In a new report from NME, developers at Ubisoft Paris spoke on the crunch that took place during Just Dance 2023's development.
Anonymous staffers who spoke with the outlet alleged that the studio has clashed with Ubisoft management. During that time, staff experienced extended crunch, unrealistic timelines, and rapid burnout at the hands of Ubisoft leadership.
Back in January, dozens of Ubisoft Paris employees went on strike as retaliation against comments made by CEO Yves Guillemot. That strike was actively encouraged by French union Solidaires Informatique, which claimed last week that the studio has burned out 10 percent of its overall staff.
When Ubisoft Paris staff went on strike, they alleged burnout from the development cycles on its games. NME's report alleges the studio had to change Just Dance 2023's engine almost a full year before launch, and management was pushing ideas that "had to be considered at all costs."
It's claimed those ideas related to bringing the series into a live service mold, similar to other Ubisoft titles. One developer told NME the staff showed management a realistic roadmap of what a "big live game" version of Just Dance 2023 would look like, and that roadmap was subsequently shot down.
"Once the creative vision is clear, it is presented to technical experts and often ‘impossible’ to achieve," a second developer claimed. They said staff would be forced to either "achieve the impossible" or change everything, which they called "morally and physically exhausting."
Ubisoft's crunch problems aren't exclusive to Paris
In NME's report, Ubisoft Paris staff allege the core team assured them overtime wouldn't be pushed. Despite that, the overtime ended up happening regardless, and staff worked dozen-hour days, if not more.
Paid overtime reportedly started out as a controlled system, but eventually became commonplace. QA staff allegedly worked from 10 AM-midnight, others longer than that.
"During daily meetings, some employees were explicitly encouraged to work overtime," a developer claimed. "The message was clear: ‘make overtime’."
The comments made by Ubisoft Paris are similar to the allegations made about the conditions at Ubisoft Montpellier. In late February, the subsidiary currently developing Beyond Good & Evil 2 was in the midst of a labor investigation from local authorities.
Dozens of staff at the Montpellier studio reportedly went on sick leave in 2022 due to burnout, with some of them being team leads. In that same report, managing director Guillaume Carmona is said to have left the developer at the start of 2023.
Ubisoft's workers have spent years trying to advocate for change across the larger company through various methods. Between what's going on at Paris and Montpellier, along with the renewed focus on long-running franchises, that fight for change will continue for quite some time.
NME's full report on Ubisoft Paris' crunch culture and working conditions can be read here.