Ubisoft ($EPA:UBI) has had a particularly weird week, and it's only getting stranger by the day. What was supposed to be a triumphant showcase of its annual games has turned into a real crisis of culture, and top executives are leaving the French publisher. This has resulted in a lot of buzz not just about the company's catalog, but about the toxic work environment and working conditions at studios around the world. Employees being fired, put 'on leave', or voluntarily leaving might be gaining more publicity than its upcoming slate of games this holiday.
The days leading up to Sunday, July 12 (the day of Ubisoft's Forward livestream) were marred with allegations of abuse and sexual harassment by various developers and employees. This kickstarted plenty of articles, stories, independent and internal investigations, PR statements and eventually exits from top brass. Questions began to arise about how many people knew about this culture, who is held accountable, how long has this been going on, and what the future would look like.
The future ended up being that the stock fell today. Ubisoft Forward, or backwards?
It should be a week of prideful game previews, hype for pre-orders, positive feedback on trailers, and a victory lap for CEO Yves Guillemot. Instead, it's mostly the bad press that the industry is focusing on, as seen by this Facebook 'Talking About' count, and its spike in Twitter followers.
It's been a real hot potato to have to juggle pushing your new games onto customers/fans/the general public, while at the same time preaching that you're committed to changing the company top to bottom to prevent any more harassment or abuse. Ubisoft has had problems with its marketing before, insisting its games are not "political" while being very political, and plenty of interviews have not gone the way they thought it would.
“Ubisoft has 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," said Guillemot.
This entire story just keeps getting muddled, because the biggest game shown off yesterday was Assassin's Creed: Valhalla. Its creative director had to step down amid allegations recently, which continues to tie the narrative these games are built on human suffering during the most popular time to showcase and market games off. If you want to see everything Ubisoft announced, the live stream is below in its entirety.
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