During Gamescom, Ubisoft showcased a trailer for their new mobile experience Tom Clancy's Elite Squad. The trailer quickly took a controversial turn when it abundantly classified Black Lives Matter imagery as a representation of terrorism needed to be wiped out. The company then issued an apology about the tone-deaf video but recent reports state that the internal status of the team is much direr than a simple apology shows.
In the video, the game shows off a group called Umbra that is "a faceless organization that wants to build a new world order." Towards the end of the video, numerous black and white fists were raised to mark this group as the enemy, a copy and paste image that is a popular representation used by the current Black Lives Matter movement and has been for years. Immediately, social media was on fire with gamers and industry personnel alike calling for Ubisoft to remove the video and think twice about their imagery, a reaction that prompted the below apology:
An update regarding Tom Clancy's Elite Squad: pic.twitter.com/G6Hb1SO7Gx— Ubisoft (@Ubisoft) August 29, 2020
People were also quick to call out the placating apology, stating that it read as a simple PR move and not an indication of genuine regret. A recent report from Bloomberg News states that it wasn't just people on the outside that were upset, internal message boards for employees were also alight with frustration and disappointment with their employers.
The internal message board is called Mana and according to Bloomberg, it was filled with employees venting their frustrations and exhaustion. Many devs called on their employer to "do better" in which creative director Charlie Guillemot responded with an apology to his team and promised to "more rigorously review content produced and about to be released in order to help us avoid similar mistakes."
Over the weekend, a number of Ubisoft staffers posted furious messages about the video on the company's internal forum, Mana. One message with a couple dozen 'likes' starts off with the sentence: "I am sincerely exhausted by everything related to Ubisoft."— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) August 31, 2020
With Ubisoft having been under fire for similar fascist imagery, especially with so much civil unrest in the United States, there were many red flags leading up to this reveal. We here at Prima Games spoke with two developers that wished to remain anonymous, one stating "I'm so tired, all of the time. Every day coming into work feels like a warzone, I'm so tired of being nailed to a cross because the people in charge don't have any shame."
Their commentary also came on the heels of an ongoing investigation into sexual misconduct and abuse allegations that have led to several major firings of high-level executives, including HR when it was uncovered that many complaints of abuse were buried in order to protect the abusers.
While the video has since been taken down, 2020 has proved that there is a much darker side to the culture at Ubisoft than previously thought and a simple removal isn't going to change the damage done to its previously seen "inclusive" image.