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French video game giant Ubisoft today detailed how it will address toxic behavior and sexual misconduct in the workplace following multiple reports of incidences at the company. In a blog post, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot announced changes the company is making as it works to better discover and deal with such complaints.
Game companies appear to be taking serious steps to respond to the wave of sexual harassment complaints posted on social media in the past week. While more than 350 complaints chronicling incidents of harassment and abuse in the game industry have been logged on social media platforms, Ubisoft stood out among big game companies in terms of the volume of allegations.
Separately, on Thursday Capcom pulled out of Evo Online (a fighting game event) after tournament organizer Joey Cuellar was placed on administrative leave following misconduct allegations.
[Updated at 5:33 p.m. Pacific time 7/3/20: Ubisoft said in an additional statement:
Maxime Beland, vice president editorial, has resigned from his role at Ubisoft, effective immediately. Despite his resignation, we continue to investigate the allegations made against him. Additionally, effective as of yesterday, Tommy François, vice president editorial and creative services, has been placed on disciplinary leave pending the outcome of an investigation. One other individual in our Toronto studio has been terminated for engaging in behaviors that do not align with what is expected of Ubisoft employees. Other investigations are ongoing and will be conducted rigorously.
Ubisoft will not tolerate workplace misconduct and will continue taking disciplinary actions against anyone who engages in harassment, discrimination and other behaviors that infringe on our Code of Fair Conduct. End of update].
On June 24, Ashraf Ismail, the creative director of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, stepped down from his role in Ubisoft’s next major game following misconduct allegations. Bloomberg also reported that Ubisoft placed Tommy François and Maxime Béland, two high-ranking game executives, on administrative leave pending investigations into their behavior. Other employees have been named in individual harassment complaints. Ubisoft declined to comment on ongoing investigations.
Guillemot said Ubisoft will change the way it handles human resources, revise its editorial department, and make all managers accountable for toxic behavior issues such as sexual misconduct. He also said he is appointing Lidwine Sauer as head of workplace culture.
He said Lidwine will be empowered to examine all aspects of the company’s culture and suggest comprehensive changes that will benefit all. She will report directly to Guillemot and will create an international and diverse multidisciplinary working group within Ubisoft to support these efforts, he said.
Starting Monday, Ubisoft will host “listening sessions” that are moderated by external third parties. These sessions will give employees an opportunity to voice concerns to the company. Ubisoft will also conduct a confidential global employee survey. And it has set up a confidential alert platform enabling employees, as well as external individuals, to report harassment, discrimination, and other inappropriate behaviors, including those that infringe on the company’s code of fair conduct.
To ensure anonymity and confidentiality, this platform’s administrator is a third party, Whispli (a whistleblower platform), and a committee of CSR and legal experts will review complaints, Guillemot said.
Here’s the full text of the Ubisoft letter:
The following is an internal letter from Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot shared with teams earlier today:
The situations that some of you have experienced or witnessed are absolutely not acceptable. No one should ever feel harassed or disrespected at work, and the types of inappropriate behavior we have recently learned about cannot and will not be tolerated. To those of you who have spoken up or have supported colleagues, I want to be clear: you are heard, and you are helping drive necessary change within the company.
We have significant work to do to improve the ways in which we operate and collaborate, and I am personally committed to ensuring we make these fundamental changes. They need to be profound, and we need to implement them quickly at all levels of the organization.
Specifically, I have decided to revise the composition of the Editorial Department, transform our human resource processes, and improve the accountability of all managers on these subjects.
We are not looking for a quick fix, but rather a structural shift at Ubisoft that fully aligns with our values – values that do not tolerate toxic behaviors and where everyone feels safe to speak out. We must do everything we can to ensure no one is in these situations ever again. With this in mind, I also am putting in place a series of initiatives that will serve as a roadmap as we listen, learn, and act. I will need everyone to work together to build and implement them so that respect for others remains one of the pillars of Ubisoft’s culture.
Appointment of a Head of Workplace Culture
I have appointed Lidwine Sauer to oversee all our efforts in this area. Lidwine is familiar to some of you from her role as a Projects Director in the Strategic Innovation Lab, and I am very pleased that she has agreed to take on this responsibility. As I already told Lidwine, she is empowered to examine all aspects of our company’s culture and to suggest comprehensive changes that will benefit all of us. Lidwine will report directly to me in this new capacity and will create an international and diverse multidisciplinary working group within Ubisoft to support these efforts. She will share more details with you about this taskforce next week.
Employee Listening Sessions in All Locations
Starting Monday, we will begin hosting a series of employee listening sessions, which some of you already have organized informally. These are not Q&A sessions or town hall meetings; the goal of these sessions is to actively and considerately listen to your experiences and concerns, as well as your suggestions for improvement. They will be held on Teams and will be moderated by different external facilitators. Your managing directors will notify you of the dates for these sessions and how to attend.
Launch of a Global Employee Survey
To complement these sessions, we will be launching a global employee survey on this subject within the next two weeks. We are in the process of finalizing it now. Our aim is to encourage candid feedback, and I ask that everyone please participate. It will be entirely anonymous and will provide us with extremely valuable insights to spur change within the company.
Ongoing Investigations into Allegations
In response to recent allegations, we launched a series of investigations that are being led by independent third parties. I know that many of you are eager to hear the results of these investigations. However, we must take the time necessary to ensure that they are carried out with the required rigor. When they are concluded, all appropriate actions will be taken. Should additional allegations or claims be brought to our attention, we will fully investigate those, as well.
In addition, Ubisoft has set up an online confidential alert platform enabling employees as well as external individuals to report harassment, discrimination and other inappropriate behaviors, including those that infringe on our Code of Fair Conduct. To ensure anonymity and confidentiality, this platform is administered by a third party, Whispli, and complaints are reviewed by a committee of CSR and legal experts.
Comprehensive Review of Policies & Procedures
We are in the process of selecting an external consulting firm to audit and improve our procedures and policies. They also will rely on the feedback from the group questionnaire and listening sessions to feed their thinking. My goal is to ensure Ubisoft’s policies and procedures are best in class. We will share the audit’s results and the subsequent changes that are rolled out as they happen.
Diversity & Inclusion
In parallel, we are creating the new position of Head of Diversity and Inclusion, who will report directly to me. I am committed to improving diversity across the organization, including in all of our management teams.
These concrete actions are just the beginning of profound changes at all levels. I am convinced that, all together, we will build a better Ubisoft for the benefit of all.
Again, I want to express my appreciation to those of you who have had the courage to speak up. Know that my door is always open to you if you wish to express your concerns directly to me. We have a lot to accomplish, and I am determined to make this change happen.
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