Ubisoft
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Ubisoft

Ubisoft Entertainment SA
Formerly
Ubi Soft Entertainment SA (1986-2003)
Public
Traded as
ISINFR0000054470
IndustryVideo games
Founded28 March 1986; 34 years ago (1986-03-28)
Founders
  • Christian Guillemot
  • Claude Guillemot
  • Gérard Guillemot
  • Michel Guillemot
  • Yves Guillemot
Headquarters,
France
Area served
Worldwide
Key people
ProductsSee List of Ubisoft games
BrandsAnno, Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, Imagine, Just Dance, Prince of Persia, Rayman, Raving Rabbids, Tom Clancy's, Watch Dogs
ServicesUplay
RevenueIncreaseEUR1.732 billion[2] (2018)
Increase EUR222.317 million[2] (2018)
Increase EUR139.452 million[2] (2018)
Increase EUR2.805 billion[2] (2018)
Increase EUR889.330 million[2] (2018)
Owners
  • Guillemot family (18.5%)[3]
Number of employees
18,045 (2020[4])
SubsidiariesSee List of Ubisoft subsidiaries
Websiteubisoft.com

Ubisoft Entertainment SA (; French: [ybis?ft];[5] formerly Ubi Soft Entertainment SA) is a French video game company headquartered in Montreuil with several development studios across the world. It publishes games for several video game franchises, including Rayman, Raving Rabbids, Prince of Persia, Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, Just Dance, and Tom Clancy. As of March 2018, Ubisoft is the fifth largest publicly traded game company in the Americas and Europe in terms of revenue and market capitalisation, after Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive and CD Projekt.[6][7]

History

Origins and first decade (1986-1996)

The Guillemot family had established themselves as a farming support business for farmers in the Brittany province in northwest France and nearby regions, including into the United Kingdom. The five sons of the family - Christian, Claude, Gérard, Michel, and Yves - helped with the sales, distribution, accounting and management of the company with their parents before university. All five gained business experience while at university, which they brought back to the family business to help improve it, at a time where farming businesses were starting to wane. The brothers came up with the idea of diversification to sell other products of use to farmers; Claude began with selling CD audio media, and later the brothers expanded to computers and additional software which included video games.[8]

In the early 1980s, they saw that the costs of buying computers and software from a French supplier was more expensive than buying the same materials in the United Kingdom and shipping to France, and came upon the idea of a mail-order business around computers and software. Their mother said they could start their own business this way as long as they managed it themselves and equally split its shares among the five of them. Their first business was Guillemot Informatique, founded in 1984.[9] They originally only sold through mail order but soon were getting orders from French retailers, since they were able to undercut other suppliers by up to 50% of the cost of new titles. By 1986, this company was earning about 40 million French francs (roughly US$5.8 million at that time).[9] In 1985, the brothers established Guillemot Corporation for similar distribution of computer hardware.[9] As demand continued, the brothers recognised that video game software was becoming a lucrative property, and decided that they needed to get into the development side of the industry, already having insight on the publication and distribution side.[8] Ubi Soft (formally named Ubi Soft Entertainment S.A.) was founded by the brothers on 28 March 1986.[10][11] The name "Ubi Soft" was selected to represent "ubiquitous" software.[12]

Ubi Soft initially operated out of offices in Paris, moving to Créteil by June 1986.[13][14] The brothers used the chateau in France's Brittany region as the primary space for development, hoping the setting would lure developers, as well as to have a better way to manage expectations of their developers.[8] The company hired Nathalie Saloud as manager, Sylvie Hugonnier as director of marketing and public relations, as well as several programmers, though Hugonnier had left the company by May 1986 to join Elite Software.[15] Games published by Ubi Soft in 1986 include Zombi, Ciné Clap, Fer et Flamme, and Masque, as well as Graphic City, a sprite editing programme.[16][17][18][19] As their first-ever game, Zombi became a critical and commercial success, and had sold five thousand copies by January 1987.[20][19] Ubi Soft also entered into distribution partnerships for the game to be released in Spain and West Germany.[19] Ubi Soft started importing products from abroad for distribution in France, with 1987 releases including Elite Software's Commando and Ikari Warriors, the former of which had sold 15,000 copies by January 1987.[19][21] In 1988, Yves Guillemot was appointed as Ubi Soft's chief executive officer.[11]

