Employees at Ubisoft Paris intend to strike on Jan. 27 for half a day to protest the remarks.
Ubisoft is one of the largest publishers in the video game industry, best known for its Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry series. Ubisoft, alongside several other major gaming publishers, has been at the heart of seismic changes to the industry over the past several years, including a reckoning around workplace misconduct — a problem the company’s leaders insist has been properly dealt with, and have sought to put behind them.
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Guillemot’s email noted that Ubisoft had already canceled seven games since last July to “limit risks.” Workers took issue with how Guillemot attributed the “disappointing” news to employees needing to deliver at a higher level of quality, and how some of his language could be taken to imply future layoffs, salary cuts and studio closures.
“People were angry about Guillemot’s email, which both asked people to work more while cutting the teams, and offered nothing in exchange,” said Marc Rutschle, a senior game designer and union representative at Ubisoft Paris, who added that employees were not responsible for Ubisoft losing money from investing in non-fungible tokens or in the now-defunct battle royale game “Hyper Scape,” which foundered in an oversaturated market.
“Guillemot uses words like ‘organizational adjustments,’” Rutschle said. “We know these words because we have seen them used at other companies and it always means layoff plans.”
Rutschle is part of the Solidaires Informatique trade union for French workers, which is organizing the strike. Ubisoft declined to comment.
Guillemot offered his employees an apology during a Q&A Wednesday. “I heard your feedback and I’m sorry this was perceived that way,” the executive told employees, according to gaming news outlet Kotaku. “When saying ‘the ball is in your court’ to deliver our lineup on time and at the expected level of quality, I wanted to convey the idea that more than ever I need your talent and energy to make it happen. This is a collective journey that starts of course with myself and with the leadership team to create the conditions for all of us to succeed together.”
The apology received a mixed response from attendees, according to Kotaku.
Anyone from the Ubisoft Paris office can join the strike, though it is unclear how many workers plan to attend. The strike is planned for 2 to 6 p.m. in Paris, so that it doesn’t disrupt game production, according to Rutschle.
Workers are demanding Ubisoft increase salaries by 10% to adjust for inflation, citing Tencent’s $297 million investment in the company last September. They are also asking for a four-day workweek, which some other gaming studios have implemented to improve work-life balance.
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