Ubisoft has called off its plans to hold a major Rainbow Six Siege tournament in the United Arab Emirates, following a backlash by fans.
The event, announced on Sunday, was to be held in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE - a country often criticised for its human rights record.
There are numerous reports detailing examples of the country's forced disappearances and torture. Amnesty International has called for the country's "secret prisons" to be investigated as war crimes. Homosexuality is a crime in the country, and results in imprisonment or death.
A fan petition said Ubisoft's decision to hold a Rainbow Six tournament in the UAE was "short-sighted, dangerous and backwards to the developing ideology of esports" considering the "inclusion of LGBTQ+ members of Rainbow Six: Siege talent".
Last night, Ubisoft backtracked on the decision in a statement issued via its Rainbow Six esports Twitter, but also defended its initial plan. The now-scrapped event had been put together following "extensive discussions" with local organisers and the UAE government to ensure player safety, the publisher said.
Ubisoft's full statement lies below:
"Last Sunday, we announced our plans to organize a Six Major in the United Arab Emirates," Ubisoft wrote. "Over the past six years, we've seen the emergence of an enthusiastic competitive Rainbow Six Siege scene in the MENA [Middle East and North Africa] region, a community of local players and fans we wanted to highlight and celebrate.
"We want to stress that the safety and wellbeing of our event's participants and staff is always our primary concern, and we are proud of what Rainbow Six Siege represents as a world where diversity, inclusion and acceptance are at its core. Choosing this location for a Six Major was the result of extensive discussions with our local teams in the region, the UAE government, and our local esports partner, and their collective commitment that a Six Major in Abu Dhabi would be an event in which anyone, of all gender identities, sexual orientations, cultural backgrounds, or other individual traits, would be included and welcomed, as has been the case with numerous other events previously held in the city.
"With that in mind, we also hear loud and clear that members of the international Siege community question this choice, and we have taken the decision to move the Six Major of August 2022 to another Rainbow Six esports region, with the exact location yet to be determined. In the spirit of fostering all our local communities around the world, in all their diversity, dedication and passion for the game, we will keep on developing and structuring our competitive activities in MENA, through local and regional tournaments and activations. The MENA region has been fast evolving into a key video game hub in the world, and we are humbled by the level of engagement, support and dedication of both our local fans and the talented staff of our MENA teams and Abu Dhabi development studio. Mirroring the determination and ambition of our teams in the region over the past 10 years, we are dedicated to investing in our emerging local esports scenes to help them reach their full potential and embrace them, as part of the worldwide Rainbow Six Siege community."