By 1988, the company had about a half-dozen developers working from the chateau. These included Michel Ancel, a teenager at the time noted for his animation skills,[8] and Serge Hascoët, who applied to be a video game tester for the company.[22] The costs of maintaining the chateau became too expensive, and the developers were given the option to relocate to Paris. Ancel's family, which had moved to Brittany for his job could not afford the cost of living in Paris, and returned to Montpellier in southern France, and the Guillemot brothers told Ancel to keep them abreast of anything he might come up with there.[8] Ancel came back later with Frédéric Houde with a prototype of a game with highly animated features that caught the brothers' interest. Michel Guillemot decided to make the project a key one for the company, establishing a studio in Montreuil to house over 100 developers in 1994, and targeting the new line of fifth generation consoles like the Atari Jaguar and PlayStation. Their game, Rayman, was released in 1995 to critical success, and is considered the game that put Ubi Soft in the worldwide spotlight.[8] Alongside this, Yves managed Guillemot Informatique, making deals with Electronic Arts, Sierra On-Line and MicroProse to distribute their games in France. By the end of the decade, Guillemot Informatique began expanding to other markets, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. They entered the video game distribution and wholesale markets, and by 1993 they had become the largest distributor of video games in France.[23]

Worldwide growth (1996-2003)

In 1996, Ubi Soft listed its initial public offering and raised over US$80 million in funds to help them to expand the company.[8] Within two years, the company established worldwide studios in Annecy (1996), Shanghai (1996), Montreal (1997), and Milan (1998).

One difficulty that the brothers found was the lack of an intellectual property that would have a foothold in the United States market; games like Rayman did well in Europe but not overseas.[8] When widespread growth of the Internet arrived around 1999, the brothers decided to take advantage of this by founding game studios aimed at online free-to-play titles, including GameLoft; this allowed them to licence the rights to Ubi Soft properties to these companies, increasing the share value of Ubi Soft five-fold. With the extra infusion of EUR170 million, they were able to then purchase Red Storm Entertainment in 2000, giving them access to the Tom Clancy's series of stealth and spy games, highly popular in the United States.[8] Ubi Soft helped with Red Storm to continue to expand the series, bringing titles like Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six series.[8] The company got a strong foothold in the United States when it worked with Microsoft to develop Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, an Xbox-exclusive title released in 2002 to challenge the PlayStation-exclusive Metal Gear Solid series, by combining elements of Tom Clancy's series with elements of an in-house developed game called The Drift. Splinter Cell helped not only to sell the Xbox console but established both Ubi Soft and its Montreal studio as important players in the video game market.[8]

In March 2001, Gores Technology Group sold The Learning Company's entertainment division (which includes games originally published by Brøderbund, Mattel Interactive, Mindscape and Strategic Simulations) to them. The sale included the rights to intellectual properties such as the Myst and Prince of Persia series.[24] Ubisoft Montreal developed the Prince of Persia title into Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, released in 2003, another critically successful title.[8] At the same time, Ubi Soft also released Beyond Good & Evil, Ancel's project after Rayman; it was one of Ubi Soft's first commercial "flop" and was met with lukewarm reception at its release alongside a competitive 2003 release market, but which since has gained a cult following.[8]

Around 2001, Ubi Soft established its editorial department headed by Hascoët, initially named as editor in chief but later known as the company's Chief Content Officer. Hascoët had worked alongside Ancel on Rayman in 1995 to help refine the game, and saw the opportunity to apply that across all of Ubi Soft's games.[25][26] Until early 2019, nearly every game published by Ubisoft was reviewed through the editorial department and personally by Hascoët.[27]

Continued expansion (2003-2015)

