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After the SimCity debacle, the online game publisher received an increasing amount of bad press in 2014. In October, they were sued for sexual harassment by an employee and lost the case in February. In January, an ex-employee of Ubisoft Singapore claimed there was a secret Skull & Bones (Ubisoft’s internal studio for working on the Assassin’s Creed franchise) “boys’ club” where female employees were sexually harassed and racially discriminated against. Just a few days ago, Ubisoft confirmed that they are investigating the claims, stating that “a small number of Ubisoft employees” has been made aware of the matter.
Ubisoft has been in the news recently for allegations of sexual harassment and racism, and as a result, Skull & Bones, Ubisoft’s Singapore-based studio, has been disbanded. Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg in a much larger problem at the publisher, and it’s not a new problem. Before Ubisoft, an Activision Blizzard studio was shut down due to a global sexism and racism scandal. The scenario was similar; accusations against a team came to light and the management was quick to act, resulting in the studio being disbanded.
We understand that Activision-horrific Blizzard’s sexual misconduct and discrimination lawsuit dominated the news cycle last night and will continue to do so for a while, but it’s not the only video game business now facing serious accusations of abuse. Since 2020, the Ubisoft sexual harassment crisis has erupted, resulting in the dismissal of more than a half-dozen executives and senior employees from several studios, a reduction in employee retention, and the filing of a lawsuit to hold Ubisoft responsible.
As a result, it’s no surprise that its games have suffered – particularly Skull & Bones, which has been postponed four times. And it seems that Ubisoft Singapore, the company behind the game, is much more problematic than the other offices that have previously been identified. Yesterday, Kotaku published a piece that delves into the studio’s shady past. According to the inquiry, Ubsioft failed to fulfill its obligations to the Singaporean government, which included a contract to establish a studio in return for government subsidies and training of local developers who would ultimately take over the company.
Local employees were poorly underpaid and underpromoted at a business that had “the air of a colonial outpost in a country with a history of control by European powers,” according to Kotaku’s sources. Workers alleged bullying, sexual harassment, and racism under Hugues Ricour’s leadership, which led to his removal from the studio and return to Ubisoft’s corporate headquarters when the company was compelled to clean house. HR at the studio seems to be especially to blame, since specific instances of harassment and events involving Ricour were brushed off and dragged out.
Ubisoft did make a comment to Kotaku, and surprisingly, it didn’t blame the victims’ lawyers for its cultural failings. Huh. According to the statement, the studio would not allow discrimination and that 40% of expert and senior positions are filled by “Singaporean or permanent residents.”
“Our goal is to continue to grow Singaporean leadership via a variety of initiatives, including a specialized management learning route that will help new leaders develop faster. Role, responsibility, market practices, and performance all factor into compensation. Ubisoft has made substantial and important improvements in the last year to guarantee a safe and inclusive work environment for all.”
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