Nearly 500 current and former Ubisoft employees have signed an open letter in solidarity with Activision Blizzard staff following a recent lawsuit that called the World of Warcraft and Overwatch studio "a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women". The letter also slams Ubisoft leadership's "empty promises" in response to allegations of "systemic discrimination, harassment and bullying" within the company, and proposes an industry wide collaboration to agree a set of "rules and processes for handling reports of these offences".
Addressing Activision Blizzard staff, the open letter, shared by Axios reporter Stephen Totilo on Twitter, begins, "We hear you and want to loudly declare our solidarity with you. Over the past week, the games industry has once again been rocked by revelations that have long been known by too many of us. Revelations that a year ago many were hearing about Ubisoft."
"It is clear, from the frequency of these reports," the letter continues, "that there is a widespread and deeply ingrained culture of abusive behaviours within the industry. It should no longer be a surprise to anyone: employees, executives, journalists, or fans that these heinous acts are going on. It is time to stop being shocked. We must demand real steps be taken to prevent them. Those responsible must be held accountable for their actions."
Here's the letter in full. It doesn't just stand with AB workers, doesn't just criticize Ubisoft bosses. It calls for industry-wide action and change, with publishers and developers getting involved. pic.twitter.com/WMNmRHjrq0— Stephen Totilo (@stephentotilo) July 28, 2021
As the letter notes, Ubisoft became embroiled in its own disturbing reckoning last summer when employees began calling out toxic work conditions within the company, including allegations of serious sexual misconduct aimed at members of senior management. Yet despite Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot's assurances he would "do everything in [his] power to ensure that everyone... feels welcomed, respected, and safe", the open letter says little has changed.
"We, the undersigned, have had enough," it continues, this time addressing Ubisoft management directly. "It has been over a year since the first revelations of systemic discrimination, harassment and bullying within Ubisoft came out. At the time, you acted surprised to hear of these acts going on within your own company and we gave you the benefit of the doubt. However, we have seen nothing more than a year of kind words, empty promises, and an inability or unwillingness to remove known offenders. We no longer trust your commitment to address these issues at their core. You need to do more.
"That does not mean more training sessions that go ignored by the people who need them most, and that does not mean more reassurances and kind words. It means real, impactful action. The only way to fix something so ingrained is to remove the pillars that are complicit with it, be it actively taking part or by supporting it. This is not only a matter of process, focus groups, PR management or education. This is a matter of people's lives, their mental and physical health. By choosing profit over our security you are literally toying with our lives. We should not have to choose between work and our safety.
"We have stood by and watched as you fired only the most public offenders. You let the rest either resign or worse, promoted them, moved them from studio to studio, team to team, giving them second chance after second chance with no repercussions. This cycle need to stop. We, the collective employees of Ubisoft, demand a seat at the table when it comes to deciding how to move forward from here. The offenders need to be removed from the company, along with those who were complicit in or wilfully ignorant of the actions of others. As the management, it is your role to see these acts going on and take action. Ignorance is not an excuse, not in law and certainly not in the eyes of your employees."
The letter goes on to call for "real, fundamental changes within Ubisoft, within Activision Blizzard, and across the industry", and proposes the two companies - along with "other industry leading publishers and developers" - collaborate to agree on a "set of rules and processes for handling reports of these offences". It also demands such work must "heavily involve employees in non-management positions and union representatives" to ensure "those who are directly affected by these behaviours are leading the charge."
Ubisoft has released its own statement in response to the open letter from staff, saying, "We want to be very clear that we take this letter - and the issues it raises - very seriously. Over the past year, we have committed to engaging with our employees to enact fundamental change. Many of these changes have been driven by internal feedback and insights shared by our teams and we are grateful for this ongoing communication."
The publisher insists it has already made "significant and meaningful changes that seek to create a safe and inclusive work environment for all", while acknowledging "there is still work to be done". "We absolutely stand behind these efforts and the positive impact they have had on our company culture," it concludes, "while also recognising that we must continue to engage with our employees to ensure we are creating a workplace where they feel valued, supported, and most importantly, safe."