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Ubisoft Paris developers speak of "morally and physically exhausting" crunch culture in new report

"The message was clear: 'make overtime'."

Developers have spoken about the "morally and physically exhausting" crunch culture at Ubisoft Paris.

In a report by NME focused primarily on the development of Just Dance 2023, members of the Solidaires Informatique union group for Ubisoft Paris said pre-production for the game was a "mess".

Reportedly, the Just Dance 2023 team was "tasked with changing the Just Dance 2023 engine just 11 months before launch", while bosses continued to push ideas "that had to be considered at all costs". This was despite developers saying they were "already underwater" at this point.

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"Once the creative vision is clear it is presented to technical experts and often 'impossible' to achieve," an anonymous source told NME. "Either they have no choice but to achieve the impossible, or we are forced to change everything. This is morally and physically exhausting for the employees."

Several employees allegedly had to deal with "late" strategic decisions from those higher up in the company. Sources also claimed that, while the studio said it would hire more workers and would not push paid overtime, "this promise was not kept".

Paid overtime at Ubisoft Paris reportedly "began as a controlled system", however "as time passed, it became commonplace and a double standard was established".

One Ubisoft employee told NME they worked from 9am to 10pm while working on Just Dance 2023, while some QA testers would work from 10am to midnight, if not longer.

"During daily meetings, some employees were explicitly encouraged to work overtime," they said. "The message was clear: 'make overtime'."

The source added these calls for overtime were often communicated through "small meetings". Meanwhile, NME's source claimed shyer members of the workforce were "spoken to by intimidating figures".

A lot of the problems at Ubisoft Paris reportedly came from demands being made at Ubisoft HQ, with one source saying that Just Dance 2023 was under a lot of scrutiny. "They want us to be the first game as a service and big live game of Ubisoft portfolio," one source claimed. "We [showed] them a realistic roadmap to realise this and they refused."

Members of Just Dance 2023's team also reportedly asked for the game's release to be delayed, however this was rejected by HQ. Instead the developers were told: "Just Dance must be under Christmas trees."

This same source suggested the Just Dance 2023 team wasn't given enough time to learn the new engine. The report notes that workers "were able to 'learn quickly'", but this was then used as a reason to "add more features" to the game.

The report ended with some light, however. Sources noted that the appointment of managing director Marie-Sophie de Waubert had "been a positive change for the studio". They also stated that the developers at Ubisoft Paris have a "real cohesion" with each other, in addition to a "big love" for the games they create and those who play them.

Eurogamer has reached out to Ubisoft for further comment.

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