Ubisoft’s E3 2018 press briefing was surprisingly a lot of fun, with big moments such as Starfox and Starlink crossing over, a live Donkey Kong music performance, and lots of cool Assassin’s Creed Odyssey information. But there was one major snag that is continuing to produce controversy, days after the fact. During a Beyond Good and Evil 2 talk, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt took the stage to talk about a collaboration between Ubisoft and his hitRECord company, to get fans involved to a degree in the game’s production.
The initial pitch failed to mention any of the artists would be compensated for their work, which caused a huge wave of initial backlash. Levitt later said there is money involved, but the details on that aren’t great either. Ubisoft provided a pool of $50,000 to split among the contributors, but not everyone who submits artwork, music, etc is guaranteed a cut. This move has been compared to “spec work,” which is a practice in the media business often frowned upon by worker advocates.
Levitt has responded to those claims, stating he sees his company’s work as different from freelancing or spec work. He wrote a blog post on Medium explaining as much, attributing hitRECord as a “creative community,” noting that often multiple people touch a piece of art before it’s final, and that most people don’t submit work for free hoping to be paid later. He also says that since the company was founded, nearly 3 million dollars has been paid out to collaborators. He also states that hitRECord members retain the rights to their work, and that Ubisoft isn’t crowdsourcing work as an alternative to paying salaried employees.