A new report from NME has brought to light allegations of harsh working conditions at Just Dance developer Ubisoft Paris.
In gathering comments from several anonymous developers via the French union Solidaires Informatique, and speaking directly to one employee, NME highlighted a workplace culture of impossible demands, egregious overtime, and what it calls ‘morally and physically exhausting’ development.
Many of the grievances reported on revolve around the studio’s recent work on Just Dance 2023, which went through a stressful development period prior to its release on 22 November 2022.
According to worker comments, the game’s pre-production phase was a ‘mess,’ and involved ‘changing’ the game’s engine just under a year from launch, creating intense pressure. Additionally, management continued to push design ideas that ‘had to be considered at all costs,’ despite the team already being set back.
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One comment explained: ‘Once the creative vision is clear it is presented to technical experts and often impossible to achieve. Either they have no choice but to achieve the impossible, or we are forced to change everything. This is morally and physically exhausting for the employees.’
Extreme levels of overtime were also highlighted – 13-hour days in some cases – with some employees ‘explicitly encouraged’ to work overtime during daily meetings.
Additionally, demands on the Just Dance brand were apparently to blame for some of the studio’s challenges, with Ubisoft HQ’s ambitions being greater than what the team considered realistic. Requests for delays were denied, with the team being told that ‘Just Dance must be under Christmas trees.’
The primary source that NME spoke to suggested that these issues also applied to other teams at Ubisoft Paris, who had been working on games like Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope, Watch Dogs, and Beyond Good and Evil 2. However, the studio’s managing director Marie-Sophie de Waubert was said to have been a positive change for Ubisoft Paris in recent times.
In February 2023, it was reported that the managing director of sister studio Ubisoft Montpellier, who also worked on Beyond Good and Evil 2, had departed the company. The move seemed to coincide with a third-party labour investigation into the studio after ‘unprecedented’ rates of employee burnout.
Ubisoft has yet to provide comment on the matter. You can read the full report on NME.