"The Great Exodus" isn't the new Assassin's Creed DLC, though you'd be forgiven for thinking so. No, this dramatic turn of phrase is what Ubisoft staff are calling a wave of departures that has apparently shaken the company from the top down. According to a new report from Axios, this exodus of talent has slowed or stalled the development of multiple projects.
Top-level staff has departed the company in larger numbers than normal. For example, at least five of the top 25-credited staff on Far Cry 6 have departed the company, as well as 12 of the top 50 from Assassin's Creed Valhalla. This trend extends down to mid-level staff too, with Ubisoft's Montreal and Toronto studios losing a total of 60 workers in the past six months.
A culture of unease — According to Axios's reporting, though these departures are due to a variety of factors, Ubisoft's toxic work culture has contributed heavily to the trend. One developer told Axios that Ubisoft is an "easy target for recruiters" because its issues are so well-known in the gaming world. Another felt that the company's management and creative were "scraping by with the bare minimum," which caused them to seek a different job.
Though Ubisoft's much-publicized "#MeToo moment" in mid-2020 was certainly a turning point, it seems that the company's culture of sexism was just the start of its problems. What's more, many current and former developers have cited the company's response to allegations of misconduct as largely insufficient. When you add in the fact that triple-A developers are in-demand these days — and can apparently make a lot more money at Ubisoft's rivals — you have all the makings of an exodus.
Bandaging the wound — In the report, Ubisoft responds by stating that its attrition rate is currently 12%, which is "a few percentage points" above where it usually is. (For comparison's sake, Activision Blizzard has basically been on fire for the entirety of 2021, and its attrition rate is 16%.)
Former employees point to the newly-competitive market for top-tier developers in Montreal as another major reason for the exodus, with one programmer telling Axios that he tripled his take-home pay at their new studio. Ubisoft apparently offered pay raises for its Canadian workers in response; the company claims those boosts have improved retention by 50%, but it's caused workers at the publisher's non-Canadian studios to wonder if they'll get raises too.
A messy year — Ubisoft's struggles have been well-documented in the press over the past 24 months, but fellow triple-A publisher Activision Blizzard has made the company look positively put-together in comparison. Its latest venture into NFTs is one of the biggest unforced errors of the year, but they don’t seem to be backing down from it. Speaking subjectively, the company's major franchises have been creatively stagnant for years now, so it'll be interesting to see if they can inject some new ideas into the old open-world blueprint.