Ubisoft CEO says ‘real change will take time’ while announcing diversity initiative

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Ubisoft is expanding its diversity inclusion efforts with two programs aimed at women and “individuals from underrepresented groups,” the company said today. Ubisoft announced the news ahead of its Way Forward event. In a separate video, CEO Yves Guillemot also acknowledged the company’s recent problems around sexual harassment, misconduct, and its use of Black Lives Matter imagery in one of its games.

Its first initiative includes a “new edition” of the Womxn Develop at Ubisoft mentorship, in which chosen applicants will receive mentorship from Ubisoft employees and hands-on experience; the program launches September 14th in San Francisco, Kyiv, and Toronto. Later programs will expand to other studios in January, beginning with Paris. The company is also investing more heavily in its graduate program to create “more opportunities for individuals from underrepresented groups.” The program includes mentorship and experience in two different studios.

In late August, Ubisoft announced it would remove imagery of a raised black fist from Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad, following criticism from developers and fans about its resemblance to the Black Lives Matter movement. The in-game imagery is connected to UMBRA, a fictional terrorist group. (Notably, Elite Squad developer Owlient is co-managed by Charlie Guillemot, Yves Guillemot’s son, according to Kotaku.)

“Ubisoft stands for equality and respect for all,” Guillemot said. “Unfortunately one of our recent mobile games included content that was inappropriate. This kind of oversight cannot happen. We are putting in place safeguards to prevent it in the future … We fully support the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Ubisoft will donate to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, though Guillemot — who mentioned moments before that the company would put $1 million into its newly announced graduate program — did not specify the size of its donation.

The controversy around Elite Squad is yet another mark on Ubisoft’s reputation after a summer filled with disturbing revelations. In June, stories about harassment, misconduct, and more within Ubisoft surfaced via Twitter and later reports by Kotaku and Bloomberg. Many of these claims revolved around top executives such as Tommy François, Maxime Béland, and Serge Hascoët. Although several employees have since either stepped down or been fired, following investigations, the company has promised changes across the board. As part of that, Ubisoft announced in July that some bonuses would be tied to a team lead’s “ability to create a positive and inclusive workplace environment.”

In the video today, Guillemot said that these developers “did not uphold our company’s values, and that our systems failed to protect the victims of our behavior. I am truly sorry to everyone who was hurt.” The company has taken “significant steps,” he added, “to remove or sanction those who violated our values and code of conduct and we are working hard to improve our systems and processes.”

Guillemot says he is “fully committed” to leading change at Ubisoft, confirming he will not step down at the company. “We are at the start of a long journey,” Yves said. “Real change will take time. But I am determined to do everything in my power to ensure everyone at Ubisoft feels welcome, respected, and safe, and to rebuild the trust our teams, fans, and players have in us.”

Guillemot’s statement will not be included as part of Ubisoft’s event later today due to “timing constraints,” the company says.

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