Alleged Claims From Former Ubisoft Exec About Female Protagonists Are Just Dumb

Amidst the fire of sexual misconduct, Ubisoft struggles to escape the hot water

By TKras98, Posted 22 Jul 2020

Ubisoft Forward 2020 felt like a fine show, but it avoided an important topic that has become a point of discussion over the past month: Sexual misconduct at Ubisoft. The company, run largely by the Guillemots family, has recently seen a rise in claims of sexual misconduct, and additional claims that management handled the claims poorly. Within the Bloomberg report from games journalism veteran Jason Scheier, however, was another claim from Ubisoft executives: Female protagonists don’t sell.

Assassins Creedy Odyssey: Kassandra, the Female Protagonist

In particular, claims revolving around that concept were allegedly perpetuated by Serge Hascoët, a former creative director at Ubisoft who was removed following misconduct accusations. These issues arose surrounding games as early as Assassin’s Creed Unity. In AC:U, Ubisoft ultimately opted to remove playable female characters from the online mode of the game, saying it was too much additional work to add female clothing and animations. This continued into Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, which was allegedly meant to give equal participation to both playable twin characters, but ultimately opted to focus more heavily on the brother. Once again, with Assassin’s Creed Origins, there are claims that the male protagonist was going to be injured or killed early in the story, putting players in control of his wife, but that was cut like the rest.

Things ultimately came to a head on this front with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Players in Odyssey are given the choice between two playable characters: Kassandra and Alexios. What the Bloomberg report says, however, is that the initial plan only included Kassandra as the playable character. In the end, they were told it wasn’t an option. Time and time again, developers wanted to include female protagonists or female playable characters, and every time the message was clear, be it from Hascoët or Ubisoft’s marketing department: Women don’t sell.

Obviously this is a huge lie. Sure, some games starring female leads might have not sold as well as other, different games with male leads, but I don’t think I need to point you very far to see games where the opposite is true. Look at Sony’s smash hits: Horizon Zero Dawn? Female protagonist. The Last of Us 2? TWO female protagonists! And it isn’t just Sony either. In Tomb Raider, Lara Croft continually carries her own series. Resident Evil 3 predominantly features Jill Valentine. Metroid has been a staple of Nintendo’s game library, and Samus continues to be considered one of gaming’s most iconic female characters.

Ellie from The Last of Us 2

I don’t know what else I need to say. Not only are the claims connected to former Ubisoft executive Serge Hascoët (As well as the enigmatic figure of “Ubisoft’s marketing department”) blatantly sexist, they’re just plain wrong, and it continues. We probably don’t know now, and probably won’t know for a while, if ever, but the fact that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla also has both a selectable male and female protagonist raises the question: Did Hascoët’s power sway their hand again before he was removed from his post? Even if you can swap between them at will, the concept remains the same. There’s no way to know for sure.

So, what can we do? As consumers, I’m not going to tell you what to go out and buy. At the end of the day, you should just go and pick up the games that you are most interested in. There’s no right answer to that. But, if you’re a developer, take time to think about it. Whose story are you trying to tell? Is that a story you can tell from a perspective less often seen in the gaming industry? Are you the kind of person equipped to tell that kind of story? Depending on your answers to these questions, you may want to reflect on how you do things. Hopefully, we can all come out of this satisfied with the future of games.

Tyler Krasnai
Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher(s): Ubisoft
Developer(s): Ubisoft
Genres: Action-Adventure
Themes: History
Release Date: 2020-11-10

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