The evolution of the Ubisoft logo. The initial logo was created on the company's founding in 1986. With the publication of Rayman, the company used the rainbow shape to show their shift from distributor to a publisher in 1995. The blue "swirl" was introduced in 2003 with the rebranding from "Ubi Soft" to "Ubisoft" as to represent a more mature company, alongside their acquisition of the Tom Clancy licence. The minimalistic swirl was introduced in 2017, designed to appear as windows into their game worlds while retaining a grain de folie (touch of madness).[28]

On 9 September 2003, Ubi Soft announced that they would change their name to simply Ubisoft, and introduced a new logo known as "the swirl".[29][30] In December 2004, rival gaming corporation Electronic Arts purchased a 19.9% stake in the firm. Ubisoft referred to the purchase as "hostile" on EA's part.[31] Ubisoft's brothers recognised they had not considered themselves within a competitive market, and employees had feared that an EA takeover would drastically alter the environment within Ubisoft. EA's CEO at the time, John Riccitiello, assured Ubisoft the purchase was not meant as a hostile manoeuvre, and EA ended up selling the shares in 2010.[8]

Ubisoft established another new IP, Assassin's Creed, first launched in 2007; Assassin's Creed was originally developed by Ubisoft Montreal as a sequel to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time but instead transitioned to a story about Assassins and the Templar Knights.[8] In July 2006, Ubisoft bought the Driver franchise from Atari for a sum of EUR19 million in cash for the franchise, technology rights, and most assets. In July 2008, Ubisoft made the acquisition of Hybride Technologies, a Piedmont-based studio renowned for its expertise in the creation of visual effects for cinema, television and advertising. In November 2008, Ubisoft acquired Massive Entertainment from Activision.[32] In January 2013, Ubisoft acquired South Park: The Stick of Truth from THQ for $3.265 million.

Ubisoft announced plans in 2013 to invest $373  million into its Quebec operations over seven years, a move that is expected to generate 500 additional jobs in the province. The publisher is investing in the expansion of its motion capture technologies and consolidating its online games operations and infrastructure in Montreal. By 2020, the company will employ more than 3,500 staff at its studios in Montreal and Quebec City.[33]

In July 2013, Ubisoft announced a major breach in its network resulting in the potential exposure of up to 58 million accounts including usernames, email address, and encrypted passwords. Although the firm denied any credit/debit card information could have been compromised, it issued directives to all registered users to change their account passwords and also recommended updating passwords on any other website or service where a same or similar password had been used.[34] All the users who registered were emailed by the Ubisoft company about the breach and a password change request. Ubisoft promised to keep the information safe.[35]

In March 2015, the company set up a Consumer Relationship Centre in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The centre is intended to integrate consumer support teams and community managers. Consumer Support and Community Management teams at the CRC are operational seven days a week.[36]

Attempted takeover by Vivendi (2015-2018)

Since around 2015, the French mass media company Vivendi has been seeking to expand its media properties through acquisitions and other business deals. In addition to advertising firm Havas, Ubisoft was one of the first target properties identified by Vivendi, which as of September 2017 has an estimated valuation of $6.4 billion.[37][38] Vivendi, in two separate actions during October 2015, bought shares in Ubisoft stock, giving them a 10.4% stake in Ubisoft, an action that Yves Guillemot considered "unwelcome" and feared a hostile takeover.[39] In a presentation during the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2016, Yves Guillemot stressed the importance that Ubisoft remain an independent company to maintain its creative freedom.[40] Guillemot later described the need to fight off the takeover: "...when you're attacked with a company that has a different philosophy, you know it can affect what you've been creating from scratch. So you fight with a lot of energy to make sure it can't be destroyed."[41] Vice-President of Live Operations, Anne Blondel-Jouin, expressed similar sentiment in an interview with PCGamesN, stating that Ubisoft's success was (partly) due to "...being super independent, being very autonomous."[42][43]

