Ubisoft employees push back hard on game company's NFT blockchain initiative

The French publisher makes popular titles such as Assassin's Creed. PHOTO: UBISOFT

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - A conflict between Ubisoft Entertainment and many of its employees over a plan to adopt crypto technologies in the company's video games intensified last week.

The French publisher, which makes popular titles such as Assassin's Creed, outlined its thinking on the use of blockchain technology in a message to staff on Thursday (Feb 10). The announcement on an internal message board prompted hundreds of negative comments from employees posted for all of their colleagues to read.

One person said it was a "deeply embarrassing day" to be an Ubisoft employee.

The company has faced criticism from fans and employees since announcing Ubisoft Quartz, a platform that allowed players of the shooter Ghost Recon to buy and sell certain equipment as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The company held a staff meeting in December to defend the plan and has since continued to move ahead despite internal uproar.

In a statement, a Ubisoft spokesman said the company will "take the encouragement as well as the concerns to heart", but that it was not pleased the messages had been made public, adding that "sharing confidential information, including from internal forums, is a violation of our employment agreement, and, more importantly, a violation of the trust that team members place in each other to be able to freely express themselves and have candid, productive discussions".

NFTs, which rely on blockchain technology, are controversial in the video game industry. Some game companies like Ubisoft, seeing a potential for big profits, have experimented heavily with blockchain in their titles.

But many fans and game developers are opposed because of the environmental cost of mining cryptocurrencies and the sense that NFTs are full of scams and make games feel less fun and more like jobs.

Several game companies have announced plans to invest in NFTs and then swiftly backtracked following harsh responses.

After posting the memo to "answer key questions about blockchain and communicate as clearly as possible", Ubisoft updated the message with a promise to also address "current limitations and risks". That did not stop the scathing comments from pouring in.

"Are we competing with EA (Electronic Arts) for the 'Most hated Game Studio by the public' title? Because this is how you do it," wrote one.

"I think the kids call this entire comment section 'being ratioed'," wrote another. "Seriously, our confidence in management was already shaken by the handling of harassment cases, and now this?"

Some people, using their real names, even took shots at Ubisoft's line-up. "You know what else makes a lot of money? Making fun spectacular groundbreaking blockbusters. Why don't we focus on that instead?"

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