Ubisoft attempts to hype up new games as executives quit over misconduct allegations

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Ubisoft attempts to hype up new games as executives quit over misconduct allegations

The Ubisoft display at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, California.ROBYN BECK | AFP | Getty ImagesUbisoft unveiled a slew of

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The Ubisoft display at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, California.

ROBYN BECK | AFP | Getty Images

Ubisoft unveiled a slew of new video games on Sunday, looking to stir up excitement for fresh titles after several top executives resigned over misconduct allegations.

The French publisher, known for big game series such as “Assassin’s Creed” and “Far Cry,” held its Ubisoft Forward event online Sunday. It was due to be a major press conference at the E3 gaming conference in Los Angeles, however the event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Much of what Ubisoft revealed was already known ahead of the event — details of “Far Cry 6,” which stars “Breaking Bad” actor Giancarlo Esposito, had been leaked two days before. Still, gamers watched to get a sense of gameplay and graphics, as the current generation of consoles from Microsoft and Sony near the end of their lifespan with new devices expected to be launched later this year.

Other games showcased by the company included “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla,” which uses the classic franchise to tell an alternative story of the Viking invasion of England, and “Watch Dogs Legion,” the third instalment of the “Watch Dogs” series set in a fictionalized London, where gamers play as hackers fighting against an authoritarian surveillance state. “Watch Dogs: Legion” is set to be released on October 29, “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” on November 17 and “Far Cry 6” on February 18, 2021.

But the flashy digital event failed to impress investors. Shares of Ubisoft slumped more than 9% on Monday, after the company announced the departure of three top executives on Saturday following a probe into allegations of misconduct.  

Ubisoft announced that its Chief Creative Officer Serge Hascoët and Managing Director for Canada Yannis Mallat were both stepping down and leaving the company with immediate effect. CEO Yves Guillemot will take Hascoët’s place for the interim and oversee a “complete overhaul” of how the firm’s creative teams work, according to a press release from Ubisoft. Cécile Cornet, Ubisoft’s global head of HR, also stepped down.

Hascoët’s exit is a significant one. Since 2006, he has been in charge of creative production on all of Ubisoft’s games. On Friday, French newspaper Liberation reported that Hascoët was central to a toxic work culture at the firm. It comes after several Ubisoft employees became the subject of sexual harassment allegations that were posted online last month. Ubisoft told industry publication Gamasutra on June 23 that it was “deeply concerned” by the claims and would look into them to “determine next steps.”

Ubisoft didn’t address the Liberation report in its Ubisoft Forward event, and did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the allegations by CNBC on Monday morning.

“Ubisoft Forward comes during a time of big internal change,” the company said in a statement Sunday. “Because all the content has been pre-recorded, we wanted to recognize that the issues we’re currently dealing with won’t be addressed directly in the show.”

Last month, Bloomberg reported that Ubisoft put several employees on leave as part of an investigation into misconduct allegations. The company said at the time that the allegations were “under investigation.”

“Ubisoft has fallen short in its obligation to guarantee a safe and inclusive workplace environment for its employees,” Guillemot said in a statement Saturday. “This is unacceptable, as toxic behaviors are in direct contrast to values on which I have never compromised — and never will.”

The $150 billion gaming industry is in the midst of what many are calling its “#MeToo moment,” after dozens of women spoke out about alleged abuse on social media last month. Video game culture has historically been criticized due to sexism and harassment faced by women.

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