Skip to main content

Ubisoft cuts women from Assassin’s Creed: Unity, outrage ensues

assassins creed 2016 cancelled assassin s unity
Ubisoft has come under heavy fire from the gaming community for its recent explanation as to why there will be no playable female avatars in Assassin’s Creed: Unity‘s upcoming cooperative multiplayer mode. Unity creative director Alex Amancio lit the fuse in an interview with Polygon when he explained that the playable women were planned, but cut due to “the reality of production.”

“It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets,” explained Amancio. When pressed by Videogamer in another interview, technical director James Therein rationalized it as, “not a question of philosophy or choice in this case at all … it was a question of focus and a question of production. Yes, we have tonnes of resources, but we’re putting them into this game, and we have huge teams, nine studios working on this game and we need all of these people to make what we are doing here.”

The gaming community remains unconvinced, however. The hashtag #womenaretoohardtoanimate has rallied their skepticism:

“Although we seem ok with animating courtesans and tavern wenches…”

— Jonathan Kearns (@BiblioDeviant) June 12, 2014

no one tell ubisoft that indie studios with a fraction of the $ and manpower manage to animate women all the time #womenaretoohardtoanimate

— くコ:彡 (@cuttleboned) June 12, 2014

The #womenaretoohardtoanimate argument only works when you treat women characters as an secondary option rather than the default.

— Adrienne Shaw (@adrishaw) June 12, 2014

More scathingly, fellow developers have jumped into the fray to call BS on Ubisoft’s flimsy justifications. Jonathan Cooper, who now works for Naughty Dog, was animation director for Assassin’s Creed 3 and animation lead on Mass Effect 1 and 2, so he should know a thing or two about the series in particular, and the more general challenges of creating alternate gender avatars. Cooper took to Twitter to debunk Ubisoft’s claims that the additional work required would be unreasonable.

In my educated opinion, I would estimate this to be a day or two’s work. Not a replacement of 8000 animations.

— Jonathan Cooper (@GameAnim) June 11, 2014

Fun fact #2: Aveline de Grandpré shares more of Connor Kenway’s animations than Edward Kenway does.

— Jonathan Cooper (@GameAnim) June 11, 2014

For those asking “why two days?”, this article explains how retargetting and replacing only key animations works:

— Jonathan Cooper (@GameAnim) June 12, 2014

The truth of how long it would take to add in alternate avatars probably lies somewhere between Cooper’s one to two days and Ubisoft’s claim of double the work. Getting hung up on the particulars is beside the point, though. Fans seem to be less irked by the exclusion of women from this particular game than the thick-headedness of Ubisoft’s response. Mainstream gaming has a lot of trouble producing protagonists that aren’t white men with short, brown hair, let alone people of genders besides male and races besides white, elf, or dwarf. Ubisoft is doing nothing out of the ordinary by excluding female avatars, and that’s exactly the point. By saying that it is “not a question of philosophy or choice,” the developers are tacitly accepting a status quo where half of the population is only given agency in games as a bonus feature or stretch goal – first on the cutting room floor. The subtle suppression in a lack of representation is far more insidious than any active aggression.

Some might question whether it is fair to hang the burden of an entire industry’s backward attitudes on a single developer. However, if one of the largest studios in gaming with hundreds of employees working around the world with the most powerful hardware that ever existed consider the addition of playable female characters to be too much of a burden, then whom can we expect to do so? As the anger continues to spread virally, we can almost certainly expect a mea culpa from Ubisoft, and probably the addition of women to the next game, if not Unity. Only time will tell, though whether this backlash will actually help to raise more general awareness and discourse, or just be another flash in the pan like so much hashtag outrage.

Editors' Recommendations

Will Fulton
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Will Fulton is a New York-based writer and theater-maker. In 2011 he co-founded mythic theater company AntiMatter Collective…
Ubisoft Forward September 2022: How to watch, what to expect
Screenshot of Mario shooting enemies in mario + rabbids sparks of hope.

Ubisoft is hosting another Ubisoft Forward today, which means new announcements are on the horizon. The event will not only share updates on upcoming games, but will also showcase a tease at the future of one of its flagship franchises and more.

Here’s when it’ll air, how to watch it, and what you can expect.
When is Ubisoft Forward September 2022:
This Ubisoft Forward is set to begin today: Saturday, September 10. The stream starts at noon PT. As usual, there is also a preshow that begins at 11:35 a.m. PT. While there is no confirmed runtime, Ubisoft is offering Twitch drops during the show that will reward players up to the 60-minute mark, so expect it to be an hour long at least.
How to watch the Ubisoft Forward:
Ubisoft Forward 2022 will be streamed through the official Ubisoft YouTube and Twitch channels. Viewers can also watch via Ubisoft's official website through the Forward portal.

Read more
Assassin’s Creed Mirage announced with more info coming next week
Assassin's Creed Mirage Key Art

Ubisoft has officially announced the next entry in the Assassin's Creed franchise: Assassin's Creed Mirage. Ubisoft has only shared the first image of the game, but more information will be revealed at the Ubisoft Forward event on September 10 at 12 PM PST.

Bloomberg's Jason Schreier shed some details about rumors on this game, including that its setting is Baghdad and that it "returns to the basics." It's reportedly more reminiscent of the first several Assassin's Creed games, rather than the more recent RPG-centric ones like Assassin's Creed Valhalla.

Read more
The next Assassin’s Creed game reportedly delayed to spring 2023
Main character of Assassin's Creed: Liberation on building.

Ubisoft on Thursday announced that it delayed "a smaller unannounced premium game" to next year along with Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. It turns out that the premium game in question is Assassin's Creed Rift, and it has been delayed to spring 2023, Bloomberg confirmed on Friday.

An unnamed source familiar with Ubisoft's plans told Bloomberg's Jason Schreier that the game publisher's office in Bordeaux, France, which is heading the project, asked for more time to develop and polish Assassin's Creed Rift because it was falling behind in terms of the development schedule. The spring 2023 release window means that it could come out anywhere between March and June of next year. Ubisoft said in a press release that it would release the game in fiscal year 2023-24.

Read more