No end to Ubisoft's woes as new game draws flak over racist overtones

If Ubisoft are unable to salvage their reputation and make drastic changes to the way they function, the firm may even be subjected to boycotts by gamers.

The year 2020 has been a good one for gaming and eSports, yet one of the largest gaming companies in the world, Ubisoft Entertainment may want to just forget it. The firm had been hit with several scandals earlier in the year with the resurgence of MeToo within the gaming industry. The last week saw the company land itself in a soup yet again.

Ubisoft Entertainment SA, better known as Ubisoft is a French video game company. The company is headquartered in Montreuil, France. The firm owns several well-known video games franchises. The likes of these include Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Tom Clancy, Prince of Persia, and Just Dance. According to a report by Newzoo (a firm specialising in market insights and analytics related to gaming), the company was 14th in terms of revenue among all gaming companies across the world at the end of 2019. The total revenue for Ubisoft in Quarter 4 of 2019 was $510 million as per the report.

Last week saw the game developer make another massive public relations mistake. The issue begins with the release of their new game for Android and iOS devices, Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad. The game is based on the concept of players needing to build a team to take on a global terrorist organisation known as Umbra. The game, in its introductory video, portrays Umbra as a faceless group that wishes to build a new world order. This group uses a raised black fist as its symbol and attempts to undermine world leaders through social media. As expected, the usage of an image intricately linked to the Black Lives Matter movement with that of a terrorist organisation has been condemned both within and outside the Ubisoft.

Earlier this year, several top executives in the firm were removed due to issues related to sexual harassment and sexual assault, and the HR’s poor management of the incidents after it was reported. The list of removed executives includes Serge Hascoët (chief creative officer and considered the number two at Ubisoft), Yannis Mallat (managing director of Ubisoft’s Canadian studios), and Tommy François (vice president of editorial and creative services).

The global head of human resources has also been removed from her position and been reassigned within the firm. Following these incidents, CEO Yves Guillemot had promised changes within the organisation, as there had been several employees complaining about how the behaviour of these senior employees had almost become a workplace culture.

The organisation has released an apology for the latest incident and promised to remove the imagery from the game. The apology has come from Charlie Guillemot, the games creative director and general manager of Ubisoft’s Owlient studio. Several users on Twitter have come forward to bring to attention how the game has several fascist undertones and this itself should have raised red flags. Considering the past events that have come to public attention earlier in the year, questions persist about the actual attitude the company has towards issues of discrimination and poor work practices. This incident also brings into question the attitude of the CEO as the creative director responsible for the game is his son.

According to a report by CGLytics (a firm claiming to be the largest world’s largest corporate governance data analytics provider), Ubisoft does not meet French corporate governance code recommendations for gender ratio within their top management. The recommendations suggest having a minimum of 40 percent gender diversity, while Ubisoft is at 33 percent.

The report further states that Ubisoft’s board only obtains an effectiveness score of 55 percent based on the results from CGLytics’s board effectiveness tool. The average score in this area for Ubisoft’s competitors is at 71 percent. This report also states that the ratio of foreign nationals is low within the executive directors.

The issue of Ubisoft having lower than the recommended diversity within their board only raises more doubts about the firm. The months to come will be the real test for them. If they are unable to salvage their reputation and make drastic changes to the way they function, the firm may even be subjected to boycotts by gamers.

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