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Ubisoft Sexual Misconduct Culture and Female-Led Video Games Don’t Sell

"Ubisoft is not going to win company of the year that's for sure."

Ubisoft is in some hot water this week after even more sexual misconduct allegations at the company surfaced. This includes new details on the developer’s reluctance to let a woman be a lead role in the Assassin’s Creed series. According to Bloomberg, past Assassin’s Creed games all suffered some sort of resistance from Ubisoft execs when it came to the female leads. This especially came from Ubisoft’s former chief creative officer Serge Hascoët.

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New claims include a reduction in screentime for Victorian London-set Assassin’s Creed Syndicate co-star Evie. Her role was made lesser in favour of her brother Jacob. In addition, Ancient Egypt-set Assassin’s Creed Origins was originally pitched with a female lead. Bayek would have been killed off in favour of his wife Aya. However, Ubisoft execs refused to go with the idea.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was originally meant to only feature Kassandra as the playable lead. However, Ubisoft ditched this idea to give players the choice between Kassandra and her brother Alexios.

Even though the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Valhalla lets players change between the male and female lead at any time, Ubisoft decided to debut the game with its male version of the lead character. Most of the company’s marketing material for the game is male-led. This is due to the restrictions put in place by Hascoët. Bloomberg claims that all marketing decisions had to go through Hascoët.

Ubisoft’s marketing team along with Hascoët all claim that female protagonists “wouldn’t sell”.

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But there’s more to this than meets the eye. Ubisoft placed several high profile staff on administrative leave last month. This after waves of alleged sexual misconduct at all its studios popped up. All of this is directed at upper management. A week later, Hascoët was named in further sexual harassment allegations. He resigned the next day. A week before, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla creative director Ashraf Ismail also left the company after he was accused of sexual misconduct with fans.

The issue stems much deeper than just the issues surrounding female-led games. Ubisoft is accused of being a boys club where employees like Hascoët would host meetings at strip clubs. Female Ubisoft employees shared stories of managers telling them to smile more and make inappropriate comments about their bodies. Some of the male managers sent them explicit messages and videos. Bloomberg claims that employees repeatedly reported staff to HR. However, the accused were still promoted after claims were made.

Ubisoft has yet to address the situation publically. The company hosted its Forward event last week without any word about the ongoing allegations. In a follow-up tweet, they said: “we still have significant work to do and are committed to this process.”

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