According to a recent Axios story, Ubisoft is seeing a “great exodus” of talent, with creators leaving at a rate that some surviving staff believe they’ve never seen before. According to the source, at least five of the top 25 persons in the credits for Far Cry 6, which was released less than three months ago, have departed Ubisoft. Last year’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla lost twelve of its top 50 credited devs.
It’s unclear how much such figures deviate from the norm—experienced devs fresh off huge studio projects may want to try something new—but lower-level staff are also leaving: According to data from the business-oriented social network LinkedIn, at least 60 staff from Ubisoft’s Toronto and Montreal studios have left in the last six months. Two current Ubisoft workers told Axios that the loss of staff has caused several current projects to delay or stop, and one external developer claimed they’d been asked by a colleague at the company for help with a game because there was no one left at the studio who could handle it.
Low pay, “frustration” with Ubisoft’s creative direction—perhaps a dig at the company’s recent adoption of NFTs—a rise in prospects elsewhere, and, of course, last year’s charges of rampant labor violations at Ubisoft. Ubisoft has become “an easy target for recruiters,” according to one recently left developer, while another highlighted “management and creative scraping-by with the bare minimum” as their reason for leaving the firm.
Ubisoft said that its turnover rate has risen, but that it is “still within industry norms,” thanks in part to wage rises for all staff at its Canadian facilities in November. According to Ubisoft’s chief people officer, Anika Grant, this increased staff retention by 50%.
It’s tough to assess the severity of the problem. Turnover is a regular part of the industry, and the figures might be distorted by the so-called Great Resignation, a Covid 19-driven phenomena that has seen Americans resign in historic numbers. According to the survey, Ubisoft’s turnover rate is greater than Electronic Arts and Take-Two, but lower than Activision, based on LinkedIn data.
Still, last week’s Splinter Cell remake announcement, which expressly invited prospective devs to join up, may have been a clue of Ubisoft’s employment concerns. That isn’t unusual in in of itself—studios hire all the time—but it was remarkable to see the project unveiled so early in production, when Ubisoft is still hammering out fundamental design decisions.
At the time, technical producer Peter Handrinos remarked, “We want to invite everyone who is fascinated by what we’ve said to apply to join Ubisoft Toronto.” “We’re putting together a new staff in the same way that we did when we first opened the studio. Technical leadership positions and roles are accessible in a variety of job types.”
With the news that it’s going all-in on NFTs, Ubisoft has welcomed more bad headlines and, very potentially, deeper staff unrest. The Ubisoft Quartz announcement trailer has 42,000 dislikes compared to 1,700 likes on YouTube (YouTube no longer displays “dislike” numbers on videos, but browser extensions are available to restore them), and the French trade union Solidaires Informatique has denounced the scheme as “useless, costly, [and] ecologically mortifying.” Employees at Ubisoft Paris were vehemently opposed to the proposal, according to Marc Rutschlé, a union chapter representative who is also a senior designer on Ghost Recon Breakpoint. Despite this, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot is pressing forward with it.