Vivendi also acquired stake in mobile game publisher Gameloft, also owned by the Guillemots, at the same time it started acquiring Ubisoft shares.[44][39] In the following February, Vivendi acquired EUR500 million worth of shares in Gameloft, gaining more than 30% of the shares and requiring the company under French law to make a public tender offer; this action enabled Vivendi to complete the hostile takeover of Gameloft by June 2016.[45][46][47] Following Vivendi's actions with Gameloft in February 2016, the Guillemots asked for more Canadian investors in the following February to fend off a similar Vivendi takeover;[48][49][50] by this point, Vivendi had increased their share in Ubisoft to 15%, exceeding the estimated 9% that the Guillemots owned.[46][48] By mid-June 2016, Vivendi had increased its shares to 20.1%, but denied it was in the process of a takeover.[51]

By the time of Ubisoft's annual board meeting in September 2016, Vivendi has gained 23% of the shares, while Guillemots were able to increase their voting share to 20%. A request was made at the board meeting to place Vivendi representatives on Ubisoft's board, given the size of their shareholdings. The Guillemots argued strongly against this, reiterating that Vivendi should be seen as a competitor, and succeeded in swaying other voting members to deny any board seats to Vivendi.[52]

Vivendi continued to buy shares in Ubisoft, approaching the 30% mark that could trigger a hostile takeover; as of December 2016, Vivendi held a 25.15% stake in Ubisoft.[53]Reuters reported in April 2017 that Vivendi's takeover of Ubisoft would likely happen that year,[37] and Bloomberg Businessweek observed that some of Vivendi's shares would reach the two-year holding mark, which would grant them double voting power, and would likely meet or exceed the 30% threshold.[54] The Guillemot family has since raised their stake in Ubisoft; as of June 2017, the family now held 13.6 percent of Ubisoft's share capital, and 20.02 percent of the company's voting rights.[55] In October 2017, Ubisoft announced it reached a deal with an "investment services provider" to help them purchase back 4 million shares by the end of the year, preventing others, specifically Vivendi, from buying these.[56]

In the week just before Vivendi would gain double-voting rights for previously purchased shares, which would have likely pushed their ownership over 30%, the company, in quarterly results published in November 2017, that it has no plans to acquire Ubisoft for the next six months, nor will seek board positions due to the shares they hold during that time, and that it "will ensure that its interest in Ubisoft will not exceed the threshold of 30% through the doubling of its voting rights." Vivendi remained committed to expanding in the video game sector, identifying that their investment in Ubisoft could represent a capital gain of over 1 billion euros.[57]

On 20 March 2018, Ubisoft and Vivendi struck a deal ending any potential takeover, with Vivendi agreeing to sell all of its shares, over 30 million, to other parties and agreeing to not buy any Ubisoft shares for five years. Some of those shares were sold to Tencent, which after the transaction held about 5.6 million shares of Ubisoft (approximately 5% of all shares).[58] the same day, Ubisoft announced a partnership with Tencent to help bring their games into the Chinese market.[59] Vivendi completely divested its shares in Ubisoft by March 2019.[60][61]

Ongoing developments (2018 onward)

Since 2018, Ubisoft's studios have continued to focus on its core franchises, including Assassin's Creed, Tom Clancy's, Far Cry, and Watch Dogs, but found itself starting to trail its rival publishers Electronic Arts, Activision, and Take Two. As reported by Bloomberg Businessweek, while Ubisoft as a whole had nearly 16,000 developers by mid-2019, larger than some of its competitors, and producing five to six major AAA releases each year compared to the two or three from the others, the net revenue earned per employee was the lowest of the four due to generally lower sales of its games. Bloomberg Business attributed this partially due to spending trends by video game consumers purchasing fewer games with long playtimes, as most of Ubisoft's major releases tend to be. To counter this, Ubisoft in October 2019 pushed three of the six titles it had planned in 2019 to 2020 or later, as to help place more effort on improving the quality of the existing and released games.[62] Further, due to overall weak sales in 2019, Ubisoft stated in January 2020 that it will be reorganising its editorial board to provide a more comprehensive look at its game portfolio and devise more variation in its games, which Ubisoft's management said had fallen stagnant and too uniform and contributed to weak sales.[63]

