Last week, Ubisoft announced that Rayman and Beyond Good & Evil creator Michel Ancel had, after 30 years with the company, left to work at a wildlife sanctuary. A new article from French newspaper Libération has shed additional light on his departure, however, reporting that it followed an investigation into complaints accusing him of toxic leadership.
According to Kotaku, based on its own translation of the Libération article, many of the complaints relate to Ancel's alleged behaviour during the creation of Beyond Good and Evil 2, which is said to be directly linked to the game's troubled development. Ancel's management of the project reportedly resulted in constant changes and fluctuations in scope, leading to "an unusual amount of [staff] exhaustion, depression, and burnout".
An additional translation from ICO Partners CEO Thomas Bidaux on Twitter cites one Beyond Good and Evil 2 team member as saying, "I have seen a good dozen people go on sick leave, probably more...Meeting people with tears in their eyes, it happens often." Another source says of Ancel, "He is able to explain to you that you are a genius, that your idea is great, and then he can take you apart in meetings by saying that you are a piece of shit, that your work is worthless, and not talk to you for a month."
Reportedly, tensions became so bad on the project that additional managers were called in to act as intermidiaries between Ancel and his team.
In response to a query from Kotaku, Ubisoft confirmed that an investigation into Ancel's behaviour was "ongoing". This process, says Libération, included a multi-hour questioning on the day Ancel left the company, even though Ubisoft omitted news of the investigation from its announcement of Ancel's departure.
Although Ancel spoke to Libération as part of its story, the developer has now posted a new statement to Instagram, declaring the report to be "fake news".
"Take a few people with rage and jealousy and let them speak in the name of hundreds," he wrote, "Publish the news fast so that it combines with sexual harassment from other news at Ubisoft. Is this serious? Is this what you expect from a national newspaper. I will fight for the truth because such accusations are a shame. I worked hard on every of my projects and always had respect for the teams".
Ancel goes on to refute some of the papers claims, arguing he can't be accused of toxic management as he wasn't responsible for managing the teams. "I bring a vision," he writes, "and producers and managers decide what to do, when and how. They are powerful people in the making of such a big projects. Why don't the journalist speaks about them?".
He also denies constantly changing his mind, writing, "I've spent years explaining why the city should not be re done from scratch. Hours explaining that characters were good enough and did not need to be redone. Same for planets and all. But sometimes some people in the team changed things despite my advices. Managers are here to solve this".
"The news from Libération contains fake informations revealed by a few people who wants to destroy me and the projects," Ancel concludes, "This can't be done without me fighting every single lines of that news. I've offered the journalist the opportunity to take enough time to look at all the mistakes. Let's see what he will do "
Today's news follows a troubling summer for Ubisoft, which has found itself at the centre of multiple allegations from staff regarding toxic work conditions at the company, including allegations of serious sexual misconduct aimed at members of senior management - some of who have since parted ways with the publisher. Addressing the situation earlier this month, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said he was "determined to do everything in [his] power to ensure that everyone at Ubisoft feels welcomed, respected, and safe".