Ubisoft boss suggests development requires "friction" as publisher deals with cultural crisis

Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot made the comment during an interview with La Presse, and has since offered additional context.

Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot has expanded on comments he made during an interview with Canadian outlet La Presse in which he appeared to suggest toxic behaviour in the video game industry is partly the result of the "friction" needed to create games.

When asked by the outlet why the game industry has been plagued by reports of misconduct and toxicity, the Ubisoft boss indicated that there needs to be a little friction in the production trenches to deliver success.

The comments drew ire from some corners of the industry, not least because of Ubisoft's own struggle to deal with numerous allegations of harassment and bullying that indicated the Assassin's Creed publisher had cultivated a workplace culture where serious instances of misconduct were endemic.

In 2020, Game Developer published a report based on testimonies from dozens of current and former Ubisoft employees that suggested the company spent years building its workplace culture on a bedrock of toxicity and deniability. The report contained allegations against multiple senior Ubisoft employees.

The long fight for change

Since that report and others were published, Ubisoft workers have banded together under the A Better Ubisoft (ABU) banner in a bid to hold management to account and usher in meaningful reforms, and the group maintains that higher-ups at Ubisoft are still refusing to meet its demands. Notably, ABU also seemed decidedly unimpressed with Guillemot's latest comments.

In a bid to quell the frustration and disbelief sparked by his comments, Guillemot provided a statement to Axios to explain that when he spoke of there being tension, he was referring to the "creative tension that is common and vital in innovative companies like ours."

Guillemot said that at Ubisoft employees "have the freedom to challenge ideas and have heated but healthy debates," but that such an environment can sometimes create friction. "To prevent this tension from becoming negative or to address it if it does, that's where strong policies, values and corresponding procedures are essential," he added.

Earlier this month, Guillemot told Axios in a separate interview that he was unaware of any misconduct at the French publisher. "You realize that things happened very close to you, that you wouldn’t accept, had you known about them,” he said at the time, adding that the company "wasn't organised" enough to detect misconduct and stamp it out.

Despite those comments, one source who reached out to Game Developer in 2020 claimed that Guillemot was fully aware of certain issues and allegations, while others suggested HR's failure to deal with the cultural rot wasn't due to a lack of organisation, but rather wilful negligence. 

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