Stemming from a wave of sexual misconduct accusations of the MeToo movement in June and July 2020, Ubisoft saw a large number of its high-level employees also accused of misconduct from both internal and external sources. Between Ubisoft's own internal investigation and a separate study by the French newspaper Libération, several employees had been found to have long records of sexual misconduct and troubling behavior, going back up to ten years, which had been dismissed by the human resources departments, but which had affected employee morale and game quality. As a result, several Ubisoft staff either stepped down or were let go, including Hascoët, Maxime Béland the co-founder of Ubisoft Toronto, and Yannis Mallat, the managing director of Ubisoft's Canadian studios.[64][22] Yves Guillemot, whose role in managing these issues was unclear, implemented changes in the company to address these issues as it further investigated the depth of the misconduct claims.[65]

Subsidiaries

Name Location Founded Acquired Ref.
1492 Studio Vailhauquès, France 2014 March 2018 [66]
Blue Mammoth Games Atlanta, United States 2009 March 2018 [67]
Future Games of London London, England 2009 October 2013
Green Panda Games Paris, France 2013 July 2019 [68]
Hybride Technologies Piedmont, Canada 1991 2008
i3D.net Rotterdam, Netherlands 2002 March 2019 [69]
Ivory Tower Villeurbanne, France September 2007 October 2015
Ketchapp Paris, France March 2014 September 2016 [70]
Kolibri Games Berlin, Germany 2016 February 2020 [71]
Massive Entertainment Malmö, Sweden 1997 November 2008
Nadeo Paris, France November 2000 October 2009
Owlient Paris, France 2005 2011
Red Storm Entertainment Cary, North Carolina, United States November 1996 August 2000
RedLynx Helsinki, Finland August 2000 November 2011
Ubisoft Abu Dhabi Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates October 2011 N/A
Ubisoft Annecy Annecy, France 1996
Ubisoft Barcelona Sant Cugat del Vallès, Spain 1998
Ubisoft Barcelona Mobile Barcelona, Spain 2002 September 2013
Ubisoft Belgrade Belgrade, Serbia November 2016 N/A [72]
Ubisoft Berlin Berlin, Germany January 2018 [73]
Ubisoft Bordeaux Bordeaux, France September 2017 [74]
Ubisoft Bucharest Bucharest, Romania 1992
Ubisoft Chengdu Chengdu, Sichuan, China 2008
Ubisoft Düsseldorf Düsseldorf, Germany October 1988 January 2001 [75]
Ubisoft Da Nang Da Nang, Vietnam September 2019 N/A [76]
Ubisoft Halifax Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada 2003 October 2015
Ubisoft Kyiv Kiev, Ukraine April 2008 N/A
Ubisoft Leamington Leamington Spa, England November 2002 January 2017
Ubisoft Mainz Mainz, Germany October 1988 January 2001 [75]
Ubisoft Milan Milan, Italy 1998 N/A
Ubisoft Montpellier Castelnau-le-Lez, France 1994
Ubisoft Montreal Montreal, Canada 1997
Ubisoft Mumbai Mumbai, India June 2018 [77]
Ubisoft Odesa Odessa, Ukraine March 2018 [77]
Ubisoft Osaka Osaka, Japan 1996 2008
Ubisoft Paris Montreuil, France 1992 N/A
Ubisoft Paris Mobile Montreuil, France 2013
Ubisoft Philippines Santa Rosa, Philippines March 2016
Ubisoft Pune Pune, India 2000 2008
Ubisoft Quebec Quebec City, Canada June 2005 N/A
Ubisoft Reflections Newcastle upon Tyne, England July 1984 July 2006
Ubisoft Saguenay Chicoutimi, Canada February 2018 N/A
Ubisoft San Francisco San Francisco, United States 2009
Ubisoft Shanghai Shanghai, China 1996
Ubisoft Singapore Singapore July 2008
Ubisoft Sofia Sofia, Bulgaria 2006
Ubisoft Stockholm Stockholm, Sweden 2017
Ubisoft Toronto Toronto, Canada May 2010
Ubisoft Winnipeg Winnipeg, Canada April 2018

