Ubisoft’s chief creative officer tendered his resignation from the video game publisher behind series like Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed on Saturday, one day before its biggest gaming-reveal event of the year.
Longtime CCO Serge Hascoet, described by Bloomberg game industry reporter Jason Schreier as Ubisoft’s “most powerful creative force” and “the man in charge of ALL of their games,” is leaving the company effective immediately, Schreier confirmed. Ubisoft’s global PR chief Cecile Cornet and Ubisoft Canada’s managing director Yannis Mallat also announced their intentions to “step down” from their current roles, and while Mallat is leaving the company altogether, Cornet’s future with Ubisoft is not yet clear.
The news follows the resignation of Ubisoft Toronto co-founder Maxime Beland on July 3, which came in response to a Kotaku investigation that was set off, in part, by an internal allegation of abusive workplace behavior by Beland.
Content warning: Sexual harassment and assault
Chief among the allegations was that Beland had choked a female Ubisoft coworker at a company party—back in 2014. The article includes other specific allegations of clear sexual harassment, including “demeaning” jokes told to female coworkers that ended with solicitations of oral sex. Perhaps even more crucially, the report goes into great length about a combined culture of constant harassment, frequent plying of alcohol, and an HR system that resisted reports of sexual harassment. Kotaku reporter Evan Gach describes “an overall workplace culture that undervalues women’s contributions, normalizes sexism and harassment, and makes excuses for the worst offenders while complaints about them go unheeded.”
A similarly timed article from French publication Libération confirmed and shed more light on these accusations, while that outlet published a follow-up report on Friday with new, disturbing allegations about Hascoet’s history of inappropriate workplace behavior.
As translated on Twitter, the July 10 Libération report alleged that Hascoet once replied acrimoniously to a company VP’s criticisms, telling coworkers, “this ‘bad fuck’ [the VP] was hindering his creativity and that someone should open her mind by ‘[fucking her] from behind’ and ‘sharing her around until she gets it.'” In another alleged incident, Hascoet “reportedly blocked a woman in the elevator and put himself against her, making groaning sounds and looking her in the eyes. Some of his collaborators in the editorial team reportedly did the same, to the point it became [a signature move].”
But that July 10 follow-up also stemmed largely from an immediate negative reaction from Ubisoft’s HR team to stories that went live on July 1. “Since your revelations, the situation here has gotten worse,” an Ubisoft source told Libération. “[Leaders] are convinced this is detrimental to their freedom. They call it a ‘witch hunt.’ On top of everything, as women, we became a threat.” The article describes other hostile conditions enabled by Ubisoft HR, particularly a definition of workplace harassment that was updated in 2015 to remove the example of a manager sexually harassing a reporting employee. Libération’s report then describes an early July meeting in which one major HR staffer demanded that Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot make a public statement to exonerate the department from recent allegations, or else she would leave the company “with half of my team.”
Guillemot made no such announcement on Saturday. Instead, he confirmed he has temporarily taken over the role of CCO and promised to “restructure and strengthen [Ubisoft’s] HR function,” with efforts including a third-party audit and search for a new global PR chief. “Ubisoft has fallen short in its obligation to guarantee a safe and inclusive workplace environment for its employees,” Guillemot said in a statement posted on Saturday. “This is unacceptable, as toxic behaviors are in direct contrast to values on which I have never compromised—and never will.” Guillemot’s statement didn’t acknowledge whether he was aware of reports about Hascoet’s behavior in his many years at the company.