company had “fallen short in its obligation to guarantee a safe and inclusive workplace environment for its employees.”
“This is unacceptable, as toxic behaviors are in direct contrast to values on which I have never compromised — and never will. ... Moving forward, as we collectively embark on a path leading to a better Ubisoft, it is my expectation that leaders across the Company manage their teams with the utmost respect,” Guillemot said.