Former

Name Location Founded Acquired Closed Ref.
Game Studios Los Angeles, United States January 2001 March 2001 March 2001 [78][79][80]
Microïds Canada Montreal, Canada N/A March 2005 March 2005 [81]
Related Designs Mainz, Germany 1995 April 2013 June 2014 [82][83]
Sinister Games Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States 1997 May 2000 2003 [84][85][86]
Southlogic Studios Porto Alegre, Brazil 1996 January 2009 January 2009 [87]
Sunflowers Interactive Heusenstamm, Germany 1993 April 2007 April 2007 [88]
THQ Montreal Montreal, Canada October 2010 January 2013 January 2013 [89][90]
Tiwak Montpellier, France August 2000 December 2003 March 2011 [91][92][93]
Ubi Studios Oxford, England N/A May 2000 N/A [94][85][95]
Ubisoft Casablanca Casablanca, Morocco April 1998 N/A June 2016 [96]
Ubisoft Sao Paulo São Paulo, Brazil July 2008 N/A 2010 [97][98]
Ubisoft Vancouver Vancouver, Canada 2006 February 2009 January 2012 [99][100]
Ubisoft Zurich Thalwil, Switzerland August 2011 N/A October 2013 [101][102]
Wolfpack Studios Round Rock, Texas, United States 1999 March 2004 May 2006 [103][104][105]

Games

Games as a service

Ubisoft noticed that connected sandbox games, with seamless switches between single and multiplayer modes provided the players with more fun, leading the company to switch from pursuing single-player only games to internet connected ones.[106] According to Guillemot, Ubisoft internally refers to its reimagined self as 'before The Division and an 'after The Division.[106]

In an interview with The Verge, Anne Blondel-Jouin, executive producer of The Crew turned vice-president of live operations,[106][107] noted that The Crew was an early game of Ubisoft's to require a persistent internet connection in order to play.[106] This raised initial concerns for gamers, hampering the game's initial success and sparked concerns internally at the company.[106]

Technology

Uplay

Uplay is a digital distribution, digital rights management, multiplayer and communications service for PC created by Ubisoft. Ubisoft Club is a reward program connected to Uplay Members earn rewards by completing certain actions while playing games published by Ubisoft. Completing an action gives you a certain number of Units, which members can use to unlock those rewards or to get a discount on games from the Uplay Store. Uplay uses an always-on digital rights management approach, which has created some criticism from players when Ubisoft's servers had gone down. and in some cases, causing loss of same game data.[108][109][110][111]

AnvilNext

AnvilNext, formerly named Scimitar, is a proprietary game engine developed wholly within Ubisoft Montreal in 2007 for the development of the first Assassin's Creed game and has since been expanded and used for nearly all other Assassin's Creed titles and other Ubisoft games.

Disrupt

The Disrupt game engine was developed by Ubisoft Montreal and is used for the Watch Dogs games.[112][113] Majority of the engine was built from scratch and uses an aggressively multithreaded renderer, running on fully deferred physically based rendering pipeline with some technological twists to allow for more advanced effects.[114][115]

Dunia Engine

The Dunia Engine is a software fork of the CryEngine that was originally developed by Crytek, with modifications made by Ubisoft Montreal. The CryEngine was unique at the time as it could render large outdoor environmental spaces. Crytek had created a demo of their engine called X-Isle: Dinosaur Island which they had demonstrated at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 1999. Ubisoft saw the demo, and had Crytek build out the demo into a full title, becoming the first Far Cry, released in 2004.[116] That same year, Electronic Arts established a deal with Crytek to build a wholly different title with an improved version of the CryEngine, leaving them unable to continue work on Far Cry.[117] Ubisoft assigned Ubisoft Montreal to develop console versions of Far Cry, and arranging with Crytek to have all rights to the Far Cry series as well as a perpetual licence on the CryEngine.[118]

