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Ubisoft defends Watch Dogs HitRecord partnership amid spec work criticism

Ubisoft has once again partnered with the company HitRECord to solicit fan contributions to an upcoming game and, as with last time, the decision is drawing a fair amount of criticism online.

Alissa McAloon, Publisher

July 15, 2019

3 Min Read

Ubisoft has once again partnered with HitRecord to solicit assets for an upcoming game and, as with last time around, the arrangement is drawing criticism from the game development community.

The two companies are working together to crowdsource music for Ubisoft’s upcoming game Watch Dogs Legion, a partnership Ubisoft says in a statement intends to give artists “a chance to have their own creative expressions included in the game.”

Many in the game development community, however, say that Ubisoft and HitRecord are soliciting spec work, or calling for artists to create and submit their work for free with only the hope they’ll be paid for their time and effort in the long run.

That is the core of how the HitRecord platform works: companies publish a description of the work they’re after and call for artists to submit bits and pieces of content along those lines. Those that have their submissions selected for inclusion in the final work get paid for their contributions, while the artists that created assets that weren’t selected are left without compensation.

For example, right now Legion’s HitRecord page has five songs listed in the "concepting" stage. The “Dark Electronic Heist Song” is looking for artists to submit vocals, music, and writing while the “Battle Anthem Metal Song” is seeking writing, music, voice acting, and vocals. Artists then submit the individual parts being requested, and the final song will ultimately be a combination of several of those submissions. 

Ubisoft has used HitRecord to crowdsource art assets for the yet-unreleased Beyond Good and Evil 2 in the past, and encountered the same public outcry. Last time around, the platform’s founder, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, released a blog post defending his platform and saying that the partnership wasn’t the same as spec work.

It hasn’t come to that point yet this time, but Ubisoft itself has already released its own statement defending the partnership on the grounds that submissions are voluntary and meant to give the HitRecord community and Watch Dogs fans a chance to land music in the game.

The statement also notes that the studio is working with “professional artists and composers” on licensed songs and an original score to be featured in the game, so the submissions being called for through HitRecord are only for additional content beyond the game’s existing soundtrack.

Ubisoft directs those curious about the arrangement to an FAQ page that reiterates that the company will pay its HitRecord contributors if their submission is selected for use in the final game. It has set aside $2,000 for each of the 10 songs it plans to use HitRecord to create, a sum that will be divided among the artists whose work is picked up for each song. Specifically: “the individual contributions that make up that final song will receive a percentage of the $2,000 based off the impact that individual contribution has on the final piece.”

“If a contribution you have uploaded to HitRecord is included in a final asset that HitRecord delivers to the Watch Dogs Legion Dev Team, then you will get paid for your contribution!” reads an earlier part of the FAQ.  

“HitRecord is a collaborative creative space and we use the site, the projects, and the challenges to both develop ideas and produce finished assets,” reads the next answer. “And, as with every creative endeavor, some ideas won’t develop or work out as we expected, and some pieces won’t be the right fit for the game.”

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