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Ubisoft CEO apologizes for controversies, including one that fired Assassin’s Creed director

Pledges commitment to diversity and inclusion ‘at all levels of the company’

Eivor on a Viking longship, approaching a wary town. Image: Ubisoft/Ubisoft Montreal
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Ubisoft chief executive Yves Guillemot acknowledged and apologized on Thursday for a string of misconduct allegations against several designers and public figures, one of which which led to the dismissal of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s creative director earlier this summer.

In a statement preceding the publisher’s Ubisoft Forward showcase on Thursday, Guillemot also apologized for an image in a mobile title that some felt belittled the Black Lives Matter cause, or portrayed its supporters as villains.

Guillemot’s acknowledgements came in an omnibus mea culpa to fans who have seen the company stumble into controversies resonant with this year’s social justice demonstrations.

“Ubisoft stands for equality and respect for all,” Guillemot said. “We condemn anyone using our games as a proxy for hate or toxicity. We fully support the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Guillemot did not name any individual or incident, but clearly was referring to controversies that resulted in the resignation of Serge Hascoet, formerly the company’s editorial chief; the resignation of Maxime Béland, an editorial vice president at Ubisoft Toronto; the dismissal of Ashraf Ismail, formerly Ubisoft Montréal’s creative director for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla; and the firing of Tommy Francois, the company’s vice president for editorial and creative services.

Ismail left the company in June, and was later fired following social media allegations that he had carried on an extramarital affair with a streamer he met at E3 2017, lying to her about his marriage. Béland, Hascoet and Francois were involved in allegations of physical and verbal abuse of staffers, particularly of women, and of creating or tolerating a culture of sexism and harassment.

“This summer, we learned that certain Ubisoft employees did not uphold our company’s values, and that our system failed to protect the victims of their behavior,” Guillemot said. “I am truly sorry to everyone who was hurt. We have taken significant steps to remove or sanction those who have violated our values and code of conduct. And we are working out how to improve our system and processes.”

Next, Guillemot said that Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad, an adaptation for iOS and Android devices, should not have let an enemy faction be represented by a logo that looks like the raised fist of the Black Lives Matter movement. “This kind of oversight cannot happen,” Guillemot said, adding that the company is putting controls in place to prevent a recurrence.

“We are also working to improve diversity and inclusion at all levels of the company,” Guillemot said. He announced an additional $1 million investment in its new graduate hiring program, meant to encourage women and people of color “to join and thrive at Ubisoft.”

Regarding the Elite Squad controversy, Guillemot said Ubisoft would make an additional, unspecified donation to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

“I am fully committed to leading the change at Ubisoft and to ensuring we always uphold and exemplify our core values, in the company, in the industry, in the community, and in our games,” Guillemot said.

“I’ve always believed that great games have the power to bring people together, and provide an outlet for self-expression and growth,” he added. “This is essential now more than ever.”

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