Editors Note: The following letter was written by Ubisoft Toronto Managing Director, Alex Parizeau as the studio celebrates its 10th anniversary.
With a fresh new year ahead of us, I wanted to share some thoughts on 2020, a year that marked the tenth anniversary of Ubisoft Toronto. We originally imagined celebrating our team’s achievements together, and in many ways, it was an unprecedented end to the decade. This milestone has been an occasion for us to reflect on what we have learned, and how we can continue to reinvent ourselves.
Team photo taken at the beginning of 2020. Jordan Probst Photography.
The story of Ubisoft Toronto began in 2010. I remember arriving at the empty offices in the Junction Triangle neighbourhood and looking out across a vast, empty floor – ready to welcome talented new team members. In those early days, we had fewer staff but our ambitions and our dreams for the studio were high. We founded Ubisoft Toronto as a studio that would reflect our city’s diversity and work on high-quality games.
We distinguished ourselves with our first game, the critically acclaimed Splinter Cell Blacklist – then we moved to learn and grow with collaborative projects on brands like Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, and For Honor. We poured all our expertise with world-building into leading our own projects, including our first original IP, Starlink: Battle for Atlas, where our team developed new technology that seamlessly blended physical and digital gameplay, and of course, Watch Dogs: Legion. Ubisoft Toronto is one of the largest development studios within Ubisoft, employing over 900 talented people from across the province of Ontario and around the world, with a team that speaks more than 35 languages. A true testament to our ambition, commitment and focus.
Ubisoft Toronto offices during construction
Then, of course, the global pandemic hit. I am proud of how quickly our team adapted to the new work-from-home realities, and we shipped Watch Dogs: Legion, the most ambitious, innovative project in our studio’s history. We received praise for our tech and design work, creating the first game in which you could literally play as any character in the open world, as well as the rich and detailed rendition of future London.
Looking back, however, rapid growth can be a double-edged sword. It brought us success and opportunities, but we did not stop long enough to implement all the processes required to support that growth. Amidst this, we had to deal with tough issues regarding some toxic and inappropriate behaviour within our ranks - issues that directly contradicted our mission to be a diverse and welcoming studio. The stories that emerged over the summer were upsetting to us all, and made it clear that we had work to do to ensure the studio priorities aligned to the values and vision we had globally across Ubisoft, and locally in Toronto.
After a series of difficult, important conversations last summer, we made some essential improvements to help ensure our studio is a respectful and professional workplace for everyone. We set up a Task Force with employees who represent a cross-section of our studio to collaborate on what we call the Respect and Safety project – our top priority – so that we evolve our studio to what we aspire it to be.
I am heartened to see real change across the company, led by our head office in Paris. Raashi Sikka, our new VP, Global Diversity & Inclusion, joins us this year and has a broad mandate to implement important diversity and equity programs across Ubisoft.
We still have much learning and vital work ahead. This includes empowering our teams with the right technologies, a transformation and flexibility in how we work, and of course, working on what’s next in games. Watch Dogs: Legion Online launches soon, and we are on the verge of shipping Far Cry 6, coincidentally our tenth game. It’s the most ambitious Far Cry game to date, featuring the brilliant talent of Giancarlo Esposito. We’re also kicking off new projects and we can’t wait to share more details once we’re ready.
Jordan Probst Photography
These elements will fuel the momentum we need on our path to reinvention for our studio’s next phase – where we come together to craft exceptional games with expert teams in a respectful and professional context, and to do it in a way that brings joy to our teams and to our players.
The Ubisoft Toronto team wrapped up 2020 by gathering virtually for Discovery Days – a week designed to imagine our studio’s future together – and focus on the ingenuity and creativity that continues to make Ubisoft such a unique place to work. Developing a strong learning and sharing culture will support new ways of thinking and creative expression as we embark on new projects.
I’m really proud of our team, and how we have faced and worked through challenges together over the 10 years, last year especially. We are only here thanks to their dedication and their talent. It is truly worthy of acknowledgment and celebration! By sharing their collective voices, they will show us how we can create an even stronger path forward for Ubisoft Toronto – where our team members can be their authentic selves, inspire each other, and make games that our players love. I am, and will forever be, grateful to have shared this experience over the last 10 years, working and learning together.