In developing Far Cry 2, Ubisoft Montreal modified the CryEngine to include destructable environments and a more realistic physics engine. This modified version became the Dunia Engine, which premiered with Far Cry 2 in 2008.[119][120] The Dunia Engine continued to be improved, such as adding weather systems, and used of the basis of all future Far Cry games, as well as James Cameron's Avatar: The Game, also developed by Ubisoft Montreal.[121][122]

Ubisoft introduced the Dunia 2 engine first in Far Cry 3 in 2012,[123] which was made to improve the performance of Dunia-based games on consoles and to add more complex rendering features such as global illumination.[124] According to Remi Quenin, one of the engine's architect at Ubisoft Montreal, the state of the Dunia Engine as of 2017 includes "vegetation, fire simulation, destruction, vehicles, systemic AI, wildlife, weather, day/night cycles, [and] non linear storytelling" which are all fundamental elements of the Far Cry games, and little of the original CryEngine code remained in the current version.[125]

Snowdrop

The Snowdrop game engine was co-developed by Massive Entertainment and Ubisoft for Tom Clancy's The Division. The core of the game engine is powered by a "node-based system" which simplifies the process of connecting different systems like rendering, AI, mission scripting and the user interface.[126][127] The engine was also used in Tom Clancy's The Division 2 and other Ubisoft games such as South Park: The Fractured but Whole and Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. The engine will also be used in Massive's upcoming game based on James Cameron's Avatar and is next-gen ready.[128]

Film and television

In addition to video games, Ubisoft initiated its Ubisoft Film & Television division, then named Ubisoft Motion Pictures, in 2011. Initially developing media works tied to Ubisoft's games, it has since has diversified to other works generally about video games. Notable productions include the live-action film Assassin's Creed (2016) and the series Rabbids Invasion (2013), and Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet (2020).

2020 sexual misconduct accusations and dismissals

From late June to early July 2020, a wave of sexual misconduct accusations occurred through the video game industry as part of the ongoing #MeToo Movement, including some of Ubisoft's employees. Ashraf Ismail, the creative director for the upcoming Assassin's Creed Valhalla, stepped down to deal with personal issues related to allegations made towards him;[129] he was later terminated by Ubisoft in August 2020 after their internal investigations.[130] Ubisoft announced two executives that were also accused of misconduct had been placed on leave, and that they were performing an internal review of other accusations and their own policies. Yves Guillemot stated on 2 July 2020 that he had appointed Lidwine Sauer as their head of workplace culture, who is "empowered to examine all aspects of our company's culture and to suggest comprehensive changes that will benefit all of us", in addition to other internal and external programs to deal with ongoing issues that may have contributed to these problems.[131] Specific accusations were made at Ubisoft Toronto, where the studio co-founder Maxime Béland, also the vice president of editorial for Ubisoft as a whole, was forced to resign by Ubisoft's management due to sexual misconduct issues, but led many of the employees working there to express strong concerns that "The way the studio--HR and management--disregards complaints just enables this behavior from men."[132] Tommy François, the vice president of editorial and creative services, had also been placed on disciplinary leave around early July, but by early August, Ubisoft announced his departure from the company.[133]

Spurred by these claims, the French newspaper Libération had began a deeper investigation into the workplace culture into Ubisoft. The paper ran a two-part report printed on 1 and 10 July 2020 that claimed that Ubisoft had a toxic workplace culture. A major component of the toxic workplace was from numerous accusations related to Hascoët. [134][135][64] The issues identified by Libération, and corroborated by employees from other studios, suggested that many of these problems had extended from the human resource heads of the company ignoring complaints made against Hascoët, using sexual misconduct and harassment to intimidate those who criticized him, on the basis that the creative leads were producing valuable products for the company.[136] On 11 July 2020, the company issued a press release, announcing several major departures which include the voluntary resignations of Hascoët, Yannis Mallat, the managing director of Ubisoft's Canadian studios, and Cécile Cornet, the company's global head of human resources. Yves Guillemot temporarily filled in Hascoët's former role.[137]

