Ubisoft Expands Diversity Programs Following #MeToo Reckoning

Yves Guillemot -Getty - H 2020
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Co-founder and CEO Yves Guillemot said in a video message that he's committed to changing the French publisher for the better.

French video game publisher Ubisoft on Thursday shared two initiatives that aim to bring new voices and perspectives to the industry, acknowledging that games are more "surprising, captivating and inclusive" when teams from different backgrounds and cultures have contributed to them.

The efforts arrive after Ubisoft parted ways with several employees, including creative director Ashraf Ismail, earlier this summer and restructured its editorial department following allegations of misconduct.

Launching Sept. 14, a new edition of the Womxn Develop at Ubisoft mentorship program will work with diverse talent in the areas of programming and game design for Ubisoft studios around the world.

Applicants will receive hands-on game development experience throughout the program, which will initially take place in San Francisco, Kyiv and Toronto, expanding to other countries early next year.

Meanwhile, the company, known for the Assassin's Creed and Tom Clancy franchises, will increase its investments in the two-year Ubisoft Graduate Program — which was first unveiled in 2014 — focusing on opportunities for game developers in underrepresented groups.

"With more people playing games than ever before, it is our responsibility to build inclusive teams capable of creating games that reflect the diverse and complex world we live in," said the publisher in a statement.

Ahead of the Ubisoft Forward gaming news presentation, company co-founder and CEO Yves Guillemot posted a video message in which he said he's committed changing Ubisoft's workplace culture for the better. "This summer, we learned that certain Ubisoft employees did not uphold out company's values," said in the message. "And that our systems failed to protect the victims of their behavior."

He went on to apologize for those who were hurt, and noted that Ubisoft has taken "significant steps to remove or sanction" those employees who violated the code of conduct. Guillemot clarified his commitment to improving diversity and inclusivity at all levels of the company, such as investing in the programs above.

Earlier this year, Ubisoft creative director Ismail was accused of marital infidelity by a woman online. He ultimately stepped down from his position, with the company ending his contract shortly afterward. Accusations against two vice presidents, Tommy Francois and  Maxime Beland, also surfaced in June, resulting in Béland resigning from his role and François being placed on disciplinary leave pending an investigation into his conduct. In response, Ubisoft announced it was restructuring its editorial department to combat "toxic behavior" including harassment and discrimination.