Fired Assassin’s Creed Co-Creator to “Fight Ubisoft” for 1666 IP

 

Patrice Désilets was a star at Ubisoft Montreal for years. Hired in 1997, the Canadian developer worked as a creative director on Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, which went on to sell over 10 million copies. He then went on to be the creative lead on Assassin’s Creed and Assassin’s Creed II, bringing one of today’s biggest game franchises into being.

But something went wrong. In 2010, with production on Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood in full swing, Désilets abruptly left Ubisoft. The decision was described as amicable; both sides mouthed the usual euphemisms, and Désilets even agreed to take a year off from the business to honor a non-competition agreement with the French publishers.

After spending the year travelling with his two young children, Désilets was hired by publishers THQ to head a brand new studio, also based in Montreal. He began work on two new projects, which were known by working titles “1666″ and “Underdog.” He also revealed some lingering grievances with Ubisoft: “After seven years of ‘Assassin’s Creed,’ even though it was my baby, I felt like I was losing it,” he told Reuter’s MediaFile blog. “I was tired of being told what to do, how to do it and in any organization, if you stay there for a long time, people tend to see you in one way even if you change. [At Ubisoft], I was still the young twenty-something French-Canadian that they hired, and not Patrice Désilets.”

Imagine Désilets’ dismay, then, when THQ filed for bankruptcy in December 2012 and the THQ Montreal studio was snapped up at auction by none other than Ubisoft. “This is the very first time in my life that I have come to a studio that was just newly acquired, given a speech to everyone, and then have everyone applaud,” beamed Ubisoft Montreal Chief Executive Yannis Mallat. Despite some initial uncertainty, Désilets agreed to resume work for his former employers on March 14, 2013.

The relationship lasted only 45 days. In a statement provided to game news site Polygon on May 7, Ubisoft announced that Désilets had left: “Unfortunately, since the acquisition, the good faith discussions between Patrice and Ubisoft aimed at aligning Patrice’s and the studio’s visions have been inconclusive. As a result, Patrice has left the studio.” In response, Désilets offered Polygon a different take on events, claiming he was fired: “I was notified of this termination in person, handed a termination notice and was unceremoniously escorted out of the building by two guards without being able to say goodbye to my team or collect my personal belongings…this was not my decision….Ubisoft’s actions are baseless and without merit. I intend to fight Ubisoft vigorously for my rights, for my team and for my game.”

Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot addressed the situation while speaking to investors May 15 during an annual earnings report: “After more than two months of discussions with [Désilets], we couldn’t align our vision both on project development and team management, so consequently our collaboration has ended, and we have suspended 1666 for an undisclosed period of time.”

Désilets threat of legal action is not an idle one, and hinges on the word “suspended” in Guillemot’s statement. According to the Twitter account of anonymous industry insider @supererogatory (a consistent source of information later proved to be accurate), Désilets’ contract with Ubisoft stipulates that if a project is cancelled, the rights to that intellectual property revert back to Désilets himself. By suspending the project instead of cancelling it, Ubisoft is effectively preventing the developer from working on 1666 anywhere else.

The tweets in question can be seen below — though unconfirmed, they provide a plausible account of the situation, which recalls 2012′s most high-profile game industry lawsuit, filed against Call of Duty publishers Activision by Infinity Ward founders Jason West and Vince Zampella. As @supererogatory notes, Désilets is thought to have retained the same legal team.

Game Front will continue to follow this developing story.

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1 Comment on Fired Assassin’s Creed Co-Creator to “Fight Ubisoft” for 1666 IP

Tiagonal

On May 16, 2013 at 11:37 pm

I’ve kinda heard this story before… Yep, it’s like Alexandre Mandryka’s, although he left Ubi ‘willingly’ and now totally advocates against them.