A following report from Bloomberg News by Jason Schreier corroborated these details, with employees of Ubisoft's main Paris headquarters comparing it to a fraternity house. Further, Schreier had found that the issues with Hascoët had gone back several years and had affected the creative development on the Assassin's Creed series and other products as to avoid the use of female protagonists.[22] Ubisoft had already been criticized for failing to support female player models in Assassin's Creed Unity or in Far Cry 4, which the company claimed was due to difficulty in animating female characters, despite having done this in earlier games.[138][139] Ubisoft employees, in Schreier's report, said that in the following Assassin's Creed games which did feature female protagonists at release, including Assassin's Creed Syndicate and Assassin's Creed Origins, there were serious considerations of removing or downplaying the female leads from the editorial department. This was due to an ingrained belief that Hascoët had set in the department that female characters did not sell video games.[22] Further, because of Hascoët's clout in the company, the developers would often have to make compromises to meet Hascoët's expectations, such as the inclusion of a strong male character if they had included female leads or if they had used cutscenes, a narrative concept Hascoët reportedly did not like.[22] Hascoët's behavior, among other content decisions made by Hascoët, had appeared to affect the quality of Ubisoft's games by 2019; both Tom Clancy's The Division 2 and Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint underperformed, which gave Ubisoft justification to diminish Hascoët's oversight with the aforementioned January 2020 changes in the editorial department and gave its members more autonomy.[63][22] There remained questions as to what degree CEO Yves Guillemot knew of these issues prior to their public reporting; employees reported that Hascoët has been very close with the Guillemot brothers since the founding of the editorial department around 2001, and that some of the prior complaints of sexual misconduct had been reported directly to Yves but were dismissed.[64][22]Gamasutra also spoke to several former and current Ubisoft employees during this period from its worldwide studios, corroborating that these issues appears to replicate across multiple studios, stemming from Ubisoft's main management.[140][141]

Ubisoft had a shareholders' meeting on 22 July 2020 addressing these more recent issues. Immediate changes in the wake of the departures included a reorganization of both the editorial team and the human resources team. Additionally, two new positions, Head of Workplace Culture and Head of Diversity and Inclusion, would be created to oversee the safety and morale of employees going forward. To encourage this, Ubisoft said it would tie the performance bonus of team leaders to how well they "create a positive and inclusive workplace environment" so that these changes are propagated throughout the company.[65]

The French workers' union Solidaires Informatique is planning a class action lawsuit against Ubisoft in relation to the allegations; Solidaires Informatique had previously represented workers in a similar case of workplace concerns at French developer Quantic Dream.[142]

Lawsuits

  • In 2008, Ubisoft sued Optical Experts Manufacturing (OEM), a DVD duplication company for $25 million plus damages for the leak and distribution of the PC version of Assassin's Creed. The lawsuit claims that OEM did not take proper measures to protect its product as stated in its contract with Ubisoft. The complaint also alleges that OEM admitted to all the problems in the complaint.[143]
  • In April 2012, Ubisoft was sued by John L. Beiswenger, the author of the book Link, who alleged copyright infringement for using his ideas in the Assassin's Creed franchise. He demanded $5.25 million in damages and a halt to the release of Assassin's Creed III, which was set to be released in October 2012, along with any future games that allegedly contain his ideas.[144] On 30 May 2012, Beiswenger dropped the lawsuit. Beiswenger was later quoted as saying he believes "authors should vigorously defend their rights in their creative works", and suggested that Ubisoft's motion to block future lawsuits from Beiswenger hints at their guilt.[145]
  • In December 2014, Ubisoft offered a free game from their catalogue of recently released titles to compensate the season pass owners of Assassin's Creed Unity due to its buggy launch. The terms offered with the free game revoked the user's right to sue Ubisoft for the buggy launch of the game.[146]
  • In May 2020, Ubisoft sued Chinese developer Ejoy and Apple and Google over Ejoy's Area F2 game, which Ubisoft contended was a carbon copy of Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege. Ubisoft sought copyright action against Ejoy, as well as financial damages against Apple and Google for allowing Area F2 to be distributed on their mobile app stores and profiting from its microtransactions.[147]

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