Ubisoft announced a lot of games that address issues in society at its Ubisoft Forward event today, but the French video game publisher decided not to address its sexual misconduct controversy during the presentation itself.
The company tweeted that the Forward event was entirely prerecorded and so it would not speak about the matter. On Saturday, CEO Yves Guillemot announced major departures and changes related to sexual misconduct allegations at Ubisoft. This started in late June as people came forward and told their stories alleging harassment, misconduct, and more from Ubisoft employees.
— Ubisoft (@Ubisoft) July 12, 2020
But while Guillemot has moved forward with investigations and addressed the matter in blog posts and letters to employees, he has yet to speak publicly about the problem that has plagued Ubisoft more than any other game company in recent weeks. The controversy threatens to overshadow the games that it’s releasing in the coming months.
Geoff Keighley, the Game Awards organizer, watched the event and livestreamed his own thoughts as part of his Summer Games Fest. He noted that Ubisoft said it wasn’t addressing the controversy as part of its issue. He said he felt conflicted about that because there are some very big problems that Ubisoft has to address in terms of corporate culture, but at the same time, the company is showing off some amazing games.
Forward’s opening video focused on Watch Dogs: Legion, an anti-establishment hacking game. The video was narrated to a variation of the “First they came” poem about how people did nothing to resist the Nazis during the Holocaust. I’m sure Ubisoft won’t say it’s talking about today’s Black Lives Matter or #MeToo calls to get involved in U.S. politics, but it is quite eerie to hear these calls to action in the context of our current reality.
Ubisoft always skates this edge, trying to make its video games feel relevant to today’s issues, but staying out of the quagmire of politics that could result in lost sales. Some people may find it offensive to use something dedicated to the Holocaust to promote a game, but others might view the poem as an anthem for resistance of all kinds. It’s ironic that Ubisoft has its own internal issues to sort out at a time when it is doing protest-related games.