Sep 15, 2022 - Technology

Ubisoft workers speak out, want more change from management

Illustration of the Ubisoft logo as a lit bomb.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Ubisoft game designers are expressing a mix of despair and defiant hope when talking about their company’s attempts to reform.

Driving the news: Several of those workers spoke to Axios in Paris last week in meetings far from the company’s HQ.

Why it matters: In the last two years, Ubisoft has seen a raft of allegations about workplace misconduct, the departure of several men accused of toxic management or sexual misconduct, and a restructuring of the company’s HR and top creative teams coupled with vows by executives to do better. Some employees say that's not enough.

What they’re saying: “It’s not harassers who create toxic culture. It’s a toxic culture that produces harassers,” Ubisoft game designer Marc Rutschlé said, during a meeting at the office of French tech workers union Solidaires Informatique.

  • A four-year veteran in Ubisoft’s Paris office, he says the ouster of some problematic people from the company has helped, but he wants more structural change — more women in the company, for example, and more transparency about investigations.
  • In March 2020, Rutschlé formed a union chapter at Ubisoft’s Paris offices. A year later, the union filed a sexual harassment suit against the company, blaming current and former leaders for harassment or for enabling it. (Ubisoft doesn’t comment on litigation, a rep confirmed.)
  • The lawsuit, modeled off a successful action over “moral harassment” against France Télécom, is expected to take five or more years to unfold.
  • “We want explanations,” Rutschlé says. “The toxic people who left the company, because a large part of them just left and were not fired, never gave any explanation for their behavior. This will be the opportunity to hear them, in a court of law.”

Transparency is a big concern for Ubisoft workers around the world, several of whom emailed Axios about their experiences.

  • “I find it hard to gauge the truth,” one developer said.
  • “The only issue that I see as fixed is that people within Ubisoft are aware of the issues,” another said. “Not because of management, but because of the brave employees who spoke out and continue to speak out.”

In Paris, one former Ubisoft worker told Axios they used to feel great about Ubisoft but left as morale sank after the misconduct scandals.

  • “What used to be a big smile on people’s face when I told them I worked at Ubisoft turned into a weird sorry face,” the employee said. “This pride used to really unite folks working there, and now it seems to be gone for a lot of people.”

Some Ubisoft workers have cited improvements, crediting enlightened leaders at the local level at Ubisoft’s worldwide studios far from Paris HQ.

  • “Morale is highly variable from team to team, in my experience, even within a single studio,” one developer said.
  • Some express hope in the company’s expanding diversity and inclusion team, which is looking at the workforce and the content of Ubisoft’s games.
  • But workers also report that some reforms are backfiring. “All the recent additional harassment, abuse and D&I training has taught managers is how to say the right things (or at least not say the wrong things) and appear to act correctly,” one said. “But in my experience much of the change is superficial.”

Management's take: Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot told Axios in Paris that he was aware of continued worker frustration and welcomed feedback.

  • “It's good to hear from people if there are other issues that have not been solved.”

Yes, but some workers feel management is too eager to talk about something else.

  • Says Ruschlé: “Today, the company wants to turn the page in the media, with an ease that is not within the reach of the group's victims, who have been permanently marked both in their careers and psychologically.”

Go deeper: Interview: Ubisoft CEO on company’s scandals and attempts to reform

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